Optional Practical Training (12 Months)

Warning: Do not file for OPT without completing step 4 in the “OPT Application Process” section below. Complete steps 1 - 3 and then meet with an ISSS advisor to receive an updated I-20 with a recommendation for Optional Practical Training on page 2. Failure to do so could result in the loss of your application fee and denial of your application by USCIS.

Definition

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization granted by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to students in F-1 status. The purpose of OPT is to allow F-1 students to gain experience in their major field of study after completion of program requirements. F-1 students are eligible for 12 months of OPT for each higher education level completed.

Eligibility

Students who are in F-1 status and have been enrolled full-time for at least one full academic year are eligible for Optional Practical Training. OPT is typically used after completion of a course of study or after completion of all required coursework and credits if you are a graduate student engaged in required thesis or dissertation research. Students must have completed all program requirements by the time the OPT start date arrives (excluding thesis/dissertation requirements for graduate students). No job offer is required at the time of application.

Note: Students who have used 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or who were previously approved for Optional Practical Training at the same or higher degree level are ineligible for OPT.

When should you apply for OPT?

USCIS will accept applications for OPT up to 90 days before completion of your degree requirements, and as late as 60 days following program completion. USCIS must receive your OPT application before the 60 day period is over.

Note: A student's completion date refers to the date the student completes the requirements for his or her degree program; i.e., it is the date the student finishes the last class, turns in a required thesis or dissertation, or otherwise meets the requirements for the degree. It is not necessarily the date of graduation which may be later than your completion date.

Please keep in mind that filing later will NOT give you additional OPT time. When planning, a good rule is to expect that USCIS will need a minimum 3 months to process your application. You are eligible for 12 months of OPT, and those 12 months must be used within the 14 months after you finish your program requirements. If it will take 3 months for USCIS to process your request for OPT authorization and if you file your application one month after completing your program, you will end up with only about 10 months of OPT authorization.

Choosing your OPT Start Date

You must request a start date when you apply for OPT. It must be within the 60 days following completion of your degree/coursework requirements. The earliest day you may choose is the day after program completion. The last date you may choose is the 60th day after program completion. Consider your job search process and future plans when picking a start date. Your end date will be one calendar year from your start date or 14 months after your Program End Date, whichever is earlier.

Example: Student completes degree program on Dec. 14th. The 60 day start date window is December 15 through February 12.

Master’s and Ph.D. students who have completed their required coursework and credits and who are working on a thesis/dissertation may apply for OPT to begin from the day after completion of all required credits until the 60th day after completion of the final degree requirement. Please consult with ISSS.

Changing OPT starting and ending dates: Once your OPT application is submitted to USCIS, it is very difficult to change your requested start date. Before you submit your application you should be certain that you have the requested start date you want.

Please note that USCIS will use the start date you request unless it has already passed when your application is approved. In that case, they will use the approval date as your OPT start date instead.

OPT Application Process

USCIS has stated that Form I-765 (OPT application) must be filed from within the U.S. It may be filed either through the mail or online. We provide instructions for applying online below. If you prefer to file by mail, please email international@MiamiOH.edu for instructions. Please note that USCIS has the discretion to require biometrics appointments on a case-by-case basis for online applications though they have indicated it is not a general requirement for all applications.

Start your online application

  1. Create a USCIS account (or log in to your existing account) and select "File a Form Online." Select the “Authorization for Employment Authorization (I-765)” option. Open and follow these detailed OPT Online Application (I-765) Instructions to answer the questions and upload the appropriate documents.

    Do not submit payment at this time! You must wait until after you meet with an ISSS advisor and receive your I-20 recommending OPT (step 4 below) before paying and submitting your application. It is not possible to edit or change a submitted online application and failure to submit a complete application could result in Requests for Evidence (RFEs) or even the denial of your application by USCIS.
  2. Download a copy of your online application (I-765) by clicking on the “Review and Submit” menu item on the left, selecting “Your application summary” then clicking on “View draft snapshot”. Your form should say “Electronic Form Only” on it as a watermark.

Submit your OPT application materials to ISSS for review

  1. Log in to your InterLink account using your UniqueID and password. Go to “F-1 Practical Training” and complete the e-form request “Optional Practical Training (OPT) Request” using the same documents you uploaded into your online USCIS application and the I-765 you downloaded in step 2. After you submit your request, ISSS will ask your academic advisor to comment on your e-form request.

Meet with an ISSS advisor and receive an updated I-20

  1. Schedule an appointment with an ISSS advisor after you receive a message indicating your academic advisor has commented on your request form. At the appointment, your ISSS advisor will address any remaining issues, review OPT rules, provide a screenshot of your CPT history from SEVIS, and issue an updated I-20 with the OPT recommendation on page 2.

