Optional Practical Training for F1 Students
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined in the Federal Regulations as temporary employment directl related to a student's feild of study. During OPT, a student remains in F-1 status. The end result of the OPT request process is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS). Students typically graduate and then seek employment to "practice" what they have learned in their degree program. In addition to being directly related to their major, the OPT must be comparable to the level of the degree earned. For example, if a student earned a bachelor's degree the type of employment may be an entry-level position that may not have a high pay level. A student who completes a master's degree may expect to earn a higher pay level than the bachelor degree holder, and would likely be in a position that has more responsibility and authority.
To be eligible for OPT, the student must:
Be in legal F-1 immigration status
Be a full-time student for at least one academic year and must attend the mandatory OPT session hosted by the International Programs Office
Have UHV approved health insurance
Anticipated employment must be in the United States
There are two types of OPT:
Pre-completion OPT, before graduation, while studying for the degree, and
Post-completion OPT, after graduation.
Pre-completion OPT is available for F1 student participation:
During the student's annual vacation (summer term) and at other times when school is not in session, as long as the student is currently enrolled, or is eligible for registration and intends to enroll in the next term or session. Or
While school is in session, provided that OPT does not exceed 20 hours a week.
Use of OPT is counted cumulatively. Only 12 total months of standard OPT is available to students. OPT done before a degree is completed will count toward the 12-month total and reduce time available after the degree is awarded.
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.
Post-completion OPT is available upon graduation:
F1 students are eligible to participate in OPT during a 14-month period following graduation. (12 months plus 2-month grace period) Students are eligible to choose an employment start date within the 60-day period following the graduation date. The OPT end date would be one year later, provided that no previous OPT has been completed at the same level.
Students participating in Post-completion OPT must work full-time, and are limited to 90 days of unemployment during the year.
Application for OPT must be applied for during the final semester of study in order to give the student available time to work the full year. It takes 60 to 90 days for the OPT to be processed by USCIS after they receive the student's application for employment and related documents.
How to Apply for OPT email the following to firstname.lastname@example.org:
Date of graduation - You must apply for graduation before you can apply for Post-completion OPT.
Anticipated start date - Choose a start date during the 60-day period following the graduation date.
Request 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 Session every semester (except Summer. Summer graduates must attend the spring semester of the current year or fall semester of the previous year). We strongly recommend UG students in their junior year to start planning OPT, and graduate students in their final year to start planning OPT.
"Cap Gap" OPT
If you are a student whose H-1B petition is approved, but your OPT is ending before the requested H-1B start timeline. Check with the International Programs Office, how the Cap Gap extension works. You can email to at email@example.com
17-Month OPT STEM Extension
Deadline to apply for this extension was August 8, 2016. Students who were granted Post-Completion Optional Practical Training are eligible to apply for a one-time 17-month OPT extension, beyond the initial 12 months of OPT, if you meet all of the following conditions:
You are currently approved and actively participating in 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. Your degree's CIP code is listed on the Primary Major line on page 3 of your I-20. Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforement website for the STEM Designated Degree Program List.
You have a job or job offer from an E-Verify employer.
You have not previously received a 17-month OPT extension after earning a previous STEM degree.
24-Month OPT STEM Extension
Students who were granted Post-Completion Optional Practical Training are eligible to apply for a the 24-month OPT STEM extension are, 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. Your degree's CIP code is listed on the Primary Major line on page 3 of your I-20. 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
Apply before your current EAD expires. USCIS recommends 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 for full forms and details. Submit the following information to the DSO by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com or attend International Programs Office support day sessions:
- Your full name, current email, and 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)
- Copy of 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
- 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 name of contact person and telephone number for employment verification