Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students

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Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment designed to provide you with an opportunity to gain actual experience in your chosen profession for a maximum of one year. Its purpose is to "round off" or complement your academic work. It differs from curricular practical training in that it does not have to be required for your degree, nor does it have to be for academic credit. Optional practical training may be done before you complete your studies, and/or after you complete your studies, but may not exceed a total of 12 months.  OPT will be granted for the major and degree level listed on the I-20 form at the time of application. An eligible student who has been granted 12 months of optional practical training becomes eligible for another 12 months of optional practical training after changing to a higher educational level.

 

Please note that certain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree holders may be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT in addition to the regular 12 months of OPT. Only students with STEM majors listed on their I-20 at the time of their Initial OPT application can apply for a 24 month STEM extension. Students with double majors and dual degrees should review their I-20 and request that ISSS update their I-20 to reflect their STEM major (ISSS will update only if warranted) if they intend to apply for STEM extension.  Please refer to Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM Extension for further information.



Basic Eligibility Requirements

In order for you to be eligible to apply for OPT, the following criteria have to be met: 

  1. You must have been enrolled as a full-time student in valid, lawful status for one full academic year directly preceding the training;
  2. You must be currently in the United States and in valid F-1 status at the time you submit your application and continue to maintain valid F-1 status;
  3. The employment must be directly related to your major field of study, and
  4. The employment must be appropriate for someone having your level of education.

You may submit an application for optional practical training up to 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year, provided that the period of employment will not begin until the completion of the full academic year as indicated by your Advisor at International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).

Students in exchange programs do not qualify for any type of off-campus paid employment before or after their studies (with the exception of Internship with an International Organization Employment for exchange students) since they do not meet the eligibility requirements for these Immigration benefits.  



Types of Optional Practical Training:

OPT is available in the following cases:

(A) Before Completion of Studies:

  1. Part-time (20 hours per week) or full-time (40 hours per week) during your annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session if you are currently enrolled and intend to register for the next term; or
  2. Part-time (20 hours per week) while school is in session; or
  3. Part-time (20 hours per week) or full-time (40 hours per week) after completion of graduate course requirements (but before completion of a course of study), excluding a thesis or dissertation.

You may apply no earlier than 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year, provided that the period of employment will not begin until the completion of the full academic year, and no earlier than 120 days before the requested OPT start date.  The OPT application must be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 30 days of the OPT recommendation being entered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.

(B) After Completion of Studies:

Provided you are completing a Bachelor's, Master's or Doctoral Degree Program at the U.S. institution you are authorized to attend.  Post-completion OPT must be at least 20 hours of activity per week.

 You may apply no earlier than up to 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year and 90 days before the expected degree completion date, provided that the period of employment will not begin until the completion of the full academic year, and no later than 60 days after the degree completion date.  If you apply for OPT during the 60-day grace period after degree completion, you must submit your OPT application no less than 40 days after your program completion in order for USCIS to receive your application by the filing deadline.  The OPT application must be filed with USCIS within 30 days of the OPT recommendation being entered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, and no later than the end of the grace period. 

NOTE: You must continue to be registered even if you are preparing a thesis or dissertation and have finished all your course work, including during a summer session if you expect to complete your degree in that summer session. If you fail to maintain your registration, you will forfeit your opportunity for optional practical training.

Click here for a comprehensive timeline of the Post-completion OPT Application and Approval Process.

 

Application and Authorization Procedures

International students in F-1 status are required to complete the online ISSS F-1 Employment Session prior to applying for OPT or any type of F-1 off campus employment authorization. The comprehensive and brief employment session will provide you with condensed information on OPT and other types of F-1 employment authorizations, including eligibility criteria and application procedures.

Go to www.miami.edu/employmentsession to complete the employment session.

Submit the following documents to ISSS: 

  1. Post Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) Request
  2. Form G-1145.
  3. Form I-765. Follow link to USCIS and click on “Form I-765
    • SSN: You will need a Social Security Number (SSN) to start employment. If you have never been issued an SSN, it is recommended you indicate “No” in item 9.a. and complete items 10 – 13.b.
    • You will receive your SSN at the address indicated on this form within two weeks of OPT approval.
    • Enter eligibility code (c)(3)(A) in item #20 for pre-completion OPT, and (c)(3)(B) for post-completion OPT.
  4. Two U.S. Passport-Style Photos. Photos must be taken within the last 30 days and not previously used. Follow specifications on USCIS Is Making Photos Simpler. Write your name and I-94 number on back of both photos.
  5. Original SEVIS Form I-20. Signed by student on page 1.
  6. Copy of all previous Form I-20s. Signed by student on page 1.
  7. Form I-94. Go to GET MOST RECENT I-94.
  8. Copy of Passport Pages. Need biographic data, photo, F-1 visa, and passport page with last entry stamp.
  9. Copy of Previously Issued EAD(s). Only if applicable.
  10. Money order or cashier’s check for $410. Must be made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. You can obtain from your bank, any US Post Office, CVS, or Western Union.

ISSS will notify you via e-mail to sign new Form I-20 indicating OPT has been recommended. Mail the OPT application to USCIS for processing. Per Immigration regulations, your Optional Practical Training (OPT) application must be received and receipted by USCIS within 30 days from the date your I-20 was issued; otherwise, it will be denied. ISSS recommends that you mail your application via a trackable delivery method. You should mail your application as soon as possible to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox facility as indicated on the USCIS website at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765-addresses. Keep in mind that the processing of your application by USCIS can take several months from the date that USCIS receives your application, and that there is no guarantee that your application will be approved. 