Finalize your application in the USCIS Portal

  1. Pay the required $410 government application fee by U.S-based credit or debit card and submit your application online. Your complete OPT application must be received and receipted by USCIS no more than 30 days after your OPT recommendation was made on your new I-20 or before the expiration of your 60-day grace period—whichever is first.
    • Be sure to make any final edits such as uploading your new I-20 signed in ink, etc. before entering your payment information.
    • The I-765 filing fee is subject to change. To verify the current fee amount, visit I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

Reminder: You must meet with an ISSS advisor and receive, print, sign (in ink), and upload your updated I-20 with the OPT recommendation on page 2 before submitting payment and filing your application. Failure to do so could result in the loss of your application fee and even the denial of your application by USCIS.

What happens after my application is submitted?

You will receive a digital receipt immediately upon submitting your application. Approximately 2-4 weeks after USCIS receives your application, they will also mail a paper receipt notice to the address you used on your I-765. You can use the receipt number to track the progress of your OPT application online.

Your card should arrive at the address listed on your I-765 after USCIS approves your application.

If you used ISSS’s address on the I-765 form, your documents will be sent to ISSS and you will be notified by email. You will have the option to pick your documents up from the ISSS office or to create and pay for a shipping label to have them sent to you.

Employment on OPT

Between the time you complete your degree requirements and the start of your OPT you cannot work. This includes on-campus employment. The OPT card (known as an EAD – Employment Authorization Document) will have a start and end date listed on it. You may only begin working when you have the OPT card, and you may only work during the dates listed on the card. After your OPT starts:

  • Work must be directly related to your major field of study of your current degree program. At this time, work cannot be done based on prior degrees earned in the U.S. or abroad.
  • Must work more than 20 hours per week to be considered employed for OPT purposes
  • Can work for multiple employers or change employers
  • Volunteer or unpaid internships are okay as long as the position does not violate labor laws and meets requirements listed above
  • Cannot accrue more than 90 days of unemployment!

What happens if I cannot find a job and I accrue 90 days of unemployment?

Students on OPT cannot accrue more than 90 cumulative calendar days of unemployment during the 12-month period of OPT. Before the 91st day, you will need to make arrangements to leave the U.S., start a new degree program and transfer your SEVIS record, or change to a different status. If you are still in the U.S. after 90 days of unemployment, you are in violation of your legal status.

OPT Reporting Requirement

While on OPT you are still legally required to report certain information to ISSS. Changes to any of the following must be reported within 10 days of the event. Information to report:

  • Any change in your residential address or phone number
  • Any change in your employment or unemployment status; if employed, you will need to provide:
    • Employer (company/organization) name and address
    • Your job title
    • How your job relates to your major
    • Employment Identification Number (recommended - Obtain from Human Resources)
  • Any change to another immigration status
  • Any plans to depart the U.S. permanently and end your OPT before your OPT end date

To report, log in to your InterLink account, select "F-1 Practical Training" and complete the "Optional Practical Training (OPT) Report" e-form.

You will also have the ability to make updates in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Portal. However, be aware that you must still report all changes in InterLink, even if you update your record via the SEVIS Portal.

The government is able to track your days of unemployment, and your record may be terminated if 90 days of unemployment are accumulated. This means even if you are employed, but you fail to report your employment, your record could be automatically terminated. Thus it is extremely important you report your employment to ISSS.

Travel and OPT

It is a common misconception that students can never travel while on OPT. However, if you have the proper documentation that is pertinent to your particular situation, you should be eligible to depart from and re-enter the US after a brief absence. If you are:

1. If traveling outside of the US while your OPT is pending approval but before your degree completion, you must have the following documents to re-enter the United States:

  • Passport (valid for at least six months from the date of your re-entry)
  • Signed I-20 (signature given within the past six months)
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp when you return to the US

2. Traveling outside of the US while your OPT is pending approval and after your degree completion is somewhat riskier. You must have the following documents to re-enter the United States:

  • Passport (valid for at least six months from the date of your re-entry)
  • Signed I-20 (travel signature given within the past six months)
  • Valid F-1 visa when you travel
  • It is also recommended that you bring your I-797C (receipt notice from USCIS)

ISSS recommends particular caution in this situation. If USCIS sends a request for additional information about an aspect of your application and if it is not resolved in a timely fashion, your application can be denied. According to DHS, traveling back to the U.S. while your OPT is pending is permitted in order to search for employment. If your OPT is approved while you are abroad, you must have your OPT card and job offer letter to re-enter the US! Please remember that anytime you leave the U.S. there is never a guarantee that the immigration official at the port of entry will allow you to reenter.

3. If traveling outside of the U.S. after your OPT has been approved and after the completion date on your I-20, you must have the following documents to re-enter the United States:

  • Passport (valid for at least six months from the date of your re-entry)
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp
  • Your OPT I-20 with a valid travel signature (given within the last six months)
  • Your OPT card
  • Proof of employment

Immigration regulations state that you can re-enter the U.S. to resume employment while on OPT.

