Optional Practical Training for F1 Students
F-1 students who graduate from a U.S. institution are eligible to seek employment called Optional Practical Training (OPT) in order to "practice" what they have learned during their studies. OPT is defined as temporary employment directly related to a student's field of study. During OPT, a student remains as F-1 status.
In addition to being directly related to their major, the OPT job must be comparable to the level of the degree earned.
- For example:
- If a student earned a Bachelor's degree, the position must require the minimum of a Bachelor's degree (an entry-level position) and may not have a high pay level.
- If a student earned a Master's degree, the position must require the minimum of a Master's degree. A student who completes a Master's degree may expect to earn a higher pay level than a Bachelor degree holder and would likely be in a position that has more responsibility and authority.
To be eligible for OPT, a student must:
- Be in legal F-1 immigration status
- Be a full-time student for at least one academic year prior to applying for OPT and must attend the mandatory OPT session hosted by the International Programs Office
- Have UHV-approved health insurance
- Must anticipate employment in the United States
- OPT is only allowed once during each academic level. For example: One time after you complete your Associate Degree, One time after you compelte your Bachelor's, one time after you complete your Masters, and one time after you complete your Doctoral. Students cannot complete OPT twice in one academic level.
Pre-Completion OPT vs. Post-Completion OPT
- Pre-Completion OPT is OPT that is conducted before graduation and while the student is still studying for their degree.
- Post-Completion OPT is OPT that is conducted after graduation.
- During Summer sessions or when school is otherwise not in session
- While school is in session as long as the work week is limited to 20 hours
- Time on OPT is accrued cumulatively. Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT.
- OPT training completed before graduation will subtract from the 12-month allowable total. If a program ends and there are months of eligible OPT remaining, student must re-apply for Post-Completion OPT and pay the application fee again.
- F1 students are eligible to participate in OPT during a 12-month period following graduation and a 2-month grace period, during which students are eligible to choose an employment start date within this grace period.
- The OPT end date is one year after the student's selected start date, provided that no previous OPT has been completed at the same level.
- Students participating in Post-Completion OPT must work full-time (40 hours) and are limited to 90 days of unemployment during the employment period.
- Students must submit their OPT applications during their final semester of study. It takes 60 to 90 days for the OPT application to be processed by United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) after receiving the student's application and related documents.
How to Apply for OPT
Students must email the following information to email@example.com:
- Graduation Application - You must apply for graduation before you can apply for Post-Completion OPT. Send us proof of your graduation application along with the graduation date.
- Anticipated Employment Start Date - Choose a start date during the 60-day period following the graduation date.
- Request for the Application for OPT request form
Note: Students can visit the International Programs Support Days with the OPT documents for a face-to-face OPT document check. Pay attention to the email communications sent by the International Programs Office to your official UHV email. International Programs Office hosts mandatory OPT and "Life After Graduation" sessions every semester except Summer. Summer graduates must attend the Fall or Spring semester's sessions of the year they plan to graduate. We strongly recommend undergraduate students in their junior year to start planning for OPT and for graduate students in their final year to start planning OPT.
If a student's OPT request process is approved, USCIS issues an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
"Cap Gap" OPT
This extension is for students whose H-1B petition is approved but whose OPT is ending before the requested H-1B start timeline. Check with the International Programs Office on how the Cap Gap extension works. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
24-Month OPT STEM Extension
This extension is for students who graduated from and are working in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) field. If you are granted Post-Completion OPT, you are eligible to apply for a 24-month OPT STEM extension beyond the initial 12 months of OPT if you meet all of the following conditions:
- You are currently approved and actively participating in active Post-Completion OPT.
- You completed a Bachelor's or Master's degree in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) field that is eligible for STEM extension designation. Eligible degrees are listed by their Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code, which is listed on your I-20 on the Primary Major line on page 3. Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website for the STEM Designated Degree Program List.
- You have a job or job offer from a registered E-Verify employer.
- You must have fewer than 90 days of unemployment while on OPT.
When to Apply for the STEM Extension
Apply before your current EAD expires. USCIS recommends that you apply up to 120 days before your OPT expiration. You can continue to work for only up to 180 days while the application is pending with USCIS until your case is approved or denied.
How to Apply for the STEM Extension
Email the UHV International Programs Office at email@example.com for full forms and details. After you have the forms and know the procedures, submit the information below to Yvonne Garcia or firstname.lastname@example.org, or bring them to an International Programs Office Support Day session.
- Your full name, current email, and current mailing address
- UHV Application Procedure for STEM OPT Training Extension Form Part 1 and Part 2
- UHV Employer Responsibility Statement of Understanding for STEM OPT Extension form
- Copy of completed I-983 form
- Copy of completed I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, using (c) (3) (C) in item 16
- Copy of G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (Optional)
- Official (UHV) transcript with degree posted
- Copy of most recent I-20 endorsed by (UHV) DSO with OPT work authorization
- Copy of most recent I-94, front and back or computer print-out
- Copy of most recent EAD card
- Copy of two (2) Photographs, passport-style
- Copy of unexpired passport's biographical page (with name and expiration date)
- Copy of most recent visa (expired visa is acceptable)
- Letter from your current employer on company letterhead stating the following:
- Your title and duties and how they relate to your degree program field
- Employer Name as listed in E-Verify
- E-Verify Company Identification Number
- This statement: "We agree to contact the Designated School Official within 48 hours of employment termination or departure (absent without notice for 5 days), and will verify employment upon request."
- Letter must provide the name of the contact person with their telephone number for employment verification