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Optional Practical Training (OPT)


  • Overview

    Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment authorization that allows students in F-1 status to gain practical work experience and training in a field directly related to their major area of study before or after completion of the program.

    Unlike Curricular Practical Training (CPT),  OPT does not have to be required for your program. This means that it does not need to be paired with an internship course, but it still must be related to your major area of study.

    Students are allowed a maximum of 12 months of OPT, which may be completed all at once, or in several different intervals (e.g., three months each summer).

    Employment authorization is given in the form of a small, plastic card called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This card will show your photo, signature, and the terms in which employment is authorized. It will also specify the time period during which you are eligible for employment.

    You may not begin working on OPT until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and it is within the dates listed on your EAD.

    Eligibility

    You are eligible for either Pre-Completion or Post-Completion OPT if the following apply to you:

    • You must have been a full-time F-1 student for at least one academic year in the U.S.
    • You must currently be in F-1 status.
    • You must be in good academic standing, maintaining a sufficient GPA and be making normal progress toward finishing your degree.
    • You must not have used more than 12 months of OPT in the past at your current degree level.

    If you complete your academic program and travel internationally BEFORE applying for OPT, VIS is not able to provide you with an OPT recommended I-20 (a necessary part of your OPT application).

    If you are finished with your academic program, you can still apply for OPT as long as the government receives your application within 60 days of the date you finished your studies at Stony Brook AND you have not left the U.S. since completing your program.

    How Long Does OPT Last?

    You are eligible for a maximum of 12 months of OPT for each degree level you complete. If you are studying within certain fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), you may be eligible for a 24-month STEM OPT Extension, for a total of 36 months.

    Students on Post-Completion OPT must report their employment information within 90 days of your authorization OPT start date. If you don't report your employment or cannot find a job within that time, your OPT will automatically end.

  • Pre-Completion OPT

    Pre-Completion OPT

    Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment that allows students in F-1 status to gain practical experience and training in a field directly related to their major area of study before completion of the program.

    Eligibility
    How many hours can I work per week?

    When to Apply

    If you have been a full-time student for MORE than one academic year in the U.S. and are currently in F-1 status, you may apply for Pre-Completion OPT up to 90 days before you want your OPT to start.

    If you are in F-1 status and have been a full-time student for LESS than one academic year, you may apply for Pre-Completion OPT up to 90 days before you will have completed one academic year. However, your OPT cannot begin until you have completed the full academic year.

    How to Apply

    Step 1: Attend an OPT workshop
    Step 2: Undergraduates - complete the Major/Minor Review Form
    Step 3: Submit a request through accessVIS
    Step 4: Prepare your OPT application
    Step 5: Report your employment to VIS

    Employment Requirements

    Work done while on Pre-Completion OPT must be directly related to your major area of study. Unlike Curricular Practical Training (CPT), the work done for Pre-Completion OPT does not have to be required for your program. This means that it does not need to be paired with an internship course.

    Any employment that you engage in while authorized for OPT that is not directly related to your major could be considered a status violation.

    SEVP recommends that you maintain evidence for each job documenting the position held, proof of the duration of that position, the job title, contact information fo your supervisor or manager, and a description of the work. If it is not clear from the job description that the work is related to your degree, SEVP recommends that you obtain a signed letter from your hiring official, supervisor, or manager stating how the your degree is related to the work performed.

  • Post-Completion OPT

    Post-Completion OPT

    Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment that allows students in F-1 status to gain practical experience and training in a field directly related to their major area of study after completion of the program.

    When to Apply

    The earliest you can apply for Post-Completion OPT is 90 days prior to your completion date. The latest you can apply is 4 weeks after you complete your degree requirements to allow for adequate processing time. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will not accept applications received 60 days or more beyond the completion date.

    If you are a graduate student completing a thesis or dissertation, your completion date would be the date your academic advisor indicates you will finish all requirements for your program. This date doesn't have to match the end of semester date, but in many cases it will. If you have any questions on your completion date, be sure to contact us.

