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Office of International Programs

Optional Practical Training (OPT) - Post-completion

Before you can begin the application process for OPT, you must contact the International Student Coordinator by email to receive login information for the required Blackboard training. Once you have completed the informational video and test, you must contact the Coordinator to set up an appointment to answer any questions you have and pick up an application packet with detailed filing instructions.

Definition

Post completion OPT allows international students to gain temporary off-campus employment directly related to the students’ major field of study after graduation. It is limited to 12 months per degree level. A job offer is not required to apply for OPT.

Who is eligible for OPT?

You must meet all three of the following conditions:

  1. Students who are in F-1 visa status and have been enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one academic year.
  2. Who will be completing degree requirements this semester.
  3. Whose proposed OPT employment will be directly related to their course of study.

NOTE: If you plan to spend one of your last two semester(s) outside of the U.S. (ex: study abroad or practicum outside of U.S.), you might not be eligible for OPT. Please consult with the International Student Coordinator. Click here to view the F-1 physical presence requierments

When should I apply for OPT?

You can apply for OPT up to 90 days prior to your program end date and up to 60 days after your program end date. The approval process general takes 3-4 months, so apply as early as possible.

NOTE: Though it is possible to apply for OPT after graduation, we do not recommend doing so. USCIS processing times vary and you might lose some of your 12-month employment authorization while waiting for your EAD card to arrive.

When does OPT Start?

You have a choice of when you want your OPT to start. The earliest date you can choose to start employment is the day after completing degree requirements. The latest date OPT can start is 60 days after your degree completion date.

What are the employment requirements for OPT?

  • A job offer is not necessary to apply for OPT.
  • During post-completion OPT F-1 visa status is dependent upon employment. You must not accrue a total of 90 days or more of unemployment during post-completion OPT. The 90 days of unemployment begins accruing on the start date of the Employment Authorization Document/card (EAD).
  • Employment MUST be related to your field of study.
  • The employment does NOT have to be paid employment. Therefore, a student who is engaged in “free-lance” employment, interning, or volunteering in a position directly related to the academic field would be considered “employed” for the purposes of maintaining F-1 visa status.
  • Even if the internship is unpaid, you must work a minimum of 20 hours a week in your field of study and obtain proof of employment, such as a hire letter from your employer.
  • Employment authorization will begin on the date requested, or the date the employment authorization is adjudicated (approved), whichever is later.
  • You must comply with the employment reporting requirements.

What are my reporting requirements while on OPT?

While on OPT, you are legally required to report certain information to the International Student Coordinator within ten days of the change. Please provide the following by email:

  1. A Hire Letter, including the name and address of the employer, and start date of employment.
  2. Any change of employment (loss of employment, change of employer, etc.)
  3. You MUST submit a photocopy of the front and back of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card).
  4. Any change of your name or address.

Travel:

  • It is not recommended that you travel outside of the U.S. while your OPT application is pending because you cannot be guaranteed re-entry without an EAD card, employment letter, and I-20.
  • Once your OPT has been approved, carry the following items with you when you travel:
    1. Valid passport
    2. Valid F-1 visa (Canadians are exempt from this requirement)
    3. I-20 with OPT recommendation and recent travel signature (within past 6 months)
    4. Unexpired EAD card
    5. Proof of employment (offer letter or employment confirmation letter from employer)

After OPT Expires:

  • Once your EAD card is expired, you will have a 60-day grace period. Before the end of the grace period you must do one of the following:
    1. Depart the U.S.
    2. Apply for a different visa status
    3. Transfer to a new academic program

NOTE: Only those who complete OPT and do not exceed the 90 day unemployment limit receive the grace period. Those who exceed the 90 day unemployment limit during OPT receive no grace period.

24-Month STEM Extension:

  • Students with degrees in DHS designated “STEM” fields may be eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of OPT. Email the International Student Coordinator for more information at least 90 days before OPT ends. Your completed application must arrive at USCIS before your current OPT expires. You can check if your major’s CIP code appears on the DHS STEM designated list here: https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2016/stem-list.pdf

 

Resource Links: 
www.ice.gov/sevis/employment

http://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students/resources/working

http://www.uscis.gov/i-765