Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is work authorization available to international students who have been in valid F-1 status for at least two consecutive semesters and who plan to seek employment in the U.S. in their field of study. OPT is recommended by advisers at Office of International Student and Scholar Services, but final approval is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

This page contains information about:

Applying for OPT:
  • Eligibility
  • Pre-Completion vs Post-Completion OPT
  • Process for applying for Post or Pre Completion OPT
  • OPT STEM extensions
  • OPT to H-1B transition

Eligibility

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

Pre-Completion vs Post-Completion OPT

For both pre completion and post completion OPT, the following are true:

  • The standard OPT period is a cumulative maximum of 12 months.
  • If a student engages in pre-completion OPT, the student’s eligible period of  post-completion OPT will be reduced by 1 month for every 2 months of part-time pre-completion OPT that is worked when he or she graduates.
  • An F-1 may become eligible for another 12 months of OPT if he/she advances to a higher educational level.
  • A student who only has the thesis or equivalent remaining may either apply for pre-completion OPT or post-completion OPT while completing the thesis/dissertation.
Pre-completion OPT

Employment begins and ends before the completion of the academic program.

Earliest time to apply:

  • If a student has not completed a full academic year: 90 days before completion of full academic year
  • If student has completed a full academic year: 120 days before OPT start date

 There are three types of pre-completion OPT:

Type A: During the student's annual vacation

  • Student must intend to register for the next term
  • OPT may be part- or full- time

Type B: While school is in session

  • Student must be registered full-time
  • OPT may be part-time only

Type C: After completion of all course requirements (excluding thesis/dissertation)

  • After completion of all course requirements excluding thesis/dissertation
  • If Type C OPT is part-time, student must be registered full-time
  • If Type C OPT is full-time, student need not be registered
Post-completion OPT

Employment begins after completion of academic program. Undergraduate students: Your completion date is considered to be the last day of final exams of the semester your degree requirements are fulfilled. Graduate students: Your completion date is the day on which all degree requirements are fulfilled, such as filing your thesis or dissertation. If you do not have a research component to your degree program (such as in the MBA program or other professional schools), your completion date will be the date of graduation.

Earliest Time for Application to be Received by USCIS:

  • Up to 90 days before program end date

Deadline for Application to be Received by USCIS:

  • Up to 60 days after program end date
  • Within 30 days of date DSO recommends in SEVIS (see item #10 on page 1 of your OPT endorsed  I-20)
  • If you plan to travel outside the U.S. after your completion date, you must submit the I-765 first (even if you plan to return within 60 days) and obtain the Receipt Notice in order to re-enter

PhD candidates who wish to request a post-completion OPT start date earlier than the standard completion date should contact an ISSS advisor for guidance.

Points to Remember

  • OPT is available both before and after completing the degree program.
  • A job offer is not required to apply for OPT. However, once you find a qualifying job, you must notify ISSS. See address/employer reporting instructions here.
  • If you accrue 90 days (at once or in total) of unemployment, your OPT authorization becomes invalid and your record will be completed.
  • The employment may occur anywhere in the U.S.
  • No special permission is required to change employers or terminate your employment. However, you must notify ISSS of your unemployment and/or new employer's information.
  • During the period of OPT, a student continues in F-1 status, since OPT is considered to be part of the program of study.
  • It can take the USCIS three to five months to issue the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that allows you to begin working on OPT. There are limited ways to expedite the OPT application. You may find additional information on the expedite criteria here.
  • Once you complete your degree, you cannot work on-campus or off-campus until you have the EAD in your possession and your chosen start date has arrived.
  • Once the OPT application is submitted to the USCIS, it is very difficult to change or cancel the application.
  • OPT can only be extended beyond 12 months (for up to 24 additional months after May 10), if you meet the following three conditions: your OPT is based on a U.S. Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctoral in a STEM major (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) at the time of application for the extension; your employer subscribes to E-Verify; or you are currently authorized for OPT and working in a job related to your field of study. Please see OPT STEM section for more information.

Process for applying for Post or Pre Completion OPT

  1. Complete the ISSS OPT Course in Isidore with a score of 100%.­  To access the course, log into Isidore. Select "Membership" from the side bar.  At the top of this page, select "Joinable Sites" and click "Join" for ISSS OPT.  The course will be added to your extended course list.
  2. Submit Request for OPT I-20 Form to ISSS. Refer to Guide to Completing the I-765 & I-983 for help filing out the form. After receiving the Request for OPT I-20 Form, ISSS will issue an OPT I-20.
  3. With the OPT I-20 from ISSS, you are now ready to apply to USCIS for OPT authorization. Mail the documentation on the Checklist to USCIS. Keep in the mind following:
    • USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of issuance of the OPT I-20.
    • USCIS must receive your application no later than the 60th day after completion of your program requirements.
    • Filing later may result in the loss of eligible time on OPT. Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT which must be taken within 14 months after you finish your program requirements.
  4. Approximately 2-3 weeks after USCIS receives your application, they will mail a receipt notice to the address listed on your I-765. The receipt notice includes a tracking number that can be used to track the progress of your OPT application online. To check the status of your case, visit: https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/.
  5. Your card should arrive to the address listed on your I-765 approximately 3-4 months after USCIS receives your application.

