F-1 Optional Practical Training Employment Authorization
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
WHAT IS IT?
Optional practical training (OPT) is off-campus employment authorization that allows F-1 students to attain work experience in their major field of study. The amount of work permitted is a maximum of 12 months of full-time employment for the time during which you are an F-1 student. You can use it during or after your studies in whatever portions of time you choose. You can work for any employer, anywhere.
Think of it as an OPT bank account, in that account are 12 months of full-time optional practical training. You get one OPT benefit for every progressive degree pursuit.
For example: If you would like to work full time for three months one summer before you graduate with your bachelor's degree, this is a three-month withdrawal of full-time employment, leaving you nine months to use after you have graduated with your bachelor's. During the final year of your master's degree, if you decide to work part time (less than 20 hours a week), for two semesters or nine months, your OPT account is affected as follows. Since part-time employment counts as half the full-time rate, you've made a withdrawal of four-and-a-half months of full-time employment. The balance of four-and-a-half months still remains in your account to use after you graduate with your master's.
If your field of study is in STEM category Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics an F-1 Student will be eligible for 29 months of OPT.
HOW CAN IT BE USED
- Summer vacation and semester breaks -- either part-time or full-time employment.
- While school is in session -- part-time employment only.
- After completion of the course of study (all course requirements for a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree, excluding the thesis or equivalent) -- full-time employment only.
- You must have been enrolled full time for at least nine months.
- You must be able to describe how the type of work you are seeking directly relates to your major. You do not need to have a job offer to apply for OPT. If you are applying for OPT before the completion of studies, however, it is wise that you be as sure as possible of a job opportunity so that you do not waste any of your OPT account.
- You must apply no later than 30 days after your program end date.
- You cannot have already used 12 months of full-time curricular or optional practical training.
Pick up an application for F-1 Optional Practical Training Employment Authorization, fill it out and return it to us at the Office of Multicultural and International Student Programs.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
You should expect that it takes two or three months for your EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) to be processed by the United States Immigration Services (USCIS), depending on USCIS' workload. It is important to take USCIS processing time into consideration when planning the date you want to start working!
YOU CANNOT BEGIN TO WORK UNTIL YOU HAVE YOUR EAD!
You are required to have your employment authorized as well as a job to which you are returning. You also need a valid visa to travel. You cannot travel on your EAD alone. If your visa has, or will, expire, it is important to speak to an International Student Adviser about how to apply for a visa renewal. (Visa renewals while on OPT are not automatic or guaranteed.)
WHAT IF YOU DO NOT FIND A JOB?
THERE IS NO WAY TO CANCEL YOUR APPLICATION FOR OPT! If you do not find a job, your OPT still begins and ends based on the dates indicated on your EAD. You must look for a job once you apply for OPT! If you cannot prove that you have been searching for a job, your status will be automatically terminated in SEVIS. The EAD is your Employment Authorization Document. You MUST find a job within 90 days of your OPT start date. If you do not secure employment, you will have to leave the country
WHAT DO I DO ONCE I FIND A JOB?
You are required by USCIS to submit a copy of the job offer stating the company name and address to the OfficeOffice of Multicultural and International Student Programs. You are also required to give a current address and telephone number.