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.

ISSS 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.

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 17-month STEM OPT Extension.

This current 17-month STEM OPT rule remains effective through May 9, 2016 .

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

The new 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 and effectively replaces the 17-month STEM OPT extension.  

Major Differences Between 17 and 24 month STEM OPT Regulations

17-MONTH STEM OPT EXTENSION  

24-MONTH STEM OPT EXTENSION

Extended 17-months after initial post-completion

OPT period

extended 24-months after initial post-completion

OPT period

Eligible for only one STEM Extension based on two STEM degrees at different degree levels

Eligible for two STEM Extensions based on two STEM degrees at different degree levels

N/A

New expanded list of DHS STEM Designated Degree Program CIP Codes

Required documents include: STEM Extension form filed with ISSS; Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and supporting documents filed with USCIS; Application Fee

Required documents include: same as previously and in addition the new Form I-983 to be completed by student and employer and filed with ISSS department.

N/A

Students and employers have additional reporting requirements and may be subject to DHS site visits

Currently students are permitted 90 days of unemployment  under the initial 12 month post-completion OPT period. In addition, they are permitted 30 days of unemployment under the STEM OPT period allowing all together 120 days for unemployment on both OPT and OPT STEM extension

Instead of 30 days, students are permitted an additional 60 days of unemployment under the STEM OPT period in addition to the current 90 days of unemployment allowed under the initial 12 month post-completion OPT period; up to 150 days of total unemployment

N/A

Volunteering and self-employment are not permitted



Eligibility Scenarios for STEM OPT

There are three categories of students who are affected by this change:

Students whose 17-month STEM OPT applications are currently pending at USCIS

On or before May 9, 2016
USCIS will continue to adjudicate STEM OPT applications under the 2008 rule through May 9. If approved, your STEM OPT will be valid for 17 months.

On or after May 10, 2016
If your application for 17-month STEM OPT is still pending on or after May 10, USCIS will issue an RFE (request for evidence) to allow students to switch to the 24-month STEM OPT extension instead. You must wait for the RFE to arrive before contacting ISSS. Once the RFE has arrived, submit a completed I-983 to ISSS via File Locker or drop off in-person. After review, ISSS will issue you a revised STEM OPT I-20 for 24 months.

Want to withdraw your pending application and refile after May 10?
Be careful, as you might miss the filing window and lose your F-1 status altogether! You may not be eligible for the new 24-month STEM OPT extension. Don't take any chances. Consult with your ISSS advisor before withdrawing your application.

Students who are already on a 17-month STEM OPT extension

Option 1: You can remain on your 17-month STEM OPT until the EAD end date. If you choose this, you and your employer will not be subject to the new requirements, but you must still follow existing reporting requirements.

Option 2: If you have at least 150 calendar days left on your current 17-month STEM OPT EAD on the day that USCIS receives your application, you can apply for an additional 7 months before August 8, 2016
Please note: ISSS cannot issue a new I-20 until the rule goes into effect on May 10, 2016
The following documentation must be submitted:
- To USCIS: Form I-765, Form I-983, supporting documents, and filing fee.

Students whose regular 12-month OPT is expiring on or near May 10, 2016

Don't wait! Apply for the 17-month STEM OPT extension before your EAD ends.

ISSS cannot issue 24-month STEM OPT I-20s until after May 10, 2016 because that's when the new STEM OPT rule goes into effect. You must be in a valid post-completion OPT period when you apply for STEM OPT with USCIS. Your best option is to apply for the 17-month STEM OPT extension. Otherwise, you may miss out on the STEM OPT extension altogether.

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 6/20/16