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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

WHAT IS OPT?

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Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an opportunity for F-1 students to engage in off-campus training or employment directly related to the field of study, for up to twelve months. The application involves a first request to OIA for an OPT recommendation I-20, and a second application to USCIS (I-765).

OIA generally recommends F-1 students use their twelve months of OPT after graduation. This is called post-completion OPT. For off-campus internships or work experience prior to graduation, we recommend Curricular Practical Training (CPT) so you can save your OPT. These instructions cover standard post-completion OPT following completion of studies.

ELIGIBILITY FOR OPT

Students are eligible to apply for post-completion OPT when:

  • currently holding active F-1 status
  • enrolled as F-1 for the past full academic year 
  • within 90 days before the end date of the final semester of study
  • within 60 days after the end date of the final semester of study

We recommend applying for OPT as early as possible in case there is any issue with your application which may cause delays in receiving your approval from USCIS.

CHOOSING YOUR OPT START DATE

You have to choose your own OPT start date when you are requesting your OPT recommendation with OIA. The earliest start date is the day after the end date of your final semester. The latest start date is 60 days after the end date of your final semester. 

Below are example ranges of OPT start dates based on the semester end date:

  • Fall 2022:12/20/2022 (earliest) – 2/18/2023 (latest)
  • Spring 2023: 5/10/23 (earliest) – 7/9/2023 (latest)

You will also need to specify the OPT end date for your request. You should request the full twelve months of post-completion OPT. Example: 06/01/2023 – 05/31/2024

HOW TO APPLY FOR OPT

Part 1: Application to OIA for OPT recommendation I-20

In order for an OIA Designated School Official (DSO) to issue you an OPT recommendation I-20, you will need to email us the following as a single attachment PDF to OIA@pratt.edu:

Our DSO will also review your degree audit. If your degree audit shows missing classes that need to be updated, you should ask your academic/departmental advisor to work with the Registrar to fix your degree audit before you apply for OPT.

An OIA Designated School Official (DSO) will review your OPT application and if approved, issue your OPT recommendation I-20 within 10 business days. 

Your updated I-20 will show the OPT recommendation on page 2, and the start and end date you have requested. Please check to make sure the recommendation dates are correct. The program end date on page 1 should also be updated to reflect the end date of your final term.

Part 2: I-755 application to USCIS for EAD card

Your complete I-765 application needs to be received by USCIS within 30 days of your OPT recommendation I-20 being issued. Contact OIA if you are delayed filing and need an updated OPT recommendation, as late submission will cause problems.

We recommend filing your I-765 application right away after you receive your OPT I-20. We also strongly recommend filing online as it is more efficient than using the paper application and you are less likely to make mistakes.

ONLINE I-765 FILING GUIDE

To file online you should have:

  • OPT I-20 from OIA (with your signature at the bottom of page 1)
  • debit or credit card to pay the I-765 application fee to USCIS (currently $410)
  • a recent scanned or electronic passport-style photo of you, that does not match your visa or passport photo
  • passport biographical page scanned
  • F-1 visa scanned, it is ok if it is expired
  • most recent I-94 
  • if you previously had OPT, a scan of the front and back of your previous EAD card
  • if you previously had CPT, your CPT I-20(s)
  • if you previously had another SEVIS record with a different SEVIS ID number, a copy of that I-20
WHILE OPT IS PENDING

Your I-765 application must be received by USCIS no later than the 60th day after the end date of your final semester. We highly recommend filing earlier than this to avoid losing your OPT through unexpected delay.

The address used for your I-765 application is important because USCIS will be sending two important documents there. A few weeks after you submit the I-765 application, you should receive an official I-797 receipt notice in the regular mail to the address you specified. 

Please check your mail frequently in this time period, and if you do not receive the receipt notice, you should contact USCIS. It is important to troubleshoot why you did not get the I-797 receipt notice in the mail, since your EAD card will be the next document sent to you the same way.

AFTER OPT IS APPROVED

When you receive your EAD card, scan a copy of it and send it to OIA@pratt.edu with your Pratt ID in the subject line. We also appreciate hearing how long it took you to receive the receipt notice and the EAD card after applying, because that helps us advise others.

