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Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary work authorization for F-1 students issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You may apply for and be granted one year of OPT for every degree you advance during your F-1 status
Steps to apply for OPT
- Attend an OPT workshop (attendance to a workshop is required for all OPT applications). Contact Maggie Shirland, International Student Advisor for a list of workshops
- Gather together and fully complete the following:
- Personal Check or Money Order for $410.00, payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security Citizenship and Immigration Services"
- USCIS Form I-765
- It is strongly recommended that you fill out the PDF version of the form, then print and sign it. If you choose to complete it by hand, print neatly in block letters using blue ink
- Do not E-file your Form I-765 - if you do it will delay your entire OPT application
- Use an address in section three (3) that will be valid for at least three (3) months
- View a sample I-765
- USCIS Form G-1145 (this is to receive email confirmation that your application has been received)
- Two (2) US passport-sized photographs. These must meet USCIS/DOS passport color photograph specifications: The photographs should only be cut by the photo establishment. Do not cut them yourself
- Any previous Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), if applicable
- Current Form I-20
- All previous Forms I-20 (please note you MUST have all previous I-20s in order to apply for OPT. If you are missing any you will need to get hold of a copy or provide a letter from the previous institution that issued the missing I-20(s)
- Valid passport (must be valid at least 6 months into the future)
- Copy of your current electronic I-94: click link, and then click box that says "Get Most Recent I-94"
- Completed and signed OPT Acknowledgement Form
- Schedule a 1 hour appointment with your International Student Advisor, Maggie Shirland (please note, the appointment should be scheduled to be no more than 90 days prior to your graduation date due to restrictions on how early you can apply)
- Bring everything on the checklist with you to the appointment and ensure all forms are fully completed
- At the appointment your International Student Advisor will:
- Review all documents
- Formally recommend your OPT Application in the SEVIS system
- Issue a new I-20 showing that your OPT has been formally recommended
- Make a scanned copy of your OPT application and all supporting documents
- Put your OPT application in order and ensure you DO NOT send any original I-20 forms or passports
- You will leave your OPT appointment with your application ready to mail. We strongly recommend you use a Courier Service (such as FedEx or UPS) to mail your application:
- Someone should have to sign for the package when it is received
- The package should be trackable so you know where it is at all times
- Your application must be received within 30 days of the date of your appointment with your International Student Advisor
- Send by courier to:
2501 S. State Highway 121
Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
- Waiting for your OPT Application to be Processed
- USCIS will email you an electronic receipt of your complete application within 2 weeks of when it is received. Save this document for your records
- If your OPT application is still processing after your program end date on your I-20, you should not travel outside of the US
- If you do, it will result in forfeiture of your OPT application and automatic completion of your F-1 status (see OPT FAQs above for more info)
- You normally receive your OPT Card (called an EAD) approximately 12 weeks after you send your OPT application
your responsibilities while on opt
- As soon as you receive your EAD card, submit a copy of the front and back via email to Maggie Shirland at email@example.com and keep the original in a safe place
- Please note - if you lost your EAD card, you cannot work until after you receive a replacement card!
- It can take 12 weeks to replace a lost EAD card so be very careful not to lose it!
- Limit Periods of Unemployment to Maintain Status
- During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment
- You may not accrue more than 90 days total of unemployment during your OPT period
- What you need to do to maintain F-1 immigration status while on OPT:
- Report the name, address, and details of your employment
- Continue to report all employer changes as they happen throughout the duration of your OPT
- Ensure you submit a new form each time your job situation changes
- Report any and all home address changes within 10 days of when you move
- Contact Maggie Shirland, International Student Advisor with any questions about your status while on OPT
- You are still in F-1 status throughout your OPT period
- Although you have graduated, you will continue to be in "F-1 student status" for immigration purposes
How do I qualify for Optional Practical Training?
In order to use OPT, you must have been in F-1 status and in good academic standing at MassArt for nine consecutive months (2 semesters).
What kind of jobs can I use Optional Practical Training for?
You must be confident that the job is directly related to your major field of study and you will be required to submit a written statement on how the position is related to your major field of study. This statement and all the empoyer info will be stored in your SEVIS record and can be viewed by all immigration officials.
If you have questions about whether or not a job is related to your major, please contact your faculty advisor or department head to discuss with them.
How do I prove to potential employers that I can work when on OPT?
If you are approved for OPT, USCIS will issue you an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) Card that you may present to any employer who wishes to hire you as proof that you are authorized to work.
