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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Post-Completion OPT 

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

An F-1 student may apply for temporary employment involving practical training "directly related to the student's major area of study and commensurate with the student's educational level." The duration of this employment authorization is a total of 12 months per degree level. Students are eligible for another 12 months of OPT when they change levels (i.e. from Bachelor's to Master's).

  • Post-Completion: Students interested in this practicum must apply before their program of study is complete; otherwise they are ineligible for OPT. Students can apply as early as 90 days prior to the completion of their studies (last day of class). It is recommended that students apply as early as possible in order to receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in a timely manner. By applying early, the student has a better chance of completing the 12 month OPT within the 14 months allowed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) following the completion of the program of study

Unfortunately, as an F-2 dependent you may not engage in employment or business under any circumstances. Failure to observe this requirement will place you out of status.

Employers may be cited, fined, and/or imprisoned for hiring persons ineligible for employment or maintaining employees who are no longer authorized to be employed.

OPT Post-Completion

  • A job is not required before applying for Post-Completion OPT.
  • Not have acquired more than one year of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
  • You are only eligible to apply for OPT once per academic level.
  • Maintain F-1 lawful visa status for at least the previous eight months.
  • Submit your OPT application so that it is received by USCIS between 90 days before and 60 days after the completion of your program.
    • We strongly encourage students to apply as soon as possible because the start date of your OPT will begin within those 60 days after the completion of your studies whether or not you have received your EAD and have permission to work. This will give you the best chance to optimize your opportunity to gain work experience related to your major. If you apply later, it will still take approximately three months until you receive your EAD. Even when you have reached your start date, if you have not yet received your EAD, you cannot begin working until it comes in the mail.
  • USCIS must receive your OPT I-20 within 30 days of your advisor’s signature.

 

OPT Post-Completion

STEP 1) Review this step by step guide step by step guideline for OPT.  You can also review this OPT Workshop video as well. 

STEP 2) Complete and submit the NSU OPT Application Packet 

STEP 3) After completing the NSU OPT packet and receiving their updated OPT-endorsed I-20, students may apply for OPT directly through USCIS. We highly encourage you to complete the OPT application online. 

  • Online
    • Learn how to create an account with USCIS and apply online, click here to create your account
    • To learn how to file a Form I-765 Online for Optional Practical Training, click here. 
    • Click here to view a step by step process of how to complete your OPT  

 

It is imperative you receive your OPT authorized I-20 before applying online. Applying online without your employment authorized I-20 will result in your OPT being denied.

 

 

OPT Post-Completion

You may begin your OPT only after you have been approved by USCIS and you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with a valid start date.

After your receive your EAD, please be sure to keep the following:

  • Work only between the OPT start and end dates listed on your Form I-20 (for more information about start and end dates please go to the FAQS section at the top of this page).
  • Only have employment that is directly related to your major.
  • Maintain a valid passport.
  • For graduate students, complete your program/coursework by the date specified in the letter from your academic advisor.
  • Work at least 20 hours per week. 

Reporting

  • Report any changes in employment, or personal information with in 10 days. 
  • the information below within 10 days and confirm it again if there have been no changes.
    • If there were no changes in your employment, you do need to report your employment information again.
    • SEVP will send an email close to your OPT start date. This email should include a link where you can report your employment for your SEVIS record.
    • You also have the option to report it through our office. This is done through an E-form Request and submitting it to our email: intl@nova.edu 

 

The following table suggests the best way to report the required information:

Initial OPT job
  • Employer name
  • Employment start date
  • Employer mailing address
Change to a new job
  • Previous employer name
  • Previous employment end date
  • New employer name
  • Employment start date
  • Employer mailing address
Multiple short-term gigs in one period
  • Report at the beginning of the first gig and indicate "Multiple short-term gigs"
Work for hire (contract start)
  • Indicate "self-employed work for hire"
  • Indicate the start date of the contract
Work for hire (contract)
  • Indicate "Self-employed work for hire"
  • Indicate you have no current contract
  • Ending date of the last contract worked
Unemployment
  • Indicate "unemployed"
  • Ending date of last job
Self-employed business owner (start)
  • Indicate "Self-employed business owner"
  • Indicate date you went into business
Self-employed business owner (end)
  • Indicate "Self-employed business owner"
  • Indicate date your business closed or you no longer worked for the business full time
You decide to exit the U.S. and complete your F-1 status prior to the end date of OPT
  • Indicate "Completing OPT and exiting the U.S."
  • Date of exit
Change in legal name
  • Documentation indicating new legal name
Change in residential or mailing address
  • New residential or mailing address

