Employment - Optional Practical Training

 

 

Student must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis at an DHS-approved school for one full academic year before being eligible for OPT.  Available both before and after completion of the educational objective, but different rules apply to pre- and post- completion OPT.
Students who are studying abroad in a third country during their final semester of study will be faced with logistical issues that could make them ineligible to apply for post-completion OPT. The regulation states that practical training "may be authorized to an F-1 student." This requires a student to be in F-1 status to receive OPT, and a student outside the U.S. is not in any nonimmigrant status while abroad (even though their SEVIS record is active).
Students who have been reinstated after falling out of status
If a student had accumulated one full academic year in F-1 status before falling out of status, and is subsequently reinstated to student status, he or she can use that time to satisfy the one full academic year requirement. If a student had not accumulated one full academic year before falling out of status, then the full academic year clock begins again after reinstatement has been granted.

Requirements

  • Location
    Students may engage in OPT for any employer for the duration of OPT authorization, as long as the employment qualifies under OPT standards.
Can F 1 students work on-campus if they are participating in practical training OPT?
"
Yes, but only if it is pre-completion OPT or CPT and their total work hours for all work do not exceed 20 hours while school is in session. They may work full-time during those periods when school is not in session or during the student's annual break.  F-1 students cannot work on-campus after graduation unless they are continuing their education at the next program level at your school." http://www.ice.gov/sevis/employment/faq_f_on1.htm#_1_13
  • Duration
    Cumulative maximum of 12 months during any uninterrupted stay in F-1 status. Part-time OPT is deducted from the 12 month limit at 50%.
  • Hours per week
    20 hours/week limit for pre-completion OPT done while school is in session and student still has coursework to complete. "Part-time practical training, 20 hours per week or less, shall be deducted from available practical training at one-half the full-time rate."
    Full-time employment can be requested for pre-completion OPT done during official school breaks, and for students who have completed all requirements for their degree.
  • Field/level of work
    Must be directly related to and commensurate with the level of the student's course of study.
  • Offer of employment
    No offer of employment is required, but the student is expected to work during the OPT EAD validity period. Students on post-completion OPT are limited to a maximum of 90 days of unemployment.
  • Effect on other work
    Prior use of full-time Curricular Practical Training for one year or more eliminates eligibility for Optional Practical Training.
  • Approval process
    • DSO (Designated School Official) recommends OPT in SEVIS.
    • Student files I-765 application for EAD with USCIS.
    • Work can begin only after receiving EAD issued by USCIS, and on or after the start date on the EAD.
  • Miscellaneous
    If doing pre-completion OPT, student must maintain a full-course of study during the period of employment (unless done during school breaks).

Limits on validity, duration

  • Start date of the Employment Authorization Document
    • The effective date of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by the USCIS Service Center for practical training prior to completion of a course of study will be either the date employment is scheduled to commence, as reflected by the DSO's recommendation in SEVIS, or the date the EAD is issued, whichever occurs later.
    • In any case, a student cannot begin employment until the EAD is actually received, and the start date on the card has been reached.
  • Cumulative maximum of 12 months per educational level
    • Optional Practical Training can be authorized for a maximum aggregate period of 12 months per educational level. A student becomes eligible for another 12 months of practical training when he or she changes to a higher educational level.
    • Although students may engage in Optional Practical Training both before and after completion of studies, the maximum amount of time that can be granted is 12 months per educational level.
  • 12 months must be used within 14 months of completion of course of study
    • Optional Practical Training done after completion of the course of study must be completed within a 14-month period following the completion of study.
  • Expedited OPT
    • If you have a job offer, you are eligible to expedite your OPT application. Processing time for expedited OPT is approximately 1 to 2 months, but there is no time guarantee.
    • You must have an offer letter from your employer which states the title and description of your position and the company's address and contact information. You should also attach a written request for expedited OPT.