    Choosing Your Start Date

    Post-Completion OPT may start any time during the 60 day grace period after degree completion, and must end within 14 months of degree completion date.

    You are eligible for one year of OPT available per academic level of study. If you've never used OPT at your current academic level, then you will most likely want to put an end date one year after your selected OPT start date. .

    USCIS processing typically takes about 3-6 months, so you should apply for OPT as early as possible to maximize the 12 months available.

    For more assistance, click here or contact your International Student Advisor for assistance.

    How to Apply

    Step 1: Attend an OPT Workshop
    Step 2: Undergraduates - complete the Major/Minor Review Form
    Step 3: Submit a request through accessVIS
    Step 4: Complete the I-765 Tutorial
    Step 5: Submit your application to USCIS

    The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) created a tip sheet on how F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) can avoid Form I-765 delays. Click here to review before beginning your Form I-765.

    OPT Reporting Requirements

    Students authorized for Post-Completion OPT may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment. If you don't report your employment, or you exceed the 90 day unemployment period, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) may end your F-1 OPT and terminate your SEVIS record, thus requiring you to leave the U.S. immediately.

    Once you have secured an employer, please log in to accessVIS and complete the Add or Update OPT Employment form.

    Click here to review your reporting requirements and responsibilities for maintaining your F-1 status while authorized for OPT.

  • Form I-765 Explained

    Form I-765 Explained

    F-1 students may file the Form I-765 online, or by using the paper based application . The instructions linked below are provided as a service solely to the international students of Stony Brook University who are applying for Optional Practical Training.

    FILING THE FORM I-765 ONLINE

    FILING THE PAPER BASED FORM I-765

    The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) created a tip sheet on how F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) can avoid Form I-765 delays. Click here to review before beginning your Form I-765.

  • Workshops & Info Sessions

    Post-Completion OPT Group Advising & Information Sessions

    During the Post-Completion OPT Group Advising & Information Sessions, VIS advisors will offer a comprehensive overview of the 12-Month Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) benefit available to F-1 students. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and gain the necessary insights to successfully navigate the OPT application process. Attending these sessions is highly recommended for all F-1 students who aim to obtain work authorization after graduation.

    SPRING 2024 Sessions

    Date Time Location
    Tuesday, February 13th 7pm-8pm Zoom - Register here
    Wednesday, May 1st 1pm - 2pm Zoom - Register here
    View the recorded Optional Practical Training (OPT) Info Session from 2/13/2024:
  • Premium Processing

    USCIS Premium Processing

    In March 2023, the federal government (USCIS) announced that F-1 students can request “premium processing” for their Form I-765 when they apply for:

    • Pre-completion OPT
    • Post-completion OPT
    • STEM OPT Extension 

    What is premium processing?

    Premium processing provides expedited processing on Form I-765 for an additional governmental fee. In exchange for the additional fee, USCIS guarantees that it will take some adjudicative action (approval, denial, request for evidence, notice of intent to deny) within 30 calendar days.

    If the application requires the submission of additional evidence or a response to a notice of intent to deny, the 30 day premium processing time period will stop and reset. A new premium processing time period will begin when USCIS receives a response to the request for evidence or notice of intent to deny.

    How expensive is premium processing?

    The current fee is $1,500. On February 26, 2024, the fee will increase to $1,685.

    How do I request premium processing?

    You may submit the form (Form I-907) online through your USCIS online account or by paper, along with the Form I-765. The fee for the Form I-907 is an entirely different fee from the I-765 fee. If submitting the petition by mail, you need to send in two separate payments – one for the I-765 and one for the I-907. If submitting the petition online, follow the payment instructions there.

    Remember – you must receive your endorsed OPT I-20, or STEM OPT I-20 from VIS before you submit Form I-765 and Form I-907 to USCIS. Refer to Post Completion OPT tab for detailed instructions on how to receive an OPT I-20 from VIS.