 

Unemployment

  • Use no more than 90 days of unemployment. The following counts towards unemployment:

    • Each day between your start and end dates that you do not have qualifying employment
    • Travel outside the U.S. while unemployed
    • Travel while employed with authorization from your employer will not count towards your unemployment; this includes approved periods of authorized leave or work-related travel

Terminate your employment when:

  • you transfer your SEVIS record to another school
  •  your EAD expires 
  • begin study at another educational level with a new I-20
  • you exceed 90 days of unemployment
  • (whichever situation above comes first)

Depart the U.S. within 60 days of completing your OPT if your Form I-20 is not extended or transferred to another SEVIS approved school.

 

OPT Post-Completion

 What can I put for my start and end dates?
  • START DATE

    • Undergraduates: This can be anytime after your graduation date up until 60 days after the expiration of your I-20. (e.g. If your I-20 expires on 12/17/2020, your start date would need to be by 02/14/2021)
    • We highly recommend that students not choose the last day of their 60-day grace period as their start date.
    • Graduates: This can either be after your expected graduation date OR after your expected date for completion of all coursework. This means that you will only have thesis or dissertation credits remaining when you would start your OPT. Graduate students may apply any time after completing all coursework. (Note: We will shorten your I-20 end date to your listed completion date.)

    END DATE

    • The end date will be on the day before a year is completed. For example, if your start date is 01/14/2021, your end date will be 01/13/2022.
 Can I travel outside of the U.S. if my request for OPT is pending?
  • We advise students not to leave the United States between their program end date and when they receive their EAD. Such travel is considered an abandonment of your application and you may be ineligible to reapply or reenter the United States.
Can I travel outside of the U.S. during OPT?
  • Approved OPT but no job: You may not be able to reenter unless you have a written job offer. We advise you to wait until you have received employment.
    With a job: We recommend students to bring a printed copy of their offer of employment. It is also recommended for students to ask their employer to create a letter stating that your employer knows you will be leaving and are expecting you to return.
    Travel for work purposes: We still encourage students to bring this employment offer letter and any other documents needed for international travel.

Note: Days that you travel outside of the United States are counted towards your unemployment unless authorized by your employer. (For more information on unemployment, please see the Requirements tab.)

Who can I work for while on OPT?
  • Regular paid employment working for an established business or organization. (Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student's degree program.)
  • Employment through a staffing/employment agency
  • Contracted employment with an established business or organization.
  • Self-employed business owner, which is full established and registered with the state.
  • Short-term multiple employers working as a musician, or other performing artists may work for gigs. The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. (If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing a list of gigs.)
  • Unpaid employment working as a volunteer or unpaid intern, which does not violate labor laws. (The work must be at least 20 hours per week.)
When can I start working once my OPT application has been sent?
  • You can start working once you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Do not begin work until you have received this.
  • More information about the EAD
What happens if I change my address during the OPT application process?
  • If you move while your OPT application is being processed and your address is not in your application, you must report this change of address within 10 days of moving to both of the following places:
What if my completion date changes?
  • Please contact our office so we can figure out the best way to assist you.
How long may I work?
  • Availability extends for one 12-month period directly after each higher educational level and may not be carried over if not used from one level to another.
  • Any authorized Pre-Completion OPT months are deducted from the available 12 months.
  • If you have a pending H-1B application you can extend your OPT. (Cap Gap Details)
  • If your major field of study and subsequent employment is in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM major), you may be able to extend your training. 
  • If you are a Canadian or Mexican citizen, you may also qualify for TN status. 
What if I am in an integrated bachelor's and master's program?
  • If you wish to participate in an internship during the summer before your final year in the integrated program, you may apply for Curricular Practical Training. Please keep in mind that full-time CPT authorization during this period will be added to any previous full-time CPT authorization you have accrued throughout your program. More than 12 months of full-time CPT authorization will eliminate OPT eligibility, so please count your time carefully if you intend to apply for OPT after graduation.