 

Procedures for applying for optional practical training

  • OPT filing deadlines
    • An I-765 for standard post-completion OPT can be filed up to 90 days before the program end-date and up to 60 days after the program end-date, provided that it is filed within 30 days of the date the DSO enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.
  • The student must:
    • Apply to the DSO sufficiently in advance of the program completion date to allow the SEVIS record to be updated
    • Complete and signOPT Employment Request Form and submit it to the DSO.
    • Complete Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, marked with the code: "(c)(3)(A) for pre-completion or (c)(3)(B) for post-completion" at item 16. Instructions for Completing Form I-765
    • Write a check payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" in the amount of the fee required for Form I-765.
    • Obtain 2 Passport Style Photos (Write your Name and Date Of Birth on the backside of each photo)
    •  

What to send where:

    • Form I-765, completed and signed by the student, marked with the code "(c)(3)(A) for pre-completion or (c)(3)(B) for post-completion" at item 16
    • I-765 processing fee in a check or money order payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"
    • 2 Passport style photos (Write your Name and Date Of Birth on the backside of each photo)
    • Copy of the newly issued student's Form I-20 with page 3 including the DSO recommendation for optional practical training
    • Copies of all prior Forms I-20, especially those on which CPT or OPT was granted previously, so that all prior periods of CPT and OPT, and whether they were for full-time or part-time training, can be reviewed by USCIS.
    • Copy of both sides of the student's I-94
    • Copy of the ID pages from the student's passport-photocopy of photo page, renewal page if original has expired, and pages showing amendments such as name changes, corrections, etc.
    • Copy of visa page (if applicable)
    • Copy of the previously issued EAD for applications for renewal of work authorization
    • Optional: A letter of job offer (see above) from your employer and your written request for expedited OPT
**The I-765 must be received and accepted by USCIS BEFORE the end of the 60-day Grace Period.

Mail all of the above to:

If you live in: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Guam, or the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.
  • Mail your application to:
    • USCIS Phoenix Lockbox For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
      USCIS
      PO Box 21281
      Phoenix, AZ 85036 


    • For Express mail and courier deliveries:
      USCIS
      Attn: AOS
      1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
      Suite 100
      Phoenix, AZ 85034
If you live in: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, or West Virginia.
  • Mail your application to:
    • USCIS Phoenix Lockbox For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
      USCIS
      PO Box 660867
      Dallas, TX 75266


    • For Express mail and courier deliveries:
      USCIS
      Attn: AOS
      2501S. State Hwy. 121 Business
      Suite 400
      Lewisville, TX 75067 

E-notification

If you want to receive an e-mail and/or a text message that your Form I-765 has been accepted at a USCIS Lockbox facility,complete Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance and clip it to the first page of your application.
Form G-1145 and Instructions
 

USCIS Adjudication


If employment is authorized, USCIS will issue the student an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). If the application is denied, USCIS will indicate the reason for the denial in writing. A denial may not be appealed, although if the circumstances warrant, a motion to reopen or reconsider could be filed.
USCIS Case Search USCIS Processing Time Information

Issuance of interim EAD in case of delay

Regulations provide that if an EAD application has not been adjudicated within 90 days of receipt, the applicant may apply to USCIS for an 240-day grant of interim employment authorization.
Usually, the student would go in person to the District Office and bring proof of identity and the Form I-797 (I-765 receipt notice) associated with his or her application, that proves that 90 days have elapsed.

Canceling or withdrawing an OPT recommendation or application

Options for canceling or withdrawing an OPT recommendation or application if a student decides not to pursue OPT employment differ depending on a variety of factors, mostly related to the stage of the OPT EAD adjudication.

Relationship of completion of studies to OPT cancellation or withdrawal

When considering canceling or withdrawing an application for pre-completion OPT, the I-20 program end date is not of particular concern. When dealing with cancellations or withdrawals of applications for post-completion OPT, however, the program end date is of primary concern.
If a student decides not to pursue OPT because he or she will not complete his or her educational program as expected, care must be taken to extend the I-20 program end date before the end date is reached. After the end date is reached, the program cannot be extended.
Students who do not discover until after their I-20 program end date that they failed to meet the requirements to complete their program are at a particular disadvantage; if an OPT recommendation is cancelled or an I-765 application is withdrawn after the I-20 program end date, subsequent actions on the SEVIS record are limited. During the 60-day period following a program end date, the record actions are limited to transfer and change of level (reinstatement would also be possible, but the record would first have to be terminated). After the 60-day period following the program end date, the only option available would be reinstatement.