OPT STEM Extension

STEM Extension regulations changed in May 2016. Find the scenario that best describes your current situation to learn more about the new regulations and process for applying for STEM extension:

Students currently on post-completion OPT wishing to apply for the 24-month STEM Extension

All four of the following conditions must be met to be eligible for the 24-month OPT extension:

  1. Students who have already been approved for 12 months of post-completion OPT; and
  2. Who have earned a bachelor’s or higher degree in a field included on the U.S. Government's list of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields within the last 10 years; and
  3. Who are employed in a paid job directly related to his/her field of study; and
  4. Who are working for an employer that is enrolled in the U.S. Government's E-Verify program.
STEM eligible degree

See if your major is eligible. Look at the “Primary Major” on your I-20 then look for that code in the CIP code column of the STEM Designated Degree Programs list.

Application time frame

Students must apply for the extension prior to the expiration of the first 12 months of “standard” OPT. The application must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the first EAD. USCIS will not accept I-765 applications for STEM extensions any earlier than 90 days before the current EAD expiration date. Accordingly, ISSS will only issue STEM OPT I-20s in that time frame.

While STEM extension is pending

If you timely file the application for the extension prior, you may continue working even if your EAD card has expired and until your OPT extension is processed or until 180 days has passed, whichever is sooner.

Reporting requirements during the 24-month extension

Students approved for the extension have additional reporting requirements in order to maintain their status. Students must report to ISSS within 10 days if there is any change of:

  • Legal name
  • Mailing address
  • Employer name
  • Employer address
  • Loss of employment

Students must also submit a validation report to ISSS every six months to confirm name and address, employer name and address, and employment status. The report is due within 10 days of the six-month reporting date.

Acceptable Employment

A student authorized for a 24-month extension must work at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify employer in a paid position directly related to his or her major. This employment may include:

  • Work for one or more employer. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to each individual student's degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
  • Multiple employers. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to each individual student's degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
  • Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. The company for whom the student is providing services must be registered with E-Verify. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
  • Self-employed business owner. Students on a STEM extension can start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must register his or her business with E-Verify and work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program. HOWEVER, under the new STEM regulations, students may not fill out their own Form I-983, Sections 3 to 6, nor act as their own employer for the purposes of the form. This might result in the student NOT being eligible for a STEM extension if self-employed.
24-Month Extension Available Twice

The 24-month extension of OPT is available to each student at two non-consecutive periods of time. This rule is different from the application rules for the standard 12-month OPT, under which students could be approved for multiple OPT periods for each higher degree earned in the U.S. Each STEM extension must meet the same eligibility requirements.

Starting and Ending Dates

The start date of the 24-month OPT extension will be automatically set to the day after the expiration of the current 12-month OPT authorization. The end date will be 24 months later. (It is not possible to request smaller increments of time for the OPT extension.

Application Process
  1. Submit electronic Request for OPT STEM I-20. Email a completed I-983 to isss@udayton.edu. This is a new form that requires information from both the student and the employer. For assistance in completing this form, please view our Guide to Completing the I-983.
  2. ISSS will prepare a new I-20 for you. In most cases your I-20 will be ready in 1 week. We will notify you via email once it is ready.
  3. After receiving your new I-20, you will need to submit an application packet to USCIS. Gather the following items in this order (from top to bottom):
    • Base Fee for I-765, payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Personal check, cashier’s check, or money order is acceptable. If you use a personal check, please be sure to wait for the check to be cashed before closing your bank account.
    • •Two full-face passport-style photos. The photos must be identical, in color, and with a plain white or off-white background. They must be no more than 30 days old when the I-765 is filed at USCIS. Put photos in an envelope or small plastic sandwich bag. You should attach the fee and the photo envelope on top of the entire application (on the upper left-hand corner). Please do not staple the fee and the photos. Use a pencil to gently write your name and I-94 number on the back of your photo.
    • G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance. If you include the G-1145 form with your application, USCIS will send you an e-notification within 1-2 weeks from the date they receive your I-765. They will also mail you a paper receipt notice within 2-4 weeks. Once you have received your receipt number, you can track the status of your individual case using the case status search feature of the USCIS web site. You may choose to receive email alerts about your case status from this web site.
    • •Original USCIS Form I-765 (completed, signed, and dated legibly by you). Refer to our Guide to Completing the I-765 & I-983 for help filing out the form
    • •Photocopy of all pages of your new I-20 endorsed for the 24 month OPT extension (do not send the original). Remember to sign your new I-20!
    • •Photocopy of the front and back of your current EAD card.
    • •Print-out of electronic Form I-94 or copy of paper I-94 (front and back).
    • •Photocopy of the picture page/expiration date of your passport.
    • •Copy of diploma that shows your degree level and program of study OR transcript (official or unofficial) showing degree conferral
    • •Letter from employer that includes job duties and specifies part-time or full-time employment

