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Optional practical training for international students

DEFINITION

Optional practical training (OPT) is a benefit associated with F-1 status that allows eligible F-1 students to work in the U.S. for 12 months before or after graduation or completion of degree requirements. The employment you accept must be directly related to your major field of study and correspond to your educational level. Some students in STEM fields ( science, technology, engineering, and math) may be eligible for an OPT extension beyond 12 months. 

ELIGIBILITY

Who is eligible to apply for practical training?

If you have attended school full-time in the U.S. for at least 9 months in lawful F-1 status, you are eligible to apply for optional practical training to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

JOB OFFER

Do I need to have a job offer before I can apply for optional practical training?

No, you may apply before you have a job offer. However, you are encouraged to secure a job offer prior to applying to ensure that time available for OPT is not lost.

PART-TIME OR FULL-TIME

May I apply for part-time or full-time work?

Work for 20 hours per week or less is considered part-time OPT. More than 20 hours per week is full-time OPT.

  • When classes are in session you may work part-time.
  • During vacation periods you may work part-time or full-time.
  • OPT after completion of studies must be full-time.

APPLICATION PROCEDURES

When may I apply for post-degree practical training?

USCIS must receive your application no earlier than 90 days prior to your completion of studies date and no later than 60 days after it. USCIS typically takes about 90 days to adjudicate OPT applications. If approved, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document  ( EAD) in the mail.

What is my "completion date?"

Your completion date is the date you complete all the requirements for your degree. In the case of undergraduates it is normally the last day of final exam week.

When may I start to work?

You may not work until USCIS approves your application and you have your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You may start to work on the begin date listed on your EAD card. For permission following your degree, you must also have completed all requirements for your degree.

  • For employment before degree completion, the recommendation will be no earlier than the date of proposed employment, and end no later than the end of proposed employment.
  • For employment following a degree, the recommendation will be no earlier than the date you complete your course of study, and end no later than 14 months from that date. (If you have been previously authorized for optional practical training, that time will be subtracted from the total possible 12 months). USCIS will determine the exact 12-month period at the time they issue the EAD.

STEP 1

Schedule an appointment to see Sarah Griffiths, Director of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), Bemis 305, X3263. You should do this at least 3 months before the date you would like to start work. Bring the following items with you:

  • Your current I-20  and any previous I-20's.
  • Your passport. 
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Respond to Question #16 by writing (c) (3) (B) within the parentheses.
  • A check or money order made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security for $380.00.
  • Two- (2) color photos with a white background taken no earlier than 30 days before submission to theUSCIS. They should be unmounted, printed on thin paper; glossy and unretouched. The photos should show a full-frontal facial position. Your head should be bare unless you are wearing a headdress as required by a religious order to which you belong. The photo should not be larger than 2 by 2 inches, with the distance from the top of the head to just below the chin about 1 1/4 inches. 

STEP 2

If all your documents are in order, the ISSS staff will issue you a new I-20 with authorization for a specific period of OPT. They also will write a cover letter to accompany your application and put the application packet together in the required order for mailing. You will receive a copy of the entire mailing; another will be kept on file at ISSS. Please allow one week for the review and processing of your application by ISSS.

You should receive a receipt from the USCIS Service Center for your application and fee within three weeks. This receipt indicates only that your application is in process.

YOU MAY NOT LEGALLY BEGIN YOUR OPT WORK UNTIL YOU RECEIVE YOUR EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION DOCUMENT ("WORK CARD").

ALSO, THE USCIS DOES NOT ALLOW STUDENTS WHO HAVE COMPLETED STUDIES TO WORK ON-CAMPUS DURING THE SUMMER, UNLESS THEY PLAN TO ENROLL IN ANOTHER DEGREE PROGRAM IN THE FALL AND HAVE AN I-20 FOR SUCH A PROGRAM. SO, IN MOST CASES, STUDENTS WHO HAVE GRADUATED AND WHO HAVE APPLIED FOR OPT MUST NOT WORK AT ALL WHILE THEY WAIT FOR OPT APPROVAL--NOT EVEN ON CAMPUS.

WAITING FOR OPT APPROVAL

When USCIS receives your OPT application, they will begin processing it and will send a "Notice of Action" receipt.  It will include an "LIN" receipt number and information about how to track your application on the USCIS website.

RECEIVING OPT APPROVAL

When USCIS approves your OPT, they will send an Employment Authorization Document (EAD or "work card"). The SNC ISSS will give you more information at that time about maintaining status while doing your OPT.

STARTING WORK

To begin paying you, your employer will need your Social Security number, which you can obtain by applying for a Social Security card. Bring your I-94, Form I-20 with the OPT authorization, and EAD to the Social Security Administration in Green Bay to apply for a social security card.

When you begin work, your employer is required by law to have you complete Form I-9, which requires you to document your work authorization. Acceptable proof of your identity and permission to work in the U.S. are: your unexpired foreign passport, your I-94, your I-20 showing OPT authorization, and your EAD.

FINISHING YOUR OPT

A student authorized to engage in practical training is considered in status for the period authorized, plus 60 days in which to depart from the U.S. if OPT follows completion of studies. Employment is not permitted during that 60 days.



International Student & Scholar Services

Phone: (920) 403-3263
Fax: (920) 403-4083
E-mail: intstudent@snc.edu


St. Norbert College • 100 Grant Street • De Pere, WI 54115-2099 • 920-337-3181