Other Important Information

Importance of the Actual Date You Complete Your Program of Study: USCIS regulations refer to the date you complete all requirements for a program of study, not to the date you participate in graduation ceremonies and receive a certificate or diploma.  USCIS ignores your graduation date because it realizes that many students, especially graduate students in thesis or dissertation programs, may complete requirements for a degree any day during the year.  This means that the last day of an academic term may not be the date you complete program requirements.  Your lawful F‑1 status expires 60 days after the date you complete degree requirements, and you are expected to leave the country by that date unless you have filed a timely application for optional practical training or made other arrangements to lawfully remain in the U.S.

Failure to graduate on date indicated on OPT application:  Contact  ISSS  immediately if  you  do  not  complete  your  degree  requirements  by  the  date  indicated  on  your  OPT application and on your Form I-20.  Failure to do so will negatively affect your immigration status and your employment eligibility.

Your OPT start date will be the date USCIS assigns at the time it processes your application. This is the date from which your optional practical training time starts counting, not from the date you begin employment.

All Optional Practical Training must be completed during the 14-month window following date of completion of studies. Therefore, depending on when you apply, you may not be granted the full 12 months of optional practical training.

You may not begin employment until you have received your EAD, or until the approved start date on your EAD.  Any work you do before receiving the EAD will be considered illegal employment. 

Definition of OPT:  USCIS defines employment as the following:  “...any type of work performed, or services provided, in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food or any other benefit.” OPT is employment that is related to the student's degree major and appropriate for the degree level. The location of the OPT employment must be within the US. OPT may be in any of these forms:

  1. Working for one or multiple employers (short or long term).
  2. Working on a contractual basis.
  3. Working as a self-employed business owner on a full-time basis (with evidence of the proper business license).
  4. Working through an agency.
  5. Volunteering or holding an unpaid internship as long as the position does not violate any labor laws and that the volunteer work or internship is for at least 20 hours/week.

You may change employers after you have begun authorized employment provided the new job is (1) directly related to your major field of study and (2) appropriate for someone having your level of education. You must notify ISSS within 10 business days.  

Report your employment information and any changes of address to ISSS: Your valid F-1 status in the U.S. is dependent on your employment for the duration of your OPT.  To maintain valid F-1 status during your OPT, you MUST report your employer information and changes in your local and/or permanent address to ISSS immediately using the Change of Student and Employer Information Form for Students in F-1 Status.  ISSS will update this information in SEVIS.

You may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during OPT. If you fail to report employment within 90 days of your start date, your SEVIS record will auto-terminate, and you will be out of status with immigration.

Travel Outside of the U.S. before Completion of Studies

Before completing your studies, you must present the following documents to USCIS at the port-of-entry in order to seek reentry to the U.S.: 

  1. SEVIS Form I-20, endorsed for travel by your ISSS advisor within the last 12 months;
  2. Valid passport; and
  3. Valid F-1 visa.

You do not need evidence of a job or a valid EAD issued for OPT to return to the U.S.

Travel Outside of the U.S. after Completion of Studies

Before your EAD has arrived, you must present the following documents to USCIS at the port-of-entry in order to seek reentry to the U.S.:

Form I-797 (USCIS receipt notice for pending EAD application)

  • SEVIS Form I-20, endorsed for travel by your ISSS advisor
  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa

After your EAD has arrived, you must present the following documents to USCIS at the port-of-entry in order to seek reentry to the U.S.:

  • EAD issued by USCIS
  • A letter from the U.S. employer regarding the employment for optional practical training.
  • SEVIS Form I-20, endorsed for travel by your ISSS advisor within the last six months
  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa

Absence from the U.S. during OPT is limited to 90 days, or 5 months if on authorized leave or traveling as part of your U.S. employment.

Once authorization to engage in optional practical training is granted, it may not be rescinded or canceled.  This means that after optional practical training is authorized by the USCIS, unexpected delays in completing degree requirements, inability to find an appropriate job or loss of a job may result in loss of otherwise eligible time to work.  Once permission to work has been given, it cannot be taken back regardless of subsequent occurrences.

Termination of Optional Practical Training:  Authorization to engage in OPT is automatically terminated when you transfer to another school or begin study at another educational level.

Health insurance through United Healthcare:  International students who  are  no  longer  enrolled  at  the  University  but  remain  in  the  U.S. to  engage  in  post-completion OPT  may  still  be  insured  under  the  Student  Insurance  policy  if  they originally purchased a plan that continues beyond the completion of their studies. Visit Student Health Service for more information. Although insurance coverage can continue during OPT, access to the Student Health Service is limited to enrolled students. Expenses incurred off-campus will be subject to deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance. Please review the United Healthcare schedule of benefits for information on benefits, exclusions and limitations of coverage or contact the Student Health Service at studenthealth@miami.edu for additional information.

H-1B Cap-Gap Extension

Duration of status and work authorization will be automatically extended for a student on OPT who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting change of status and an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year.  The extension of duration of status and work authorization automatically terminates upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-B petition filed on the student’s behalf.

To request an updated I-20 for H-1B cap-gap extension, your SEVIS record must indicate that you are on active H-1B cap-gap.  

Students on H-1B cap-gap extension must continue to report all changes of name and address, and interruptions of employment just like all other students on OPT.

Note: It is your responsibility to retain copies of all your immigration documents and all immigration applications (Form I-20, employment, change of status, program extension, etc.) for your records/future use. ISSS is required to keep copies of your documents and applications for only three years beyond the end of your program of studies at UM and any authorized post-completion OPT.

 

Additional Resources:
Employment Eligibility Verification and Form I-9 Information for F-1 Students

Employment Eligibility Verification and Form I-9 Information for Employers of Students in F-1 Status