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Optional Practical Training Workshop International Student & Scholar Services
Getting Started • Purpose of OPT: • To gain practical work experience in your field of study • Eligibility • You have been lawfully enrolled in studies on a full time basis • for at least one academic year (one fall and one spring semester) • Be in lawful F-1 status at the time of OPT application • Employment must be directly related to field of study • Main Points to Remember • OPT is authorized by USCIS (not ISSS) • Total standard OPT period: 12 months per academic level- • You can use your OPT in parts or all at once. • You do not need a job to apply.
Part-Time vs. Full-Time OPT • During the semester • Part-time only (up to 20 hours per week) • Calculated at ½ rate (for example, 6 months of part-time OPT = 3 months of full-time) • During official university breaks (i.e., winter, summer) • Part-time or full-time • On dissertation or thesis status (all credits completed) • Part-time or full-time • After completion of degree • Full-time only
When to Apply • At least 90 days in advance: USCIS processing averages 60-90 days. Don’t wait until you have a job if you know you want OPT! • When is the earliest I can apply? • 90 days before you want to start working (for pre-completion OPT) or 90 days before your program end date (for post-completion OPT). • When is the latest I can apply? • Post-completion OPT: USCIS must receive and accept your completed application for processing no later than 60 days after your I-20’s program completion date. • Example:You complete your academic program in May. USCIS should receive your OPT application no later than 60 days after the May completion date. • STEM extension: USCIS must receive • your application before your standard • OPT expires.
Choosing a Start Date • Pre-Completion OPT • Choose the date you’d like to begin work. • Post-Completion OPT • You can choose any start date within the 60-day grace period after your program end date (i.e., if your I-20 ends on 12/22, your start date can be any day from 12/23 to 02/20.) • Note about Pre- and Post-Completion: • If you choose a start date that is less than 90 days from your OPT application receipt date, USCIS will modify your start date if they do not process your application by that date. • STEM Extension • Your start date is automatically the day after your standard OPT ends. Your end date will be 17 months from that day. • Changing the start and end dates • Please e-mail ISSS if you want to change • your requested pre- or post-completion • OPT dates.
Application: Step 1- Complete Forms • 1) COMPLETE THE APPLICATION FORMS: • OPT Request Form: • Item #1: I-20 Program End Date: The earliest your application may be submitted to the government for Post-Completion OPT is 90 days before this date. For the STEM extension, it can be submitted 120 days before your OPT end date. • Item #2: Indicate the type of OPT for which you are applying and the dates you want to work. Tell us how much of your 12-month OPT benefit you have already used for this program or degree level, if any. • Item #6: List your proposed employment and (if it is not obvious from the job description) how it is directly related to your major and appropriate for your level of education. • For Post-Completion OPT: Acknowledgement of Responsibilities • for Maintaining F-1 Status
Application: Step 1 (cont’d) • Form I-765: APPLICATION FOR EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATIONYOU MUST TYPE THIS FORM: • Item #3 – List your own address. If you are moving, you should find a friend who will accept your mail, or obtain a U.S. post office box. • Item #10 – A-Number or I-94 Number: Put your I-94 number unless USICIS has previouslyissued you an EAD. For the STEM extension: Put the Card # or USCIS # from your EAD. • Your Certification – Sign in BLUE ink, and put your telephone number and the date. • Item #16 – Enter the code that applies to the type of OPT you are requesting: • Pre-Completion OPT-(c)(3)(A); Post-completion OPT-(c)(3)(B); • STEM Extension-(c)(3)(C)
Application: Step 2- Submit to ISSS • SUBMIT THE THREE FORMS IN #1 ALONG WITH THE FOLLOWING TO ISSS: • For Pre-Completion OPT: No additional documents are needed • For Regular Post-Completion OPT: • You must be preliminary cleared for graduation by the • Registrar’s Office. • For the Post-Completion STEM Extension: • Copy of EAD card (front and back) • Offer letter from the employer for • which you’ll be working on your • STEM period • ** If you are applying for post-completion OPT, Stevens • will charge a fee to your account for the processing of • your OPT application and the maintenance of your records for • the two terms you are on OPT.This fee is non-refundable • even if you later choose to cancel your OPT.
