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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

 
ALERT: US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) can now file the Form I-765 online. For the full news release, see the USCIS website

Proceed with the online application carefully because the system will allow you to submit your application without all required evidence, which can lead to delays and difficulties. Make sure you apply and receive the OPT-endorsed I-20 from IPO before you submit anything to USCIS, see more info below.
What is OPT?
Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary work authorization that gives F-1 students an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical off-campus work experience immediately following graduation in the student’s major field of study for a maximum duration of one year per educational level.

Authorization for optional practical training is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and USCIS requires students must be inside the US at the time of application.

In order to apply for OPT, F-1 students must be lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year (fall and spring) preceding the submission of the OPT application, be maintaining valid F-1 status at the time of the application, and intend to work in a position directly related to your major field of study. Students do not need a job offer to apply for post-completion OPT.

The STEM OPT extension is a 24-month period of temporary training that directly relates to an F-1 student's program of study in an approved STEM field. Eligible F-1 students with STEM degrees who finish their program of study and participate in an initial period of regular post-completion OPT have the option to apply for a STEM OPT extension.

How to Apply
Post-Completion OPT category (c)(3)(B)
  1. First, you must apply for graduation in Workday. Click here for instructions
  2. Submit online Optional Practical Training (OPT) request to the International Programs Office. Carefully read and complete the OPT application as instructed in the online application
  3. As a part of the application, you will have to obtain the following documents and attach a copy of all of these to your online application for the International Programs Office to review first:
    1. I-765 Fee:
      1. Online application: You will be able to pay online by credit card.
      2. Paper application: Obtain check or money order made payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security".
    2. Form G-1145, to request E-mail and/or text notification (required only for paper application).
    3. Form I-765:
      1. Online application: Create USCIS account and fill out answers online. Save a copy of your responses (don’t submit until you have the OPT I-20).
      2. Paper application: Download the fillable I-765 PDF and type in your responses, then print out and sign the form.
    4. I-94 Record copy.
    5. F-1 Visa copy (if you applied for the F-1 visa abroad), OR a copy of the I-797 Change of Status to F-1 approval notice form (if you changed visa status in the U.S.).
    6. Passport, copies of biographical and expiration date pages.
    7. Photos: Photos must be 2*2 in color, meet government standards, and be no more than 30 days old when an application is filed. 
      1. Online application: obtain a digital copy of your 2*2 passport photo that meets these standards.
      2. Paper application: obtain two 2*2 photos that meet the paper photo standards, lightly write your name and SEVIS ID on the back of each .
    8. Form I-20(s) copies of all 3 pages of I-20s with former CPT or OPT details, if applicable.
    9. EAD Card, if you received employment authorization in the past.
    10. ​Your International student Advisor/DSO will review your application and issue you the new OPT I-20. Do NOT submit your completed application to USCIS until you receive the new OPT I-20 or it will be denied by USCIS.

STEM OPT Extension category (c)(3)(C)

  1. You must have a STEM eligible degree and your employer must also be eligible. Read SEVP's website here about determining STEM OPT Eligibility.
  2. If you are applying for the STEM Extension OPT at the end of your one-year post completion OPT, you submit all of the above documents again and in addition must include the Form I-983 and copies of your unofficial transcript, diploma, and EAD card.
  3. Submit the application to the STEM OPT Extension Request online to the International Programs Office.
  4. Your International student Advisor/DSO will review your application and issue you the new STEM Extension OPT I-20. Do NOT mail your completed application to USCIS until you receive the new STEM Extension OPT I-20 or it will be denied by USCIS.


When To Apply

  • Post-Completion (c)(3)(B)
    • 90 days prior to completion of degree requirements (graduation) 
    • Or up to 60 days after the degree completion date
       
  • STEM Extension (c)(3)(C)
    • 90 days prior to the end of the initial 12 months of OPT
    • Or up to expiration date of current OPT
Important notes for when to apply for post-completion OPT: 
Students must have received an  “Employment Authorization Document,” (EAD) and the "valid from" date on the EAD must be reached BEFORE starting any employment on post-completion OPT. Students must not work past the end date on the EAD card.

It is highly recommended to apply as early as possible due to long USCIS processing times of 60 - 90 days generally. Applying early gives you a better chance of obtaining your preferred start date. Delaying your application will not give you more time in the US. 

When you apply, you will request a start date that must be within your 60 day grace period following your program completion. If USCIS processes your application before the date you requested, they will authorize your OPT to be valid from the date you requested.

If you apply late, your application could be adjudicated after your 60 day start window expires and your start date will be later than you requested (generally the date your application is adjudicated). But your end date will still be 14 months after your completion date, regardless of that later start date, meaning you will not get the full 12 months of authorization.

After You Apply
Post-Completion OPT:
 
  • You will receive a receipt notice in the mail from USCIS (Form I-797C)
  • Once you receive your receipt notice, you can check your OPT case status here: https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do
  • You may remain in the US while your application is pending, even if it is still pending after your 60-day grace period
  • If you have an on-campus job, you must stop working as of the last day of classes of your final semester
  • You can check general USCIS processing times for OPT here: https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/
  • You may only begin employment once you have your EAD card in hand and the "valid from" date on the card has been reached.
  • You must not work past the end date on the EAD card
  • You are required to report your employment information to SEVIS using the OPT (SEVP) Portal. By law, within 10 days you must report changes to: 
    • Your address or telephone number 
    • Employment information
  • You will receive an email from do-not-reply.SEVP@ice.dhs.gov with information on how to create your OPT (SEVP) Portal account after your OPT request has been approved and your start date has been reach, whichever date is later
  • If you are unable to make this update through your SEVP Portal, you may submit an OPT Employment Update Request to your DSO to request your SEVIS record be updated.
  • You are allowed 90 calendar days of unemployment total, starting from the "valid from" date on your EAD card. After 90 days you will automatically be out of status. You must take one of the following actions within those 90 days if you are unable to begin employment:
    • Depart the US
    • Transfer your SEVIS record to a new US school or new degree program at UT

STEM Extension:
 
  • You will receive a receipt notice in the mail from USCIS (Form I-797C)
  • Once you receive your receipt notice, you can check your STEM OPT case status here: https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do
  • The STEM OPT extension period begins on the day following the expiration of your standard post-completion OPT. If your STEM extension application is still pending then, you are authorized to continue employment for up to 180 days after the expiration of your post-completion OPT (8 CFR 274a.12(b)(6)(iv)).
  • You will be required to submit a validation report every six months to your International Student Advisor while participating in STEM OPT
  • DHS allows STEM OPT students an additional 60 days of unemployment during the 24-month STEM OPT extension period. According to federal regulations, "Students granted a 24-month OPT extension under paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(2) of this section may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during a total OPT period, including any post-completion OPT period described in 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(3)(i)(B) and any subsequent 24-month extension period."
  • Report any change to you legal name, residential or mailing address, employer name or address, and/or loss of employment to your International Student Advisor within 10 days