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Optional Practical Training. Presented by the International Student/Scholar Office UNC Charlotte. What is it? . 12 months of off-campus work authorization based upon completion of an academic degree (continues the F1 status). Work must be in your field of study, at your level of study.

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optional practical training

Optional Practical Training

Presented by the International Student/Scholar Office

UNC Charlotte

what is it
What is it?
  • 12 months of off-campus work authorization based upon completion of an academic degree (continues the F1 status).
  • Work must be in your field of study, at your level of study.
  • Must be ‘recommended’ by ISSO (results in new I-20) and ‘approved’ by DHS (results in Employment Authorization Document EAD).
  • Must have completed at least one full academic year in student status.
  • Must currently be in valid F1 status.
  • No job offer necessary to apply.
  • Fulltime OPT available upon completion of coursework or completion of degree
  • Can apply up to 90 days prior to graduation or as late as 60 days after graduation
  • USCIS processing time can be from 1-3 months (plan on 3 to be safe)
opt start date
OPT Start Date
  • Can be as early as:
    • graduation day, or
    • upon completion of coursework for graduate students with thesis only (must still register for ‘residency’ until graduation)
  • Or as late as:
    • 60 days following graduation
  • Or anywhere in between – you choose! But, once you mail the application to USCIS you may not change the date…
how do i choose
How do I choose?
  • Consider the following:
    • USCIS processing time
    • Interviews
    • Vacation
  • Understand that you cannot control nor predict your future, you can only make an educated guess based upon what you know and what you plan.
what about the opt end date
What about the OPT end date?
  • 12 months of OPT within a 14-month window post completion of degree
  • 60-day ‘grace period’ to pack-up belongings and leave US or change to another visa status: no work or re-entry to US during this time
special considerations
Special Considerations
  • Graduate students in thesis/dissertation only should apply for ‘pre-completion’ OPT or CPT if still eligible
  • STEM extension for qualified students (17 months, E-verify)
  • ‘Cap Gap’ work authorization for period of time between end of OPT and start date of H1-B
maintaining status while on opt
Maintaining Status While on OPT
  • Required Reporting Responsibilities within 10 days to ISSO
    • Change of address
    • Change of employment (end job, begin new job, change location, return to home country)
    • Use webform at http://isso.uncc.edu/OPTupdate.htm
  • 90 days of ‘unemployment’ allowed (from start date on EAD)
    • ‘Employment’ = fulltime, part-time, unpaid internship, self-employment (all in field of study)
    • May change employers or have more than 1 employer
    • Written documentation of employment recommended
travel while on opt
Travel while on OPT
  • Short-term travel is allowed
  • Must have necessary documents for re-entry
    • Valid passport
    • Valid F1 visa stamp in passport
    • I-20 signed on p.3 within past 6 months
    • EAD
    • Employment offer letter
what about paying taxes
What about paying taxes?
  • Federal & State taxes will be withheld 
  • Less than 5 years in F1 status = no FICA,

social security, medicare taxes withheld 

    • Check for accuracy on your 1st paycheck – don’t wait!
  • Understand your tax treaty (if applicable)
  • Make friends with your human resources manager!
how do i apply
How do I apply?
  • Once you’ve decided on your OPT start date,

submit your request for a new I-20 at www.isso.uncc.edu/optdataform.htm

  • Click submit and follow the instructions:
    • Allow 3 days for processing then go to ISSO on Thursday 1:30-3:30 or Friday between 2:00-4:00pm.
    • Take your documents for review with an advisor. (see http://isso.uncc.edu/sites/isso.uncc.edu/files/media/OPT%20instructions.pdf for full listing) You will collect your new I-20 at that time.
    • Mail your complete application WITHIN 30 DAYS to USCIS
  • *If your class or work schedule does not allow you to go at one of the above times, schedule an individual appointment by sending an email to [email protected] In the subject line please type ‘OPT review session’.
when can i start working
When can I start working?
  • When EAD is received and employment start date is reached.
other issues on opt
Other issues on OPT…
  • Additional 12 months of OPT upon completion of a higher degree
  • Beginning a new degree program/’transferring out’ of UNC Charlotte
  • Changing status to H1 & notification to ISSO
  • NC Driver’s License expiration date: 60 day extension possible until EAD arrives

Congratulations and

Good Luck!!