Application: Step 3- Send to USCIS • 3) RECEIVE YOUR OPT I-20s FROM ISSS & SEND YOUR APPLICATION TO USCIS WITHIN 30 DAYS OF THE DATE ON THE I-20, INCLUDING ALL OF THE FOLLOWING DOCUMENTS: • $380 Fee in the form of a check or money order payable to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you are using a personal check, it must list the account holder’s name and address on it. • Two passport photos- 2” x 2” with white background (Visit this website for more information on photo requirements: http://travel.state.gov/passport/pptphotoreq/pptphotoreq_5333.html) • I-765- TYPED and signed in blue ink. You may handwrite any parts that won’t fit when typing. • One OPT I-20 (You will receive two from ISSS. One is for you to keep, and one is send to USCIS.) • For STEM: Copy of diploma awarded or official • transcript for the degree upon which your OPT is • based
Application: Step 3- Send to USCIS • For STEM: Employment offer letter for the STEM extension period • Photocopies of Forms I-20. Photocopies of allprevious Forms I-20 issued by us and any other schools you have attended. • Photocopy of any previous EAD Card(s) (both sides) • Photocopy of Form I-94 (both sides) or Print-Out of Electronic I-94. You can get the print-out of your electronic I-94 here if you entered the U.S. 4/30/2013 or later: www.cbp.gov/i94. • Photocopies of your passport identification pages and visa. If you changed status to F-1 in the U.S., include a copy of your I-797 Approval Notice from USCIS,visa (even if it is not F-1), and an official transcript from the Registrar’s Office. • If you have dependent(s): We will give you two OPT I-20s for your dependent. One is for your dependent to keep; one is to send to USCIS. In addition to this, just send a copy of your dependent’s original I-20 (to enter the U.S.). Passport/visa/I-94 copies are unnecessary.
What happens next? • Receive I-797 Receipt Notice from USCIS- Usually arrives 2-4 weeks after USCIS receives your application • Receive Approval Notice and Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS • Contact ISSS if there is any issue with the spelling of your name or your birth date on your receipt; if these errors are not corrected, they will show up on your EAD. • Canceling OPT- If you change your mind and want to cancel your OPT, you can do so before it is approved by USCIS, but your $380 fee is not refundable. Please e-mail ISSS if you would like to cancel your application. After OPT is approved, it may or may not be possible to “redeem” unused OPT, even if you cannot find a job and have to go back to your home country.
Employment Requirements • During Post-Completion OPT: • F-1 status is dependent upon employment. • Students may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during post-completion OPT. The 90 days come out of your total 12 months; they are not in addition to that time. • What qualifies as OPT work? • Everything must be: • In a position directly related to your program of study • For at least 20 hours per week • No limit to how many times you can change jobs
Types of Acceptable Employment • Regular salaried jobs • Payment by multiple short-term employers • "Students, such as musicians and other performing artists, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration.”* • Work for hire • "If requested by DHS, students should be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company." • Self-employed business owner • "Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student should be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program." • Employment through an agency • "Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency." • Volunteers or unpaid interns • As long as this does not violate any labor laws • *All above quotes are from the Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
Reporting Requirements • You must report the following while on OPT: • Any change to legal name or address should be updated through MyStevens or by contacting the ISSS coordinator directlyat email@example.com. • Any employment, lapse in employment, or change in employment must be reported to ISSS within 10 days by e-mail. You should use our “OPT Employment Update” form and attach an offer letter to your e-mail if reporting new employment or a change in employment. • On the STEM extension: Must report every six months, regardless of whether there’s any change.
