Optional Practical Training

OPT (Optional Practical Training ) for F-1 Students

Optional Practical Training is defined as temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student’s major area of study (8 C.F.R. 214.2 (f)(10)(ii).

General Information about OPT

  • Available to students who have been enrolled in a full course of study in the U.S. and have maintained F-1 status for at least one academic year, prior to the start date of OPT

  • Available to students who have not exceeded 12 months of full-time CPT

  • Does not require an employment offer at the time of application

  • Can be submitted up to 90 days prior to the desired OPT start date

  • Requires recommendation from an ISSS Advisor (DSO) and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)

  • Authorized once for each degree level (bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate) for up to 12 months

  • Must be received at USCIS within 30 days of the date DSO enters OPT recommendation in SEVIS

  • Employment can begin only on or after the start date on the EAD card

  • Allows for no more than 90 days of unemployment during the 12-month employment period. Thus, employment must begin no later than 90 days after the start date of the EAD card

Types of OPT

A) Pre-completion OPT (Code: (c) (3) (A))

  • Can be applied for at any time during program of study (after completing at least one academic year)
  • Granted prior to degree completion; cannot exceed program completion date listed on the I-20
  • Authorized part-time (20 hours per week or less) while school is in session, or full-time during the summer semester (if not enrolled full-time) and other official breaks and holidays, if currently enrolled and expecting to enroll for the next available semester
  • Deducted from the 12-month period of OPT eligibility (students must apply separately for post-completion OPT for the period not used as pre-completion OPT-90-day unemployment period does’t apply)

B) Post-completion OPT (Code: (c) (3) (B))

  • Should be applied for during the semester in which student expects to receive the degree and up to 90 days prior to the desired OPT start date
  • Must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after the program completion date listed on the I-20
  • Authorization granted for full-time OPT up to 12 months (less any period of authorized pre-completion OPT)

C) Extension OPT (STEM) for eligible student in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Fields (Code: (c) (3) (C)) (please see below)

Graduate students who have completed all degree requirements except for thesis/dissertation may apply for either pre-completion or post-completion OPT. Students are eligible for the post-completion option only if all program requirements are completed prior to the desired OPT start date (coursework, qualifying examinations, proposal) except for thesis or dissertation hours.

Travel during OPT

  • Students engaged in Pre-completion OPT must follow the same travel requirements that apply to all F-1 students who are currently enrolled
  • Students engaged in Post-completion OPT should consult with ISSS prior to making travel arrangements
    • Traveling before receiving EAD card and an employment offer should be avoided. When traveling, page 3 of the I-20 must have the DSO’s travel endorsement (valid for six months).
    • Traveling with a pending OPT application is not recommended.
    • Obtaining a new F-1 visa while on OPT can be risky.
    • Consulting with an ISSS advisor before making plans to travel outside the U.S. is recommended - each travel situation is different and may require individual advising.

Reporting Requirements during Post-Completion OPT

IMPORTANT:

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will upgrade SEVIS with new functionalities on December 4th, 2015. These new functionalities will enable the option of automatic SEVIS termination of any OPT record which does not contain the employment information by day 90 of the OPT authorization (calculated from the start date listed on the Employment Authorization Document your receive from USCIS in order to begin your OPT employment).

In order to ensure that all records are properly updated, we ask that you report your OPT employment to our office by submitting the OPT Employment Update Form to ISSS via File Locker or drop off in-person at your earliest convenience. If this information is new or different from the information currently stored in your SEVIS record, we will print a new OPT I-20 for you and contact you for pickup or mailing arrangements.

FAU is responsible for the F-1 SEVIS record and I-20 for the duration of OPT. Students must keep ISSS informed of the following:

  • Initial employment information within 90 days of the OPT start date (employer name, location, address, contact information, including email) as well as any subsequent changes in employment.
  • Completion of OPT prior to OPT end date due to change of status or return to the home country
  • Acceptance to another degree program in F-1 status (will require SEVIS transfer if going to another school in the U.S.
  • Student’s current address and contact information (including a non-FAU email address); change of address information must be provided within 10 days.

IS Notification Requirements during OPT

Persons engaged in OPT continue to be in F-1 status, and ISSS continues to have responsibility for maintaining these records throughout the duration of OPT. Students engaged in OPT must provide ISSS with the following information:

  • Initial employment information within the 90 days of the OPT start date.
  • Report to ISSS every six months (confirm employment and current address).
  • Consequent changes in employment.
  • Changes of address (within 10 days of occurrence).
  • Change of status to another category.
  • Departure from the U.S. prior to the end date of OPT.
  • Transfer of schools to begin a new academic program prior to OPT completion.
  • Plans to travel outside the U.S. to renew F-1 visa.