When your OPT is approved, you should look out carefully for an email from ICE regarding your SEVP Portal activation, including checking your spam. You will need to access the SEVP Portal regularly during your OPT period as this is where ICE is tracking whether you are appropriately engaged in training or not.

On post-completion OPT, you may engage in the following types of employment, provided the work is directly related to your program of study:

  • Regular paid employment: Employment for at least 20 hours per week. 
  • Multiple employers: You work as many hours as you’d like. Remember to keep a diary of where and who you’ve worked for as well as the dates you’ve worked for them. 
  • Payment by multiple short-term employers: Artists may work for multiple short-term employers. You should maintain a list of all employment, including dates and duration. 
  • Work for hire: This is commonly referred to as “1099 Employment”where an individual performs a service based on a contract. You should keep a record of the length of each contract as well as the name and contact information for each contracting company. 
  • Self-employed business owner: You must have the proper business licenses and you should consult with an accountant familiar with non-immigrant visas. 
  • Employment by an agency: You must keep proof that you worked at least 20 hours per week while employed by an agency. 
  • Volunteers or unpaid interns: You may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern provided that you are not violating any labor laws. You should also keep a diary of when and how many hours you’ve worked.

To start working during OPT, you generally will need to provide your employer:

  • EAD card (start date must have been reached)
  • OPT I-20
  • most recent I-94
  • valid passport 

In normal circumstances, ICE says that you must work in at least one position at least 20 hours per week to be considered appropriately engaged in OPT. However, for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, ICE considers students who are working fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT (Ref: page 14). We do not know when ICE will consider the COVID-19 emergency over, so we recommend students work at least 20 hours per week to be on the safe side.

All employment or training during post-completion OPT needs to be kept up to date in your SEVP Portal, so you avoid accruing excess days of unemployment.

OPT REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

All new employment or training needs to be reported by you through your SEVP Portal within 10 days of the position start date. Make sure you check your email after your OPT is approved for the SEVP Portal activation email including spam and troubleshoot if you have issues. You are able to have multiple employers in your record and you can update the following information on your own:

  • physical home address
  • mailing addresses
  • telephone numbers
  • change certain employer information
  • add new employers
  • delete employer, if employment never occurred

On OPT you are required to report if any of the above information changes, within 10 days of the change. If you move or change your contact information, we appreciate you notifying OIA@pratt.edu as well as reporting the change in your Portal.

UNEMPLOYMENT CLOCK

Students on OPT can have no more than 90 days of unemployment total during their twelve months of post-completion OPT. After the start date of your OPT, each day that passes, including weekends, counts as an unemployment day on the 90 day clock, until you have a job or training listed in your Portal. You can see the number of days ICE thinks you are unemployed in your Portal.

We highly recommend that you  do not accrue the full 90 days of employment at the beginning of your OPT. You should keep some unemployment time available as a safety net, in case something unexpected happens later in your twelve months of OPT. Unpaid training or collaborative work that is resume-worthy may be a way to “stop the clock,” provided it is directly related to your field of study.

Your SEVIS record may be automatically terminated if your Portal reaches 91 days of unemployment. Therefore it is critical that you are accessing your Portal regularly and updating it with your employment or training information. 

If you reach 91 days of unemployment during the approved OPT period, your valid F-1 status automatically ends with no grace period. You are advised to depart your F-1 status immediately at that time. Please notify us at OIA@pratt.edu as well so we can close your record.

TRAVEL GUIDELINES DURING OPT
AT THE END OF OPT

Upon the end date of your OPT EAD card, you no longer have employment authorization under post-completion OPT. You have a sixty-day grace period, in which you are eligible to:

  • depart the U.S. and exit your F-1 status
  • change your status to another visa type in the U.S.
  • transfer your F-1 status to a new academic program

If you are departing the U.S. or changing your status, no action is needed with OIA. If you need assistance from an OIA DSO for an H-1B Cap Gap Extension, please email us.