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Post-Completion Optional Practical Training. International Students & Scholars Office Tess Casler, Director. AGENDA . What is OPT? Unemployment on OPT STEM extension Cap-Gap Provision How/when to apply Visual Timelines Travel while on OPT. What is Optional Practical Training?.

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post completion optional practical training

Post-Completion Optional Practical Training

International Students & Scholars Office

Tess Casler, Director

  • What is OPT?
  • Unemployment on OPT
  • STEM extension
  • Cap-Gap Provision
  • How/when to apply
    • Visual Timelines
  • Travel while on OPT
optional practical training is defined as
Optional Practical Training is defined as…

“temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student’s major area of study.”

8 C.F.R. – 214.2(f) (10) (ii)

three kinds of opt can be identified as
Three kinds of OPT can be identified as…
  • Pre-completion OPT
    • Participation in OPT employment prior to completion of a course of study
  • Post-completion OPT
    • Participation in OPT employment after completion of a course of study
  • 17-month extensions of post-completion OPT for certain STEM degree holders
    • Extension to a current 12 month post completion OPT period for a total of 29 months
pre completion opt can be authorized
Pre Completion OPT can be authorized…
  • “During the student’s annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session

As long as the student is

      • Currently enrolled
      • Eligible for registration, and
      • Intends to register for the next term or session”

8 C.F.R. - [214.2(f)(10)(ii)(A)(1)]

pre completion opt can be authorized1
Pre Completion OPT can be authorized…
  • “While school is in session, provided that practical training does not exceed 20 hours a week while school is in session”

8 C.F.R. - [214.2(f)(10)(ii)(A)(2)]

post completion opt can be authorized
Post Completion OPT can be authorized…
  • “After completion of the course of study, or, for a student in a bachelor's, master’s or doctoral degree program, after completion of all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent)…”

8 C.F.R. – [214.2(f)(10)(ii)(A)(3)]

what does all that mean
What does all that mean?
  • Your program end date on your I-20 becomes very important in what type of optional practical training you are eligible to apply for

Please note – Your ‘I-20 program end date’ can be very different from ‘Clarkson’ program end date.

what are the new opt rules

What are the ‘new’ OPT rules?

Interim Final Rule of April 2008

On April 8, 2008, The Department of Homeland Security published the Interim Final Rule that makes significant changes to Post-Completion Optional Practical Training for F-1 students.
  • This ‘interim-final rule’ became effective on 4/8/08
  • Until the final rule is published – we are required by law to follow regulations under the interim final rule
6 highlights of the interim final rule
6 highlights of the ‘Interim-Final Rule’
  • Changes to OPT filing periods
  • Duration of employment authorization has been clarified
  • New reporting requirements for the student and the employer
  • Certain STEM degree holders can extend their current OPT period by 17 months
  • Students with pending or approved H1B visa applications will have ‘automatic employment extensions’ – known as the ‘Cap-Gap Extension’
  • Post-Completion OPT now dependent on employment
changes to filing deadlines
Changes to filing deadlines
  • You are now eligible to file your application up to 90 days prior to the program end date noted on your I-20 and up to 60 days after completion of your program end.
    • Note – the 60 days after your program end date is known as your ‘grace period’
duration of employment clarified
Duration of employment – clarified…
  • Your employment authorization will begin on the date requested or the date the employment authorization is adjudicated – whichever is later
    • Note – the OPT end date will not exceed 14 months from your program end date (this time period includes your 60 days of grace period and 12 months of OPT)
    • Exception: The 17-month extension period will begin the day after your current 12-month OPT period and end 17 months later – regardless of when the extension is approved
new reporting requirements
New reporting requirements
  • All students on OPT are required to report to the ISSO changes in…
    • Legal name
    • Residential or mailing address
    • Employer name
    • Employer address and/or
    • Loss of employment
in addition
In addition…
  • SEVP has also mandated that STEM OPT recipients process a ‘validation’ report every six months with the International Students & Scholars Office beginning when your STEM extension began and ending when your F-1 status ends, you change levels, transfer or your 17-month extension ends – whichever comes first.
    • Note – I will supply STEM reporting dates reports with requested STEM I-20’s
stem extensions
STEM Extensions

17 month STEM extensions are only possible once per lifetime – regardless of your degree level.