What is the difference between Post-Completion OPT and Pre-Completion OPT?
- Post-Completion OPT permits you to work full-time (40 hours per week) for one year after your graduation/commencement from MassArt
- Pre-Completion OPT permits you to work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) while you are still in school at MassArt (or full-time during the summer breaks)
- Most students choose to apply for PostCompletion OPT only, because time spent on Pre-Completion OPT deducts time from post-completion OPT
When can I start working if I am approved for Post-Completion OPT?
You may apply to have your OPT start date begin the day after your graduation or up to two months after your graduation but no later. IMPORTANT: You cannot begin working until you have received your EAD card, even if your OPT start date has passed.
When should I apply for post-completion OPT?
We recommend you file your application 90 days prior to your graduation date, which is the earliest you can file it. A student is able to file his or herapplication between 90 days prior to their program end date and 58 days after his or her program end date.
When should I apply for pre-completion OPT?
You should apply at least 12 weeks ahead of the date you wish to begin working. It will take approximately 12 weeks for USCIS to process your application and issue your EAD card.
Are there any restrictions regarding post-completion OPT?
OPT cannot be stored up or saved. You may use your OPT for a year after graduation and then begin a new academic program. However, you will lose any OPT you have remaining if you begin a new academic program before the year of OPT granted has been completed.
Do I need to have a job to apply for optional practical training?
You do not need to have a job offer before applying for optional practical training.
Do I need to have a job while I am on optional practical training?
Yes. The regulations require that you do have employment while on your authorized OPT period, but the categories of employment are quite broad (see next question below). You are only allowed to have a total of 90 days of unemployment during your 12 month period of OPT. While on OPT, you are required to report your employment information.
Does the job I have while on OPT have to be paid employment, or can it be unpaid?
The employment does NOT have to be paid. A student who is self-employed (including freelance artists/designers), interning or volunteering in a position directly related to the academic field would be considered "employed" and fulfilling the obligations of OPT employment.
Do I need to work full-time while on post-completion OPT?
Yes, you are required to work 20 hours or more per week. If you are working less than 20 hours per week that will count toward your 90 days of unemployment.
Can I travel outside the U.S. while my OPT application is pending but before my application is approved?
If your I-20 end date has not yet been reached, and your OPT application is pending, you can travel outside the U.S. If you travel outside the US after your I-20 end date has been reached, but before your application has been approved, you will forfeit your OPT and the application will be considered abandoned.
Can I depart/re-enter the US after my OPT has been approved?
It is not recommended to travel outside the U.S. if your I-20 end date has been reached, unless you have an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) Card. and can provide proof of employment upon reentry (examples of proof might be: a confirmation letter from your employer or job offer letter). You must also have a valid travel signature on your I-20.
I decided not to apply for post-completion OPT and am graduating. Is there anything I need to know?
- You have a 60 day grace period following your graduation date during which
- You may not work on-campus or attend classes, but you may remain in the country
- You can choose to apply for OPT or to transfer your SEVIS record to another institution if you are accepted to a new degree program
- Once you return home, please contact Maggie Shirland so the College can complete your SEVIS record and ensure that you do not have issues entering the US as a visitor in the future.
I am graduating soon but not sure if I want to apply for OPT. Is there anything I need to know?
- You can still apply for OPT up until the week before your grace period after graduation ends. However, please keep the following in mind:
- You cannot leave the country while your OPT application is being processed. If you do leave the country, the application will be considered abandoned and OPT will be forfeited
- Processing of the OPT application normally takes 12 weeks
- You cannot begin working until your OPT application is processed and you have your EAD card in hand
- Why is it good to apply early?
- The latest date your OPT can begin will be the 60th day of your grace period (2 months after your graduation)
- If your OPT is still being processed on the 60th day, you will not be able to begin working until the application is processed and the EAD card is in hand
- Example: If you send your completed OPT application in on July 11, you will not be able to begin working until around October 11 (12 weeks for processing) and your OPT end date will be July 17, 2017
- This means you will lose almost 3 months of work ability while you wait for your application to be processed. During this time you cannot work, leave the US, or attend classes so although you can be in the US, you have limited options for what you can spend time doing
Are MassArt students eligible for the OPT STEM extension program?
MassArt is not authorized for the OPT STEM extension, unless you have completed the DMI Master of Fine Arts program which is STEM eligible.