Canceling an OPT recommendation prior to filing the I-765 with USCIS

If the DSO has updated the SEVIS record with a recommendation for OPT, the DSO can Cancel that recommendation through SEVIS, provided the I-765 EAD application has not yet been filed with a USCIS Service Center.

Withdrawing an application for OPT that has already been filed with USCIS but has not yet been adjudicated

If the I-765 OPT EAD application has already been filed with a USCIS Service Center, but has not yet been adjudicated, DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has advised that the Cancel OPT function should not be used. In these cases, the applicant must contact the Service Center directly to have the I-765 withdrawn.
If the withdrawal is done by mail or fax, it should be done with a letter signed by the student. The letter should include the following elements:
  • Note "Re: I-765 Withdrawal" on the letter
  • Include biographical information to identify the student, including name, date of birth, and SEVIS ID number
  • Reference the receipt number for the I-765 application (from the Form I-797 receipt notice); a copy of the receipt notice can also be helpful
  • Specific request that the Form I-765 application for Optional Practical Training be withdrawn
  • Student's signature
If the withdrawal request is made by e-mail, the e-mail should include the following elements:
  • The subject line of the e-mail should read "I-765 Withdrawal"
  • Include biographical information to identify the student, including name, date of birth, and SEVIS ID number
  • Reference the receipt number for the I-765 application (from the Form I-797 receipt notice)
  • Specific request that the Form I-765 application for Optional Practical Training be withdrawn
  • The e-mail should be sent by the student

Where OPT has already been approved by USCIS

Recovering all or part of a period of optional practical training that has already been granted by USCIS may be difficult. In extraordinary circumstances, the regulations give USCIS the discretion to revoke a period of previously authorized work permission. Some USCIS Service Centers will apply this provision to revoke practical training authorizations if the request to revoke the EAD occurs before authorized start date on the EAD. Other Service Centers will not. The rigidity of the SEVIS database may also prevent recovery of unused portions of OPT.

Reporting changes of name or address during practical training

Changes in name or address must be reported to SEVIS within 21 days. Also, the ISP office expects you to report to us changes in telephone number or e-mail address.

Travel and re-entry while engaging in practical training

An F-1 student engaged in Optional Practical Training before completion of studies follows the same procedure for visits abroad and re-entry as all F-1 students.
An F-1 student who is engaged in Optional Practical Training following completion of studies who travels outside the United Sates temporarily (i.e., less than 5 months) can be readmitted to resume employment for the remainder of the period authorized on his or her EAD card, provided the student presents Form I-20 endorsed by the DSO within the preceding 6 months and an unexpired EAD.
Students approved for Optional Practical Training following completion of studies continue to be in F-1 status. They are therefore subject not only to the requirement that they have an I-20 endorsed for travel and an EAD, but to the requirement that they have a valid F-1 visa to re-enter the United States, unless they are exempt from the visa requirement.
  • Q. Can I reenter the U.S. if my request for OPT is pending?
    A. Yes, you may reenter to search for employment.  You should carry the following documents:
    • Valid F-1 visa
    • I-20 with a travel signature
    • I-797 Receipt Notice from the USCIS
  • Q. Can I reenter the U.S. if I left while on OPT?
    A-1. No. If your OPT has been approved and you depart before you get a job, your OPT ends and you cannot reenter.

    A-2. Yes. If you have a job, you may travel and reenter to resume work at the same job. You should carry the following documents:
    • Valid F-1 visa
    • I-20 with a travel signature
    • A verification of employment letter from your employer promising the position upon your return to the U.S.
     
Although Form I-20 indicates a validity period of one year for travel signatures, a validity period of 6 months is set for travel signatures on I-20s used by students on post-completion OPT.

Termination of OPT

When a student transfers, OPT employment will be cancelled if the employment start date is in the future. If the employment start date is in the past, but is not completed, the employment end date will be set to the registration date at the new school.