Sending your application: We recommend using a track-able mail service such as FedEx or United Parcel Service (UPS). The address you use on the I-765 determines where you should send your application (see I-765 instructions).

If your OPT extension is approved, you must send a photocopy of your new EAD card to the ISSS at isss@udayton.edu.

Maintaining Your Status

There are more reporting requirements during the extension. Take special care to comply with these obligations:

  1. Report any change of address within 10 days of moving to your new residence.
  2. Report any change to the name or address of your employer within 10 days of the change.
  3. Report any interruption in employment. You are allowed a maximum of 150 days of unemployment time, which includes any unemployment during 12 month OPT.
  4. Report your status every six months starting from the date your 24-month OPT extension is approved. The report is due within 10 days of the required reporting date. The validation report must contain the following information:
    • •Legal name
    • •Residential/mailing address
    • •Employer name
    • •Employer address
    • •Confirmation that you are currently employed by the employer named

All of these changes can be reported through our OPT reporting form.

 

OPT to H-1B Transition

H-1B Status

H-1B status is limited by a “cap” each fiscal year.

  • April 1 marks the opening of the H-1B cap filing season, when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) begins accepting petitions for H-1Bs for the coming fiscal year.

  • The federal fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30.

If you are subject to the cap and your OPT expires before September 30, the time in between the EAD expiration and October 1 is called the “cap gap.”

Note: Institutions of higher education or their affiliated or related nonprofit entities, as well as nonprofit and government research organizations, are exempt from the H-1B cap. They can file H-1B petitions any time of the year and are not subject to the numerical limit. Cap-exempt employers may plan in advance to avoid any gap between OPT and the H-1B status begin date. Since they are exempt from the cap, the information below does not apply.

“Cap Gap” Extensions and Eligibility

If you meet the following criteria, you may be entitled to an extension of F-1 status and employment eligibility to cover the “cap gap”:

  • You have properly maintained F-1 status

  • Your employment is subject to the H-1B cap

  • Your employer filed an H-1B petition for “Change of Status” (not “Consular Notification”) on or after April 1

  • Your EAD expires between April 1 and September 30

  • The H-1B petition was filed before your EAD expired

The cap-gap extension of status and work authorization ends on October 1, when the H-1B status begins. The automatic extension of status also applies to your F-2 dependents.

If conditions 1-4 above are true but the H-1B petition was filed in the 60-day grace period following the end of your OPT, you are not eligible for the “cap gap” extension of employment eligibility. You may still be eligible to remain in the United States until October 1 if the H-1B petition is approved. Consult the immigration attorney for your employer for information about this scenario.

How to Request a Cap Gap I-20 Reprint

Update your OPT employer information here. To request your reprint, email isss@udayton.edu.

If you meet all the criteria, you are eligible for extension of F-1 status and employment eligibility is automatic. USCIS will update SEVIS and your I-20 record. After you receive your H-1B receipt notice and before your EAD expires, request an I-20 reprint showing the cap gap information. Wait to request the cap gap I-20 reprint until after receiving the H-1B receipt notice (but you may request at cap gap I-20 reprint earlier if your EAD will expire within 30 days).

Reporting Requirements During Cap-Gap Extension Period

Students who remain in the U.S. under the “Cap Gap” regulation remain in F-1 status and must continue to report address/employment changes through here.

What if the H-1B Petition is Denied?

If your H-1B petition is denied, the “cap gap” extension of employment eligibility will immediately terminate.

Typically, you will have 60 days (from notification of denial) to depart the U.S. If, however, the denial is because of a status violation, there is no grace period.

Can I Travel Internationally During the “Cap Gap” Period?

After an H-1B petition with Change of Status is filed, consult your employer's immigration attorney about all international travel, whether or not your EAD is expired.

  • If your EAD is expired, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status.

  • You may consult your employer's attorney about whether and when you may be eligible to re-enter the U.S. in H-1B status.

For more information on Off Campus Employment: After Applying for Optional Practical Training, click here.