AM I ELIGIBLE FOR OPT?
To be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT), you must be an F-1 student who has been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year (one fall semester and one spring semester, summer semester does not count towards the one full academic year requirement). You must be in good academic standing at the time of the application. OPT employment MUST be directly related to your program of study and appropriate for your education level.
International Programs will recommend you for OPT, you must submit the application to USCIS for authorization. For post-completion OPT, only full-time employment can be requested. Once an application for OPT has been submitted to USCIS and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued, it is difficult to change or cancel.
HOW MUCH OPT CAN I USE?
Students are eligible for 1 year (12 months) of OPT for each new degree level. Students with majors in STEM fields may also qualify for the 24-month STEM extension.
WHEN SHOULD I APPLY?
Applications for post-completion OPT should be submitted approximately 90 days before the projected start date. OPT applications must be received by USCIS BEFORE the end of a student's 60-day grace period. Applications received after the end of the 60-day grace period will not be approved.
The following are estimated application date ranges for timely application processing:
- May (spring) graduates: apply February-March
- August (summer) graduates: variable, depending on completion date but generally May/June
- December (fall) graduates: apply September-October
USCIS has also created an Excel spreadsheet that allows users to calculate the amount of OPT available and generate suggested application timeline based on the Program End Date and the desired OPT start date. Click here for the Post-Completion OPT Planning Tool.
HOW DO I APPLY?
1. Submit the following to International Programs for a Recommendation
You will receive an email notification when the OPT recommendation has been completed and your new I-20 is ready for pick-up.
You will be issued two (2) new forms I-20. Submit one (1) form with the OPT application, keep the other form for your records. Please be sure to sign your new form I-20.
2. Prepare documents to send to USIC
USCIS must receive the OPT application no more than 30 days after the OPT recommendation has been issued. Applications received more than 30 days after the OPT recommendation will be denied.
- Completed Form I-765
- Two recent photographs on thin, glossy paper per instructions from USCIS.
- Write your name and SEVIS number in pencil on the back of the photos.
- Do not cut to size or staple.
- Check or Money Order for $410 payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- Photocopies of all previous I-20s
- Photocopies of F-1 visa stamp and passport ID pages (including your photo, passport number and expiration date)
- Printed online I-94 record. Click here to print your I-94.
- Photocopies of all previous EADs, if you have been issued one for previous OPT.
3. Mail application and all supporting documents to the USCIS
Mail the following documents directly to USCIS to apply for the EAD (your OPT card). Do NOT mail the application until after you have received your new I-20 with a recommendation for OPT.
USCIS will mail your EAD card to your home address. If you move and change your address before you receive your EAD card, you must call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 to update your address. Mail from USCIS is not forwarded by the US Postal Service, so it is best that you do not change your address while waiting for your EAD.
Express mail (DHL, FedEx) and courier deliveries
US Postal Service deliveries
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S; Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
You may complete the Form G-1145 to request an electronic notification when USCIS receives your application.
Remember, USCIS must receive the OPT application no more than 30 days after the OPT recommendation has been issued. Please send the application in as soon as you have received the recommendation to ensure that your application is properly filed.
WHEN CAN I START MY OPT EMPLOYMENT?
You must have your EAD card to begin employment. You can begin working on or after the start date listed on the EAD and may until the end date on the EAD card.
UNEMPLOYMENT WHILE ON OPT
- F-1 students on post-completion OPT are limited to 90 days of unemployment.
- Students who are unemployed beyond the 90-day limit may be denied future immigration benefits and are in violation of F-1 student status.
- You must report your employment to the Office of International Programs. We will report this information to USCIS. Failure to report this information may result in termination of your SEVIS record and F- student status. Please submit the Employment Reporting Form to International Programs to report your employment.
- Volunteer work, internships, unpaid employment, and part-time jobs may be counted as employment. If you do not find a job within the first two months of OPT, you may look for a volunteer position and/or an internship while you continue to search for a full-time, paid position. Please note that part-time employment should be at least 20 hours/week.
- If you are unable to find employment, you should make plans to change your status or leave the USA. If you will leave the USA, please contact the Office of International Programs to notify us of your departure so this information can be reported on your SEVIS record.
You are still an F-1 Student while you are on OPT. This means that you are still responsible for reporting information to OIP and USCIS. Complete the Employment Reporting Form and submit it to the Office of International Programs (OIP) report your employment.
Students must also report any changes in their address within 10 days of moving.
You are responsible for reporting any change in the information to International Programs within 10 days of the change. This includes adding an second employer, quitting or losing employment, change of job title, etc. The required information includes the following information:
- Your current address
- Explain how your employment is related to your course work - this is a brief statement about how your employment relates to the degree you completed at Roosevelt.
- For example: I received a MS in Accounting, I am working for my employer as a staff accountant.
- Are you Self-Employed (yes or no)
- Employer Name
- Employer Address
- Employer EIN (if available)
- Job Title
- Start Date
- End Date (if you change jobs or leave a position, you must report your last date of employment)
- Are you employed Full-time or Part-time (how many hours do you work per week)
- Supervisor (First and Last Name, Telephone Number, Email Address)
- If you have any additional information you would like to include in your record about your employment, you may add "Student Remarks"
DHS recommends that students keep clear records for all periods of employment and unemployment during OPT. Students should keep a record of all reports made to the Office of International Programs as well as other proof of employment. The following list contains suggested evidence of employment:
- Pay roll or income tax information (including proof of filing your taxes)
- Description of work
- Signed letter from employer stating how nature of the work is related to student’s degree, if not already implicit in job description
You may be required to prove the existence (or nonexistence) of periods of unemployment in future petitions for immigration benefits; therefore, it is very important to document the start and end dates of any periods of unemployment, along with the employment information above. Remember, this is your responsibility.
OPT TRAVEL ADVISORY
Traveling outside of the US while your OPT is pending can be a risky affair with no certainty that you will be allowed back in. After you have received your EAD card there is still a risk of not being permitted back into the US, especially if you are not employed. If travel is necessary, you should carry all of the following documentation with you when traveling:
- Your EAD card
- A travel endorsement signature on your current SEVIS I- 20 from International Programs
- A letter from your employer confirming your OPT status and stating the purpose of your travel.
Note: If you do not possess a current, valid visa at the time of travel, you must apply for a new F-1 visa for re-entry to the US. OIP cannot guarantee re-entry to the USA while on OPT.
The F-1/H-1B “Cap-Gap” occurs when an F-1 student's status expires before they can begin approved H-1B employment in the next fiscal year beginning October 1. The Cap-Gap Extension applies to all F-1 beneficiaries of H-1B and concurrent change of status petitions. Under this rule, F-1 status is extended while the H-1B petition is pending; F-1 students may remain in the U.S. until October 1 of the next fiscal year when their H-1B status begins. The student must have a valid EAD card at the time the H-1B application is submitted to USCIS in April.
Current interpretation of the new provision suggests the extension applies not only to F-1 status, but also to work authorization, through October 1. Limits of OPT unemployment continue through the Cap-Gap Extension period. The Cap-Gap Extension terminates when USCIS rejects, denies, or revokes the H-1B petition. F-1 students may only benefit from automatic Cap-Gap extension if they have not violated their status.