Optional Practical Training (OPT) Guidelines for F-1 Students
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Guidelines (download PDF)
What is Optional Practical Training?
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a 12 month period during which F-1 students can be authorized by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work in the United States. OPT offers students the opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge gained at Purchase College to a practical work experience.
Who is eligible for Post-completion Optional Practical Training (hereafter referred to as OPT or Practical Training)?
- Students who have been in valid F-1 status for at least 9 months and have completed a degree program or will be completing a degree program within the next 3 months.
When should I apply for OPT?
- You may apply for OPT 90 days before the completion of your course of study or up to 60 days after. USCIS must receive your OPT application within 30 days of the new OPT I-20 being issued.
What kind of employment is possible?
- The employment must be directly related to your major (program of study) and must appropriate for your educational level.
- The maximum period of work authorization is 12 months for each degree completed in the U.S. However, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students may be eligible for an additional 17 months (see below).
- You may change jobs during the 12 months, work part-time or work freelance. Students may only be unemployed for 90 days during OPT, however. Volunteer work in your field, for the purpose of OPT, is also considered “employment.”
Can I travel abroad while on OPT?
- Yes, but only if you have a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card, an I-20 with practical training recommendation and a valid visa in your passport. It is highly recommended that you carry proof of employment such as a pay stub, contract, or letter from your employer. The I-20 must have been signed within the previous 6 months in order to re-enter the country in Practical Training Status. If you plan to travel abroad after you graduate, but the F-1 visa stamp in your passport has expired, please be sure to speak with the Director of the Office of International Programs and Services (OIPS) before you finalize your travel plans. It can be difficult for students from some countries to obtain another F-1 visa once they are on OPT.
Must I have a job before I can apply for OPT?
- No, it is rare that students have jobs when they apply for OPT. You will need, however, a “Certificate of Course Completion” form (signed by the Registrars Office) along with the other required forms.
What is my immigration status while I am on OPT?
- You will be maintaining your F-1 status. OPT is considered an extension of the program of study you have completed.
When will my OPT begin?
- OPT starts 1 to 60 days after your date of completion of your studies. You chose the start date, in consultation with the OIPS Director. You may want it to start soon after your date of completion if you already have a job.
May I start working as soon as I file my application?
- No. You may not begin to work unless you have received the EAD card.
Can I cancel my Practical Training after it has been authorized if I do not find a job?
- No, once Practical Training has been authorized, it cannot be cancelled, voided or deferred, whether you have a job or not.
Do I still need a signature on my I-20 while I am on Practical Training?
- Yes, you will need a new signature every six (6) months.
Do I have other Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) responsibilities while I am on OPT?
- YES. You must still report name and address changes within 10 days to OIPS during your OPT period. You must also inform OIPS of the name, address and start date of your employer, even if you are doing volunteer work. This information must be reported and updated in the SEVIS system.
- Students in the arts can opt to have “multiple freelance gigs” listed in SEVIS, but they must keep track of the dates and locations of their OPT employers for their records.
What if my employer wishes to extend my employment beyond the “end date”?
- You may not continue to work past the “end date” of your Optional Practical Training. A change to Temporary Worker status (H-1b) or another immigration status must be filed before continuing employment. Consult with your employer’s attorney or a private attorney specialized in immigration issues for more information. You may contact the Office of International Programs and Services (OIPS) for names of immigration lawyers.
- Students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors have the option of extending their OPT for an additional 17 months beyond the initial 12 months of OPT, if their employer is registered in the E-Verify system. STEM students must apply for a new EAD card for the additional 17 OPT months.
- Students for whom an H-1b petition has been filed may be eligible for a so called “cap-gap” extension of their OPT so they can keep working, if their OPT ends in the summer but their H-1b begins the following October 1. Students should check with OIPS to make sure they are eligible for this benefit.
What happens after the “end date” of my OPT?
- Immigration gives you a 60 day “grace” period after you complete your OPT. During this period you must
- Depart from the U.S, or,
- Apply to continue in another educational program either at Purchase or another school, or,
- Change to another immigration status
Will I be eligible for another year of OPT if I continue to study in the U.S. and complete another?
- Yes. You are entitled to 12 months of OPT after each degree you complete, provided you have been in F-1 status for one academic year each time you apply.
How long does it take to get my EAD card for OPT?
- The response time to receive your EAD card is approximately 8 to 16 weeks.
HOW do I apply for Post-Completion Practical Training?
- Obtain an OPT application packet from the Office of International Programs and Services (OIPS) and complete the following forms:
a) OPT data form,
b) USCIS From I-765
c) Certification of Completion (turn this form into Registrar’s Office for completion)
d) USCIS Form G-1145 if you would like electronic (email) notification that your application has been accepted by USCIS.
Make an appointment to meet with the Director and bring the completed forms noted above plus the following documents with you:
a) All original Purchase College I-20’s and
b) All I-20’s from other schools,
c) Your passport,
d) Copies of any previous Employment Authorization Documents (EAD cards)
e) Two color photographs (passport type) with a plain background taken no earlier than 30 days before submission to USCIS. They must be unmounted; printed on thin paper, glossy and unretouched. The photos should show a full face photo. The photos should not be larger than 2” x 2” inches, (see attached explanation). Do not trim the photos, USCIS will do that. Print your name and I-94 immigration admission number in pencil on the back of each photograph.
f) A check or money order for $380.00 payable to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Write your immigration admission number (from your I-94 card in your passport) and “OPT” on your check.
With the presentation of all these documents, the Director will issue a new SEVIS I-20 indicating you are applying for Post-completion Optional Practical Training.
After OIPS prepares your application, pick it up and mail the following forms by express shipping (FedEx or UPS) or certified mail (with return receipt so it can be tracked).
- Copy of new OPT I-20
- Copies of all previous I-20’s
- Passport copies
- Copies of old EAD cards (if applicable)
- Two Photos
(DO NOT mail your new OPT I-20 original. Retain it for your records.)
Express ship the forms mentioned above to:
2501 S. State HWY 121 Business
Lewisville, TX 75067
Or mail via Express or Priority Mail through the post office to:
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas TX 75266
If you have any questions, please contact the Office of International Programs and Services (OIPS) at 914-251-6032 or firstname.lastname@example.org.