  • This extension is granted in one 17 month period and cannot be split
  • To qualify –
    • You must be on an approved Post-Completion OPT period
    • You must have a degree in a STEM major as noted on the Department of Homeland Security STEM program list
    • You must be working at an employer registered with the E-verify employee verification program
  • You can view application procedures on the ISSO website at
cap gap extensions
Cap-Gap Extensions
  • For any student on post-completion OPT and who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting employment for the following fiscal year – will have an automatic extension to their ‘duration of status’ and work authorization
    • This applies to all students on post-completion OPT – regardless of major.
cap gap continued
Cap-Gap continued…
  • The extension begins the date the H1B application is filed – not the receipt date
  • The ‘automatic extension’ terminates when USCIS rejects – denies – or revokes the H1B petition.
    • In this case – as long as you have not otherwise violated status – you still have any remaining ‘60 day grace period’ after the termination to depart the US – change degree level – transfer – change to another visa status.
  • Student under the ‘cap-gap’ extension must submit to the ISSO a copy of their filed/approved H1B petition to have their I-20 ‘updated’ with ‘cap-gap’ employment authorization
  • Students under the ‘cap-gap’ extension still need to follow mandatory reporting of US residence and employer information until their status officially moves to H1B or other status.

Post-completion OPT is now dependent upon employment – in order to maintain status while on OPT – students are now limited in the amount of time they can be unemployed.

  • Student on the initial 12 month OPT period cannot accrue more than a total of 90 days of unemployment
  • Students granted the 17-month STEM extension cannot accrue more than a total of 120 days of unemployment
unemployment continued
Unemployment continued…
  • Unemployment accruals begin the first day of approved Post-completion OPT
    • Note – unemployment does not accrue for those on pre-completion OPT
  • Future benefits ‘may’be affected should you accrue more than 90/120 days of unemployment
    • Therefore – it is strongly recommended that you thoroughly document any period of unemployment and employment
    • It is not detailed in the regulations what is a day of unemployment – therefore – it is suggested you count each day from approval as a day of unemployment.
    • It is suggested that you exclude major holidays.
    • Very important that you update ISSO with unemployment/employment information to avoid situations where DHS officials may consider you out of status…
what is considered employment
What is considered Employment

Per SEVP policy guidance – the following activities are considered allowable ‘employment’ for those on pre and post completion optional practical training.

However – all employment must still be within your field of study.

types of employment
Types of ‘Employment’
  • Regular paid employment for at least 20 hours/week in a field directly related to your field of study
  • Work for hire – this is commonly referred to as ‘1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship’
    • You should be prepared to provide evidence of the contract periods and contracting employer
types of employment1
Types of Employment…
  • Self-employed business owner - you may start a business and be self-employed. You must work full-time and also prove that you have the proper business licenses and engaged in activity related to your field of study.
  • Employment through an agency – you must provide evidence you worked at least 20/hours a week in a field related to your program
types of employment2
Types of employment…
  • Volunteers or unpaid interns - you may work as volunteers or interns as long as it does not violate any labor laws and it must be at least 20 hours/week
    • For the 17- month STEM extension – this option will not work. All employment must be paid. While this activity is still permitted – it will not count towards the ‘employment’ requirement
final note unemployment employment
Final note – unemployment/employment
  • In my role as Designated School Official (DSO) –I am not responsible for terminating or reporting any limits on unemployment.
  • This will be determined by the Department of Homeland Security and at this time – if you exceed the limit on unemployment “you maybe denied future immigration benefits that rely on valid F-1 status”
what to do first
What to do first…
  • Review OPT application procedures on the ISSO website – (found under current F1 students – employment)
  • Discuss your completion plans with your advisor
    • Note – new F-1 OPT guidelines and forms on the web. Advisor will now sign a form…
basic application materials
Basic application materials…

Once you discuss your plans with your advisor and have reviewed the information on the ISSO website – gather the following materials before you make an appointment with my office.