OPT Online Workshop & Quiz

How to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

Step 1: Please review the online OPT workshop and complete the quiz before you submit the paperwork to International services office. (When you receive a score of 100% Total Points 100/100. Please be sure to print your results to include your score, Email, Name, Z# and attach to your OPT application.  Note: OPT applications without confirmation of 100/100 quiz score will not be processed.)

OPT Online Workshop

OPT Quiz

Step 2: Please bring OPT application form along with all required document (list on the application form) to the IS office.

Step 3: It will take 5 -7 business days to process your OPT request.

Step 4: IS office will send out an e-mail to inform you the new OPT I-20 is ready to pick up. You will need to mail you document to USCIS on your own.

If you have any questions, please contact IS at 561-297-3049 or send an email to isss@fau.edu.

OPT Application Deadlines

Applications are accepted the third week of classes to accommodate SEVIS registration (OPT I-20 must be received by USCIS, no sooner than 90 days before the program end date, and no later than 60 days after the program end date).

Semester

OPT Beginning
Application Date

Recommended Deadline

Final Deadline

End of 60 day
Grace Period

Spring 2017

2/4/17

5/5/17

5/26/17

7/4/17

Summer 2017

5/10/17

8/8/17

8/29/17

10/7/17

Fall 2017

9/16/17

12/15/17

1/5/18

2/13/18

STEM Extension OPT

Please note: STEM OPT Extension application/paperwork must be submitted to IS minimum 30 days before the I-20 expiration date to allow the processing time.

What is the STEM OPT Extension?

F-1 students who receive Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degrees and who are employed by employers enrolled in E-Verify, and who have received an initial grant of post-completion OPT related to such a degree are eligible to apply for a 24-month STEM OPT Extension.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published a new F-1 STEM OPT extension rule which is now effective as of May 10, 2016.

The STEM OPT Extension is a 24-month period of temporary training that directly relates to F-1 student’s program of study in an approved STEM field

How to apply for 24-Month STEM OPT

Step 1: You can apply for the 24-month STEM OPT extension no sooner than 90 days prior to your current OPT end date and no later than the day your current EAD card expires. As long as your application is received by USCIS by your current EAD end date, you will be allowed to remain in the U.S. and continue employment for 180 days or until a decision is made on your application.

Step 4: Complete the Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization.

Step 5: Submit all documents on checklist to IS office (either in-person or electronically via File Locker). Please allow 3 to 5 business days for processing of new I-20 recommending STEM Extension OPT.

Step 6: Sign your new I-20 and use copy to send with completed application packet (checklist below) to the appropriate USCIS address provided on the STEM OPT Application Checklist

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

This list of questions and answers will be updated regularly as the ISO receives more questions from students and alumni and clarifications from the Department of Homeland Security.

Q: I am currently working on post-completion OPT, authorized after a non-STEM degree, but I have earned a previous STEM degree from a US institution. If I am eligible to apply for a STEM OPT Extension based on the previous STEM degree, can I continue working in my current job?

A: Given the limited guidance provided by DHS, if you did not apply for STEM OPT Extension based on the earlier earned STEM degree, you may be eligible to apply for a new STEM OPT Extension based on that previous STEM degree. However, the job you are pursuing must be directly related to the STEM degree. If your current job is not related to the STEM degree, you may apply for the STEM OPT Extension if you change to a new position which is directly related to your current degree and your previous STEM degree.

Q: I am applying for STEM OPT Extension and I need to travel outside of the U.S. Can I travel outside the US while the STEM OPT Extension is pending?

A: Based on the processing times and current DHS guidance, we recommend that a student not travel while the STEM OPT Extension application is pending. If a student’s current EAD card expires while the STEM OPT Extension application is still pending, a student can continue to work under the terms of the authorized OPT while he/she is waiting for its approval. While a student can travel while the current OPT Employment Authorization (EAD) card is still valid, if your current EAD card has expired you should NOT leave the US as you will need the new EAD card for the approved STEM OPT Extension in order to re-enter the US and, if needed, apply for a new F-1 entry visa stamp at the US Consulate while abroad in order to re-enter the US..

 Last Modified 6/15/17