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Post-completion OPT . Types of OPT Authorization. Four categories of OPT authorization: Standard Pre-completion OPT Post-completion OPT OPT Extensions Cap-gap OPT extension STEM degree OPT extension. Post-Completion OPT. OPT that begins AFTER a student’s program end date

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Post-completion OPT

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Post-completion OPT

Types of OPT Authorization

  • Four categories of OPT authorization:

    • Standard

      • Pre-completion OPT

      • Post-completion OPT

    • OPT Extensions

      • Cap-gap OPT extension

      • STEM degree OPT extension

Post-Completion OPT

  • OPT that begins AFTER a student’s program end date

  • Student must be employed for an average of at least 20 hours of work per week

  • Post-completion vs. pre-completion OPT: category is determined by the timing of the student’s requested employment start date in relation to the student’s program completion date, which isbased on institutional policies

Program Completion Date

Cap-Gap OPT Extension

  • Automatically extends duration of status and, under certain circumstances, employment authorization for eligible F-1 students; designed to eliminate “gap” between F-1 and H-1B statuses

  • To qualify for the H-1B cap-gap extensions:

    • The student must be the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that:

      • has been timely filed;

      • requests an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year; and

      • requests a change of status; and

    • The student must not have violated the terms or conditions of his or her F-1 status.

  • Cap-gap extensions are terminated if the H-1B petition is rejected, denied, or revoked

STEM Degree OPT Extension

  • Allows eligible students who have completed a designated Science, Technology, Engineering or Math degree program in the U.S. to apply for a 17-month extension of their OPT authorization

  • Eligible degree programs are determined by CIP (Classification of Instructional Programs) code; a list of eligible degree programs can be found at (last updated 09/25/08)

  • Student’s employer must be enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) E-Verify program

How is OPT authorized?

  • Student must apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

  • Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization)---current filing fee is $380

  • The student cannot begin employment until the start date noted on the EAD

Applying for OPT

An application for OPT consists of four steps:

  • The student makes a request for OPT to the DSO

  • After determining eligibility, the DSO updates SEVIS with an OPT recommendation

  • The DSO prepares a Form I-20 with the OPT recommendation and requisite signatures

  • The student files a Form I-765 (with fee) and the Form I-20 with a USCIS Service Center

Deadline for Applying for OPT

Post-Completion OPT Start Date

  • Requested start date cannot be more than 60 days past the program end date

  • Late application filing will result in lost days

Post-Completion OPT End Date

  • Requested end date cannot be more than 12 months after the requested start date

  • Authorization to engage in OPT employment is automatically terminated when the student transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level

Limit on Periods of Unemployment During a Period of Authorized OPT

  • Students may accrue up to 90 days of unemployment for each new period of post-completion OPT

  • Students who have OPT extended due to the cap-gap provisions are subject to the 90-day limit on unemployment

  • Students who receive a 17-month STEM OPT extension are given an additional 30 days of unemployment for a total of 120 days over their entire Post-completion OPT period.

  • There is no limit on unemployment during periods of authorized pre-completion OPT

What counts as time unemployed?

  • Each day (including weekends) during the period when OPT authorization begins and ends that the student does not have qualifying employment

  • Time spent outside the United States during an approved period of post-completion OPT counts as unemployment unless the student is either:

    • Employed during a period of leave authorized by an employer; or

    • Traveling as part of his or her employment

Employment Allowed While On OPT

  • All OPT employment is required to be in a job that is related to the student’s degree program (but DSO is not responsible for making this determination)

  • This employment may include:

    • Paid employment

    • Multiple employers

    • Multiple short term employers (gigs)

    • Work for hire (independent contractor)

    • Self-employed business owner

    • Employment through an agency or firm

    • Unpaid employment (volunteers or unpaid interns)*:

      (student should be able to provide evidence from the employer to verify that he/she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment)

Reporting Requirements: Post-Completion OPT Students

Student must report to the DSO within 10 days:

  • Legal name change

  • Change in residential or mailing address

  • Change in employer, providing the employer name and employer address

  • Loss of employment

Additional Reporting Requirements: STEM Degree OPT Extension Students

  • Employer must report the termination or departure of an OPT employee to the DSO within 48 hours of the event

Travel & Re-Entry During OPT

  • Before the program end date--”usual” travel documents required:

    • Valid passport

    • Valid F-1 visa stamp (exception: Canadians)

    • Form I-20 with a valid travel endorsement signature from DSO

  • After the program end date:

    • While Post-completion OPT application is pending: “usual” travel documents* + Form I-797 receipt notice

    • After Post-completion OPT application has been approved: “usual” travel documents* + unexpired EAD + evidence of employment

      *Form I–20 must be signed for re-entry by the DSO within the last 6 months.

Travel While on OPT (continued)

  • Potentially higher risk of visa denial if applying for a new visa during a period of Post-completion OPT authorization

  • Travel is not advised for students during Cap-Gap OPT Extension period due to pending change of status (F1H1B) request and “last action” rules

Questions? Email Heather Loughrey at or stop by room 2302

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