  • Completed F-1 OPT Information Sheet
  • Academic Advisor Recommendation For Optional Practical Training
  • Completed form I-765 (Tips on back)
  • Copies of
    • All previously issued I-20’s
    • Visa/Passport
    • Front & back of I-94 (small white card next to your visa)
    • Copy of previous EAD card, if you have one for any previously authorized OPT
  • Two passport style photos (photo information can be found at (Attach to top of I-765)
  • Check or money order made payable to Department of Homeland Security for $380
    • NOTE – fee increased as of 11/23/2010
f1 opt information sheet
F1 OPT Information Sheet

This information is used for my discussions with you…

This does not go to USCIS

academic advisor recommendation
Academic Advisor Recommendation

Here your advisor is giving me when you are completing and their recommendation

i 765 application
I-765 Application

Please be sure you use a valid mailing address.

Note – it is strongly recommended you use my address!

This is the code for post-completion OPT -(c)(3)(B)

STEM Ext – (c)(3)(C)

Pre-completion – (c)(3)(A)

what to expect from our appointment
What to expect from our appointment…
  • We will review your completion and OPT plans
    • NOTE – you will ultimately determine the requested start and end dates of your OPT
  • I will process the International Advisor recommendation for OPT in SEVIS
    • NOTE – this will produce a new I20 that will be copied and submitted with your application to USCIS
  • We will compile your OPT application in the suggested order for submission to USCIS
timing when to apply
Timing when to apply…

Timing when you apply for OPT can be a difficult challenge considering new and updated OPT regulations. During our appointment we can get into various timeline scenarios. However –

  • While you can apply after you graduate – please keep in mind that you cannot begin work until you have card in hand – even if your employer makes ‘arrangements’ for you to do so. It is a very serious consequence to engage in ‘unauthorized employment’
  • Your ’14-month’ clock begins from the program end date on your I-20. This means that you have 14 months to complete your 60 day grace period and 12 months of OPT
  • CHECK CURRENT PROCESSING TIMES – it is currently taking 6 - 8 weeks to process.
  • Consult my office on procedures if your application is pending more than 90 days.
visual timeline when to apply
Visual Timeline – when to apply…

Example – OPT ends 6/11/2013

90 days priot to program end date – can apply for OPT – 2/12/2012

Example – you apply to have OPT begin 6/12/2012

Feb 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012


July 2013

Graduation and/or I20 program end date – 5/12/2012

END of 14-month ‘clock’ (60 day grace period and 12 months OPT)

End of ‘60-Day Grace Period’ – 7/11/2012

This example shows completion during May Commencement using 30 days of grace period.

visual timeline cap gap extension
Visual Timeline – ‘cap-gap’ extension

Cap-Gap Extension – extends your work authorization and duration of stay in F1 status. (6/12/13 – 9/30/13)

H1B petition is filed – must have proof for ‘cap-gap’ extension

April 2013

June 2013

July 2013

Aug 2013


Oct. 2013

June 11, 2013 - End of initial 12-month OPT period

October 1, 2013 - Approved H1B status begins

OPT Employment Period – 6/12/2012 – 6/11/2013

Assumes – timely filed H1B petition

visual timeline 17 month extension
Visual Timeline – ‘17-month’ extension

90 days priot to program end date – can apply for 17-month extension – 4/11/2013

December 12, 2013 - 6-Month Validation Report due

END 17-month STEM extension

April 2013

June 2013

Dec 2013

June 2014

November 12, 2014

June 12, 2013 – Begin 17-month STEM extension

June 12, 2014 – 12-month Validation Report due

OPT Employment Period – 6/12/2012 – 6/11/2013

Assumes – eligibility for 17-month extension


I have a detailed FAQ on travel on OPT – please review.

For all intents and purposes – you are able to travel while your application is pending and in some cases when approved.

you are able to travel when
You are able to travel when…
  • You have submitted an OPT application and your program has notended
  • You have a pendingOPT application
  • You have approvedOPT anda job offer
caution should be exercised when
Cautionshould be exercised when…
  • Your OPT application has been approved and you do nothave a job.
    • Update – the port of entry officials have indicated that the main documents they are reviewing for reentry are:
      • Valid passport (dated at least 6 months into the future
      • Valid visa (if required)
      • Valid I-20 (page 3 indicating OPT and recent signature)
  • ISSO website –
  • Career Center – you are eligible for career services. Please remember to review career services from their website at
    • Specifically –
      • information on Knightlink (free to all students)