Travel on Post-Completion OPT/ STEM Extension • Valid passport • Valid F-1 visa (except Canadian & Bermudian citizens) • OPT I-20 endorsed for travel by ISSS within last 6 months • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by USCIS • Proof of job/job offer in U.S. (Offer letter, last three pay stubs, or both)- Information regarding travel on OPT without employment is located on the ICE website here: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel/faq_f2.htm#_Toc81222041. • If you have an employer who will file/is filing an H-1B petition on your behalf, be sure to discuss your travel plans with the company’s immigration attorney. • If you have a pending post-completion OPT/STEM extension application, do not travel after your I-20/ • OPT end date until the OPT is approved.
OPT STEM Extension • 17 months of OPT time beyond the standard • 12-month OPT period • For certain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree holders • STEM-eligible majors are determined by CIP code. Your CIP code is listed on the 3rd page of your I-20, and the list of government-approved STEM majors by CIP code is here: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/stemlist.htm. A list of STEM programs at Stevens is here: http://www.stevens.edu/sit/graduate/stem-programs. • You can only apply for the STEM extension once ever while you hold F1 status in the U.S.– not once per level.
STEM Extension Application • The STEM extension is applied for in the same manner as regular OPT with a few exceptions: • You must have a job offer for the STEM period • Your employer must be E-Verified and it is recommended that they provide the E-Verify number in the offer letter • USCIS must receive your application for the extension before your regular OPT expires. You cannot apply during the 60-day grace period following regular OPT. • Benefits while STEM application is pending • If you apply for the STEM extension and receive a receipt from USCIS before your regular OPT end date, your OPT is automatically extended for up to 180 days from the end of your regular OPT, according to U.S. regulations. Please contact us if your employer needs more information about this.
STEM Mandatory 6-Month Reporting • If you are on the OPT STEM Extension, you are required to report the following to us by e-mail every six months from the start of your extension; if you do not do so, your F-1 status could be terminated in the SEVIS system. This is your sole responsibility, and you will not receive a reminder to report. Please send ISSS an e-mail with the following information: • Your SEVIS ID • Your full name • Your current mailing and residential address (if these are • different, send them both) • Name of your current employer • Address of your current employer • Date you began working for your current employer
STEM Mandatory 6-Month Reporting To whom should you report? Elizabeth Gill, Associate Director (firstname.lastname@example.org) • All F-1 graduate students in the School of Systems & Enterprises • All F-1 graduate students in the Charles V. Schaefer School of Engineering & Science • All F-1 graduate students in the College of Arts and Letters Caitlin Ross, Advisor (email@example.com) • All undergraduate students • All J-1 graduate and undergraduate students, regardless of school • All F-1 graduate students in the Howe School of Technology Management
OPT and Study • You must be issued a Change of Level I-20 before you can begin study in a new program. • Engaging in full-time and/or matriculated study while you are on OPT is considered a violation of your F-1 status; OPT authorization is “automatically terminated when the student... begins study at another educational level" [8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(B)]
H-1B Cap-Gap Extension • Cap-Gap Benefit: F-1 status and OPT work authorization are automatically extended for a student on OPT who timely files an H-1B petition. • Only students who file during the H “season” of April 1- Sept. 30 and whose F-1 status/OPT ends during this time period are eligible. • If the H-1B petition is filed within the 60-day grace period after F-1 status/OPT ends, F-1 status will still be extended but not OPT work authorization. • The cap-gap benefit automatically terminates upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of an H-1B petition. • Please contact ISSS at least two months before your OPT ends if your employer is filing an H-1B petition for you so that we can assist you with the cap-gap extension.
A Little Quiz • Do I need my EAD before beginning work? • Can I change my OPT request dates? • Can I cancel my OPT if I have not used it? • I already used 12 months of OPT in one program. Will I be eligible for another 12 months in another program? Does it matter if the program is at the same level (master’s, Ph.D., etc.) or at a different level? • What is my immigration status while on OPT?
What now? • Contact ISSS when • you’re ready to apply! • 201-216-5189 • firstname.lastname@example.org • email@example.com • firstname.lastname@example.org