Optional Practical Training is a program initiated by the US government to benefit the international students on F1 visa. They are provided with the opportunity to work for certain hours and gain both experience as well as money. Students can practice pre-completion OPT and post completion OPT. Pre-completion can be undertaken while the study program is on or during vacation whereas post completion is done after the graduation is over. The students have the benefit of OPT for total of 12 months. You can read more on OPT and get the knowledge about OPT job requirements and continue to read more on how to apply for OPT .
Any international student who has been pursuing studies USA for more than nine months is eligible to apply for OPT. Work permit does not come immediately and neither the work permission is granted with ease, the process is time consuming and thus it advisable to start soonest. Completion of studies date is different from the graduation date. Completion date means the actual date where all the activities regarding studies have ended. The advantage of OPT is that one does not need job offer to apply for the program. Under OPT; you can try for jobs anywhere within United States. There is also possibility of job change during the OPT but it is important to notify prior any changes.
Total available period for OPT is of 12 months but it can be used in chunks and at intervals. It is not compulsory to use entire OPT all at once. But this liberality is limited to just pre-completion, after the graduation it has to be used in one stretched. One the student has applied for OPT, it is either fully used, full unused or partially used. Nothing can be done about the unused time involved in OPT, there is no possibility of recapturing. There is an exception of working for 17 months if subjects are STEM related which is referred as OPT STEM Extension Proposed Rule.
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OPT Application Process to apply for International Students:
All the students who want to get job on OPT must apply to DSO preparing Optional Practical Training report and request an OPT recommendation letter.
Once you receive a recommendation for post-completion OPT from your Designated School Official (DSO), you must apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) with USCIS within 30 days. Additionally, you may file up to 90 days prior to your program end-date and not later than 60 days after your program end date.
Then the DSO will review the documents and then send your OPT recommendation to SEVIS electronically to generate a new I-20.
The efforts to apply for OPT should begin within 90-120 days before the end of the completion of the degree. There needs to be a double visit to the DSO, once to submit the application and another to pick up the approved recommendation on a SEVIS I-20.
The student while applying for the OPT application must have the approximate start date issued by the DSO.
First obtain I-20 form from DSO within 5 working days.
The second step is to fill the I-765 form which is the Employee Authorization Form.
The documents that need to be carried at DSO are to apply for opt:
- The recent I-20 form and all the previous I-20 forms
- I-94 card
- Recent or previous EAD application
Make a copy of your complete application.
Send your complete application and required documents to USCIS. USCIS will send you a notice for the receipt of your I-765 EAD OPT application. Once you have received your receipt notice, you can track the status of your individual case using the case status search feature of the USCIS Web site. You may also choose to receive email alerts.
USCIS will approve or deny your OPT. If approved, they will mail your EAD card to you. (1-3 months average processing time). Approximate processing time for the various applications and petitions is 1 to 3 months and may vary for each and every case.
As mentioned above while applying for OPT there is no need of employment offer but once you get the OPT dates, and you remain unemployed during that then that period cannot be recovered. Please note that pre-completion OPT start dates must begin and end before the completion of the degree program, while post-completion OPT dates must start within 60 days of the completion of program date.
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For those who have applied for STEM extension must report to DSO within 10 days if there is change of:
- legal name
- residential or mailing address
- employer name
- employer address, and/or
- loss of employment
If the student with the STEM extension, Student makes report to DSO at regular interval of six months from beginning of extension to end of F1 visa. The report has to be made to validate the time interval and the student activities like change of education level, change of school, end of extension period.
Validation by the DSO gives the approval of student’s name and address, employer name and address, and/or loss of employment is current and accurate. The entire process of the validation and reporting to DSO is done online. There is a possibility of canceling the OPT application if the student has recently requested or applied for it. OPT application can be withdrawn only till is it is not accepted by the SEVIS.
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In the case the student has forgot some documents then the DSO will provide with such forms which are mandatory to be filled. Before permitting the application, the DSO will review the documents and the application of the student’s for eligibility.
If they accept the application then they would print a new SEVIS I-20 form and return it back. One the forms are ready to be picked up, then the notification is given through the email.
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Documents Needed to Request a New I-20 with OPT Recommendation:
- OPT Online Course Completion Certificate or OPT Certification depending on the Designated School of the applicant, completed and signed
- Legible copies of immigration documents
- copies of all I-20’s from your CURRENT degree level
- copies of paper or print-out of electronic Form I-94
- Any previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- A letter from your academic advisor
Complete application packet to ISSS (after you have attended an OPT session):
- Completed form I-765
- Certification Form for Completion of Academic Program, completed by you and your academic advisor.
- All previous and current I-20s (including I-20s from other schools)
- Valid passport (valid at least 6 months in the future)
- F-1 visa
- Previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card, if applicable.