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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 employer 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 Post-Completion 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 her application 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?

Graduates of the following programs at MassArt are eligible to apply for an OPT STEM extension:

  • Architectural Design, Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • Master of Architecture (MArch)
  • Dynamic Media Institute, Master of Fine Arts, (DMI)
  • Master of Design (MDES)

Please contact the international student advisor directly for further information.