Renewing Visa while on OPT

It can be risky to apply for an F-1 visa stamp while you are on OPT due to greater difficulty in demonstrating nonimmigrant intent. If your visa stamp is expired, or will soon expire, keep this in mind. You should not attempt to renew your visa if you are unemployed as proof of employment would be required. Renewing a visa is never a guarantee. Please speak with ISSS if you have questions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What if my Employment Authorization Document (EAD or OPT card) is lost or stolen?

In this situation, you will need to apply for a replacement card by submitting new OPT application (see OPT Application Process above) and selecting the "Replacement of lost, stolen, or damaged employment authorization document" option. You will need to include the following additional documents before submitting your application to USCIS:

  1. Letter detailing how the card was lost or stolen.
  2. If stolen, a copy of the police report.
  3. Copies of all OPT-related I-20s.
  4. Copy of your original EAD.

Be aware that you will have to pay the application fee again as well.

How do I renew my U.S. Driver’s License?

Your driver’s license will likely expire on your I-20 end date. If your driver’s license is expiring and you do not yet have your OPT (EAD) card, please keep in mind that the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles may allow you to renew your license with evidence that you have applied for Optional Practical Training and have a job offer. Generally, you could take a combination of the I-797C receipt notice, the I-20 that was issued at your OPT appointment with ISSS, as well as your job offer letter (in addition to all other documents the BMV requires to obtain your driver's license) to assist with the renewal process. It takes approximately 4-6 weeks after USCIS receives your OPT application for the I-797C receipt notice in the mail.

What is my status while I am on OPT?

OPT is part of F-1 status. Though you may no longer be a student, you are still in F-1 status.

Can I extend my OPT like I could extend my I-20?

An OPT STEM Extension (24 additional months) is possible for students who currently hold Post-Completion OPT work authorization and have completed a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in DHS-designated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.

If your degree is in a non-STEM field, the maximum amount of time for which you are eligible for OPT is 12 months for each higher degree level.

If I apply for OPT and then decide not to use it, can I get my OPT time back?

If USCIS has not yet issued your EAD at the time you decide you do not want OPT, you may request to withdraw your application. This is not always successful, so please talk to an ISSS advisor. If the EAD card has been issued, it is not possible to cancel and the USCIS will consider you to have used your OPT even if you really did not work.

What's the difference between OPT and Curricular Practical Training (CPT)? If I had CPT, can I still have OPT?

CPT permits employment before completion of degree requirements. CPT requires the offer of a specific job and must be tied to your curriculum. You are still eligible for OPT as long as you did not have full-time CPT for a total of 12 months or more.

I’ve already applied for OPT for my current degree program and sent my application to USCIS. I now have an internship or job offer and they want me to start working before I finish my studies. Can I apply for CPT authorization?

No, once you apply for OPT and send in your application to USCIS, ISSS cannot issue CPT work authorization for you for your current degree program.

Will I still be covered by my Miami health insurance?

Not necessarily. Although for immigration purposes you will continue to be in F-1 status while engaging in OPT, your status as an actual Miami University student will end with graduation. If you have purchased University insurance coverage, the policy will expire on July 31st regardless of whether you are a December or May graduate.

If you do not find a job immediately, or cannot be covered by your OPT employer’s insurance program right away, you are strongly advised to consider an alternate means of providing some degree of medical coverage during any interim between the expiration of your university insurance and the start of coverage at your new OPT job.

Do I need a new Social Security card?

If you already have a Social Security card, it remains valid. If you did not apply for a Social Security card on your OPT application, you may apply after you receive your OPT card and the start date on the card is reached. To apply for a Social Security card, please take your I-20, passport, visa, I-94 card, and OPT card with you to your local Social Security Administration.

What documents do I need to show my employer when filling out an I-9?

Your employer will ask you to fill out a Form I-9 verifying employment eligibility. Show the employer your EAD (OPT card), passport, I-20, and I-94 record. Use the end date on the card for the expiration date of your employment authorization.

Do I have to pay taxes while working on OPT?

Yes. You must pay state and federal income taxes. Taxes are due in April each year. Most large cities will have tax assistance services to help you with this process. VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) is an example of such assistance. When dealing with a tax service center, ensure that the tax consultant classifies you properly as a resident or non-resident for tax filing purposes (different from immigration status). NOTE: If you have been in the U.S. for less than 5 years, you may be exempt from Social Security taxes. Look at the IRS publication 519 (www.irs.gov), pages 5 and 42 for more information.

Can I take classes while on OPT?

If you begin study at another education level, your OPT authorization is terminated with the notification of a new degree program in SEVIS or with a transfer of your SEVIS record to another institution. You are meant to be working full-time while on OPT. If you wish to take a class or two part-time recreationally, that is permissible.

How long can I remain in the US after my OPT expires?

You may only work until the expiration date on your OPT card, but you may remain in the US for 60 days after your OPT ends. This is known as a “grace period”, and will permit you to prepare to depart the US, or to apply for a change of status.