    Once your masters level I-20 has been activated for your final year of the integrated program, you will no longer be eligible for CPT. You may start applying for post-graduation OPT authorization in mid-January of your last year in the program. The application can take up to five months to process (though usually it takes three months or less), so be sure to apply early if you know you would like to have OPT authorization after graduation.

    Please keep a scanned copies of all Forms I-20 for future reference and record.

Am I legally allowed to work in the U.S. on an F-1 visa?
  • Yes. F-1 visa holders are legally allowed to work off-campus through Curricular Practical Training (after their first two semesters) and Optional Practical Training (after graduation) as long as they receive authorization through ISSS and USCIS, respectively, prior to working.
Do I need "sponsorship" now or in the future?
  • Companies may choose to sponsor a worker on an F visa during their OPT as long as they meet the H-1B (sponsored worker visa) criteria. If you are choosing to pursue sponsorship then you may want to indicate this as part of your discussions with prospective employers, but we encourage you to make sure each prospective employer understands that you are legally eligible for work for up to 12 months (36 if in a STEM designated field) regardless of sponsorship beyond this term. If you are sponsored for an H-1B you enter a visa lottery and we encourage you and your employer to work with a qualified immigration attorney as part of that process.

 

 

Pre-Completion OPT 

  • Pre-Completion: This is less common; however, students may apply for and begin the OPT prior to completion of the program of study. There is a limit of 20 hours per week while the student is registered for and taking classes. Students may apply for full-time authorization during the student's annual vacation or during official school breaks only if they intend to register for the following term. Remember, however, that there are only 12 total months available, and that training done before a degree is completed will count against the 12-month total and reduce time available after the degree is awarded

Unfortunately, as an F-2 dependent you may not engage in employment or business under any circumstances. Failure to observe this requirement will place you out of status.

Employers may be cited, fined, and/or imprisoned for hiring persons ineligible for employment or maintaining employees who are no longer authorized to be employed.

OPT Pre-Completion

  • A job is not required before applying for Pre-Completion OPT.
  • Not have acquired more than one year of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
  • Maintain F-1 lawful visa status for at least the previous eight months.
  • Submit your OPT application so that it is received by USCIS between 90 days before and 60 days after the completion of your program.
    • We strongly encourage students to apply as soon as possible because the start date of your OPT will begin within those 60 days after the completion of your studies whether or not you have received your EAD and have permission to work. This will give you the best chance to optimize your opportunity to gain work experience related to your major. If you apply later, it will still take approximately three months until you receive your EAD. Even when you have reached your start date, if you have not yet received your EAD, you cannot begin working until it comes in the mail.
  • USCIS must receive your OPT I-20 within 30 days of your advisor’s signature.

OPT Pre-Completion

Please request an appointment with an advisor if you want to Pre-Completion. Please email intl@nova.edu to schedule your appointment. 

OPT Pre-Completion

You may begin your OPT only after you have been approved by USCIS and you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with a valid start date.

After your receive your EAD, please be sure to keep the following:

  • Work only between the OPT start and end dates listed on your Form I-20 (for more information about start and end dates please go to the FAQS section at the top of this page).
  • Only have employment that is directly related to your major.
  • Maintain a valid passport.
  • For graduate students, complete your program/coursework by the date specified in the letter from your academic advisor.
  • Work at least 20 hours per week.

 

Reporting

  • Report your employment within 10 days of starting your OPT.
    • SEVP will send an email when your OPT has been approved. This email should include a link where you can report your employment for your SEVIS record.
  • Report any changes in the information below within 10 days and confirm it again every six months even if there have been no changes.

Unemployment

  • Use no more than 90 days of unemployment. The following counts towards unemployment:

    • Each day between your start and end dates that you do not have qualifying employment
    • Travel outside the U.S. while unemployed
    • Travel while employed with authorization from your employer will not count towards your unemployment; this includes approved periods of authorized leave or work-related travel

Terminate your employment when:

 your EAD expires when 

  • you transfer your SEVIS record to another school
  • begin study at another educational level with a new I-20
  • you exceed 90 days of unemployment
  • (whichever situation above comes first)

Depart the U.S. within 60 days of completing your OPT if your Form I-20 is not extended or transferred to another SEVIS approved school.