    Read full I-907 Premium Processing Instructions

    Should I request premium processing?

    Filing for premium processing with the I-765, Application for Employment Authorization is optional. Prior to paying the premium processing fee, VIS recommends that you consider the following: 

    • USCIS I-765 processing times 
    • The amount of time before your intended OPT employment start date 
    • Whether you need your EAD for travel purposes after your I-20 end date 

    To check processing times for any type of OPT application, go to USCIS I-765 processing times and select: 

    • “I-765 Application for Employment Authorization” under “Form”, 
    • “Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student [(c)(3)]” under “Form Category”, and  
    • “Potomac Service Center” under “Field Office or Service Center” 

    Related links

  • FAQs about OPT

    FAQs about OPT

    Below are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding  OPT. Should you have further questions, feel free to contact your International Student Advisor.

    General OPT Questions

    What is my (visa) status while I'm authorized for OPT?
    Can I take classes online or at another institution while I’m authorized for Post Completion OPT?
    Can I renew my driver’s license while my OPT application is pending?

     OPT Application Questions

    Do I need to have a job offer to apply for OPT?
    What date should I choose for my Post-Completion OPT to start?
    Can I change my OPT start date if I have received my I-20 from VIS but haven’t filed application with USCIS?
    Can I request a SSN with my OPT application? Will that delay the approval process?
    What should I do if I don't have every I-20 ever issued to me?
    What order should my application package be in?

    Pending OPT Applications

    My application is pending but I need to change my mailing address. What do I do?
    What happens if I fail to graduate but already applied for OPT?
    Will I be in valid status while my application is pending with USCIS?
    What should I do if I filed my I-765 with USCIS more than 30 days ago but have not yet received my Receipt Notice?
    If my application is past normal processing time, when can I inquire about it?
    Can I request for USCIS to expedite my application?
    May I cancel my OPT application once I have applied?
    What should I do if my application is rejected?

    Working While on OPT

    When can I start working under OPT?
    Can I work if my EAD card has been approved by USCIS, but I have not received it yet?
    How do I prove my OPT job is in my field of study?
    Can I work in a volunteer position before I receive my EAD card?
    Can I work as a volunteer on campus at Stony Brook after my OPT is approved?
    Does the job I have while on OPT have to be paid employment, or can it be unpaid?
    Can I have more than one employer while on OPT?
    Am I able to work on campus while on OPT assuming I couldn't find a job/internship?

    OPT Reporting Requirements

    If I don't have a job yet, when will I start accruing unemployment days?
    How many days can I be unemployed while on OPT?
    I was laid off from my job, how do I report?

    Options after OPT

    How long can I remain in the US once my Post-Completion OPT is finished?
    Is it possible to extend my OPT?
    I'm starting a new academic program at a new university. How do I transfer my SEVIS record?
    I'm starting a new academic program at Stony Brook. What do I have to do?

    International Travel

    Can I travel abroad while my OPT application is pending with USCIS?
    Can I travel abroad while authorized for OPT?
    Can we renew my F-1 visa once I've received my EAD card?
  • SEVP Portal

    SEVP Portal

    The U.S. government created an online portal for students on Post-Completion OPT to report the following personal and employer information directly to SEVP:

    • Add or edit your phone number
    • Add or edit your mailing and physical address
    • Add or edit your employer's information

    The use of this portal is optional and does not impact your employment authorization. At this time VIS encourages you to submit any updates directly to us in accessVIS. Once you submit your information to VIS, we will update your SEVIS record, and thus the US government on your changes.

    If you choose to use the government's SEVP Portal and have any issues using it, including if you get locked out of it, if you forget or need to reset your password, or if you never received the email providing you with instructions with how to create and log into the portal, please contact your International Student Advisor for assistance.

    FAQS


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