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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Students who have maintained their F-1 status for one full academic year, are in good academic standing, and have studied full-time, are eligible to apply for their one year (12 months) of Optional Practical Training or OPT. OPT is defined by the United States Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) to be employment which is directly related to an academic degree that is obtained. This training may be taken after the completion of studies, with the start date beginning within 60 days after the completion. The post-completion OPT can be filed up to 90 days before completion of studies and up to 60 days after the program completion date.  New regulations have stated that a student who completes one year of OPT will be eligible to apply for another year, upon completion of higher level of studies.

OPT can be utilized anywhere in the U.S., but ONLY for the authorized 12 month period (and another 17 months extension for STEM degree student, and H-1B Cap Gap student- see note on STEM and Cap Gap below). The applications for OPT are sent to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service California Service Center and may take 3 to 4 months to process. Employment is granted by the (USCIS), with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.

A Notice of Action (NOA) will be sent prior to the EAD card. If an EAD is not received within 90 days of the "RECEIVED DATE" on the NOA, contact an International Student Advisor.

Effective April 8, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security issued new regulations changing several aspects of F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT).  These regulations are now in effect for all F-1 students.

Following are highlights of the new rule:

OPT Extension to 29 Months for Eligible Students

Degree holders in certain STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) may apply for one 17-month extension of post-completion OPT, for a total of 29 months of OPT.  Only the following fields are included:

  • Actuarial Science
  • Computer Science Applications (except Data Entry/Microcomputer Applications)
  • Engineering
  • Engineering Technologies
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Military Technologies
  • Physical Sciences
  • Science Technologies
  • Medical Scientist (MS, PhD)

For a list of Classification Instructional Program (CIP) codes qualified for OPT STEM extension please click STEM. 

There are additional requirements, as well, including:

  • Student must be currently participating in a period of standard OPT, working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study.
  • Student must have successfully completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a field on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List, from a SEVIS-certified college or university.
  • Student must have a job offer from an employer registered with the E-Verify employment verification system. Extensions are allowed only for students with employers participating in E-Verify.
  • Student may not have previously received a 17-month OPT extension after earning a STEM degree.
  • Student must apply for the 17-month extension through the international student office at the former school.  Designated School Officials must recommend the 17-month OPT extension in SEVIS, after verifying the student’s eligibility, certifying that the student’s degree is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, and ensuring that the student is aware of his or her responsibilities for maintaining status while on OPT.

Student must apply for the 17-month extension on Form I-765 with fee.

  • Student who timely files an application for the 17-month OPT extension (90 days in advance of expiration) will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision is made on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
  • The employer must agree to report the termination or departure of the student to the DSO or through “any other means or process identified by DHS.”  An employer must consider a worker to have departed when the employer knows the student has left employment, or if the student has not reported for work for a period of five consecutive business days without the employer’s consent.

Changes Affecting All Students

H-1B Cap-Gap Extension of D/S & Work Authorization until October 1 

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

I-765 Filing Window 

An I-765 for standard post-completion OPT can be filed up to 90 days before the I-20 program end date and up to 60 days after the program end date, provided that it is filed and received at the processing center within 30 days of the date the DSO enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.  Applications for the 17-month STEM extension must be filed at least 3 months before the current EAD expires.

Duration of Employment Authorization

Employment authorization will begin on the date requested or the date the employment authorization is adjudicated, whichever is later.  Exception:  The employment authorization period for the 17-month OPT extension begins on the day after the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT employment authorization, and ends 17 months later, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved.

Reporting Requirements While on OPT

All students on OPT must report to the international student office at their former school:

  • Any change in name or address
  • The name and address of their employer
  • Any change to the name and address of the employer
  • Any interruption of such employment

 In addition, students with an approved 17-month OPT extension must report:

  • Any change in name or residential/mailing address
  • The name and address of their employer
  • Any change to the name and address of the employer
  • Any interruption of such employment

Students with the approved 17-month OPT extension must make a validation report to the International Student Services office (iss@hpu.edu) at the former school every six months starting from the date the extension begins and ending when the student’s F-1 status ends, the student changes educational levels at the same school, the student transfers to another school, or the 17-month OPT extension ends, whichever comes first.  The validation is a confirmation that the student’s name and address, employer name and address, and/or loss of employment information is current and accurate.  The report is due to the DSO within 10 business days of each reporting date.

F-1 Status During Post-Completion OPT is Dependent on employment

Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT carried out under the initial post-completion OPT authorization.  Students granted a 17-month OPT extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 120 days of unemployment during the total 29-month OPT period.

Form I-765

Form I-765 has been updated to accommodate the new 17-month OPT extension.  Please note that the eligibility categories for OPT have also changed (see instructions). Although previous versions may be accepted until May 8, 2008, it is recommended that you use the new version.

Additional Resources

Text of Interim Final Rule

http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/cap_gap_factsheet.pdf

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