 

OPT Pre-Completion

 What can I put for my start and end dates?
  • START DATE

    • Undergraduates: This can be anytime after your graduation date up until 60 days after the expiration of your I-20. (e.g. If your I-20 expires on 12/17/2020, your start date would need to be by 02/14/2021)
    • We highly recommend that students not choose the last day of their 60-day grace period as their start date.
    • Graduates: This can either be after your expected graduation date OR after your expected date for completion of all coursework. This means that you will only have thesis or dissertation credits remaining when you would start your OPT. Graduate students may apply any time after completing all coursework. (Note: We will shorten your I-20 end date to your listed completion date.)

    END DATE

    • The end date will be on the day before a year is completed. For example, if your start date is 01/14/2021, your end date will be 01/13/2022.
 Can I travel outside of the U.S. if my request for OPT is pending?
  • We advise students not to leave the United States between their program end date and when they receive their EAD. Such travel is considered an abandonment of your application and you may be ineligible to reapply or reenter the United States.
Can I travel outside of the U.S. during OPT?
  • Approved OPT but no job: You may not be able to reenter unless you have a written job offer. We advise you to wait until you have received employment.
    With a job: We recommend students to bring a printed copy of their offer of employment. It is also recommended for students to ask their employer to create a letter stating that your employer knows you will be leaving and are expecting you to return.
    Travel for work purposes: We still encourage students to bring this employment offer letter and any other documents needed for international travel.

Note: Days that you travel outside of the United States are counted towards your unemployment unless authorized by your employer. (For more information on unemployment, please see the Requirements tab.)

Who can I work for while on OPT?
  • Regular paid employment working for an established business or organization. (Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student's degree program.)
  • Employment through a staffing/employment agency
  • Contracted employment with an established business or organization.
  • Self-employed business owner, which is full established and registered with the state.
  • Short-term multiple employers working as a musician, or other performing artists may work for gigs. The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. (If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing a list of gigs.)
  • Unpaid employment working as a volunteer or unpaid intern, which does not violate labor laws. (The work must be at least 20 hours per week.)
When can I start working once my OPT application has been sent?
  • You can start working once you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Do not begin work until you have received this.
  • More information about the EAD
What happens if I change my address during the OPT application process?
  • If you move while your OPT application is being processed and your address is not in your application, you must report this change of address within 10 days of moving to both of the following places:
What if my completion date changes?
  • Please contact our office so we can figure out the best way to assist you.
How long may I work?
  • Availability extends for one 12-month period directly after each higher educational level and may not be carried over if not used from one level to another.
  • Any authorized Pre-Completion OPT months are deducted from the available 12 months.
  • If you have a pending H-1B application you can extend your OPT. (Cap Gap Details)
  • If your major field of study and subsequent employment is in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM major), you may be able to extend your training. 
  • If you are a Canadian or Mexican citizen, you may also qualify for TN status. 
What if I am in an integrated bachelor's and master's program?
  • If you wish to participate in an internship during the summer before your final year in the integrated program, you may apply for Curricular Practical Training. Please keep in mind that full-time CPT authorization during this period will be added to any previous full-time CPT authorization you have accrued throughout your program. More than 12 months of full-time CPT authorization will eliminate OPT eligibility, so please count your time carefully if you intend to apply for OPT after graduation.

    Once your masters level I-20 has been activated for your final year of the integrated program, you will no longer be eligible for CPT. You may start applying for post-graduation OPT authorization in mid-January of your last year in the program. The application can take up to five months to process (though usually it takes three months or less), so be sure to apply early if you know you would like to have OPT authorization after graduation.

    Please keep a scanned copies of all Forms I-20 for future reference and record.

Am I legally allowed to work in the U.S. on an F-1 visa?
  • Yes. F-1 visa holders are legally allowed to work off-campus through Curricular Practical Training (after their first two semesters) and Optional Practical Training (after graduation) as long as they receive authorization through ISSS and USCIS, respectively, prior to working.
Do I need "sponsorship" now or in the future?
  • Companies may choose to sponsor a worker on an F visa during their OPT as long as they meet the H-1B (sponsored worker visa) criteria. If you are choosing to pursue sponsorship then you may want to indicate this as part of your discussions with prospective employers, but we encourage you to make sure each prospective employer understands that you are legally eligible for work for up to 12 months (36 if in a STEM designated field) regardless of sponsorship beyond this term. If you are sponsored for an H-1B you enter a visa lottery and we encourage you and your employer to work with a qualified immigration attorney as part of that process.

STEM Extension Optional Practical Training (OPT)

F-1 students who receive STEM degrees may apply for a 24-month extension of their Post-Completion OPT.

Unfortunately, as an F-2 dependent you may not engage in employment or business under any circumstances. Failure to observe this requirement will place you out of status.

Employers may be cited, fined, and/or imprisoned for hiring persons ineligible for employment or maintaining employees who are no longer authorized to be employed.

STEM Extension Optional Practical Training (OPT)

F-1 students who receive STEM degrees may apply for a 24-month extension of their Post-Completion OPT.

  • Must currently be in a valid period of Post-Completion OPT.
  • Must have earned a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctorate degree from an accredited, SEVP-certified, U.S. institution of higher education in an approved STEM major.
  • Job must be directly related to degree.
  • The CIP code of degree's major field of study must appear on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List.
  • Training must be a paid job, for at least 20 hours per week at each STEM employer.
    • Student cannot own his/her own business, work through a staffing agency, or be a contracted worker.
  • Employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and have an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN).
  • Student and employer must complete and sign the Form I-983 Training Plan

STEM Extension Optional Practical Training (OPT)

STEP 1) List of STEM-Eligible CIP codes  In order for you to be eligible for a STEM Extension you must have one of the STEM-eligible CIP codes from this document listed next to your major on your valid NSU I-20.  

STEP 2) NSU STEM Extension OPT Application Packet Fill out application packet.

  • Here is a step by step guideline for completing the STEM OPT Package, including instructions on how to complete the I-765 application through USCIS.
  • Additionally, your packet will need to include the completed I-983. 
  • OPT Photograph Requirements (Form M-603)

 

It is imperative you receive your STEM OPT authorized I-20 before applying online. Applying online without your employment authorized I-20 will result in your STEM OPT being denied.

STEM Extension Optional Practical Training (OPT)

After your receive your EAD, please be sure to keep the following:

  • Work only until the end date listed on your EAD card.
  • Only have employment that is directly related to your major.
  • Maintain a valid passport.
  • Work at least 20 hours per week.
  • Email a copy of your EAD to OIA; intl@nova.edu 
  • Keep records for each employment experience including the position held, proof of the duration of that position, contact information of your supervisor, and a description of your job duties.

 

Reporting

  • Report any changes in the information below within 10 days and confirm it again every six months even if there have been no changes.
    • If there were no changes in your employment, you do need to report your employment information again.
    • SEVP will send an email when your OPT is close to your start date. This email should include a link where you can report your employment for your SEVIS record.
    • After the 12 month and 24 month of you working, you will need to complete a I-983 evaluation. Send it to OIA; intl@nova.edu after you complete the evaluation. 
    • You also have the option to report it through our office. This is done through an E-form Request and submitting it to our email: intl@nova.edu 

 

The following table suggests the best way to report the required information:

Situation Reportable Information
Change to a new job
  • Previous employer name
  • Previous employment end date
  • Submit previous I-983, with evaluations completed 
  • Submit a new I-983, with a new training plan completed
  • New employer name
  • Employment start date
  • Employer mailing address
Unemployment
  • Indicate "unemployed"
  • Ending date of last job
You decide to exit the U.S. and complete your F-1 status prior to the end date of OPT
  • Indicate "Completing OPT and exiting the U.S."
  • Date of exit
Change of legal name
  • Documentation indicating the name change
Change of residential or mailing address
  • New residential or mailing address
Change of email address
  • New email

 You will also need to re-submit parts of your I-983 after 12 months and after 24 months. This will include evaluations from your employer about your training progress and improvements.

 

Unemployment

You may accrue no more than 150 days of unemployment, which includes any unemployment days accrued while on Standard OPT — exceeding this time limit will cause you to lose your status. The following counts towards unemployment:

  • Each day between your start and end dates that you do not have qualifying employment
  • Travel outside the U.S. while unemployed
  • Travel while employed with authorization from your employer will not count towards your unemployment; this includes approved periods of authorized leave or work-related travel

Terminate your employment when:

  • your EAD expires
  • you transfer your SEVIS record to another school
  • begin study at another educational level with a new I-20
  • you exceed 150 days of unemployment
  • (whichever situation above comes first)

Depart the U.S. within 60 days of completing your STEM OPT if your Form I-20 is not extended or transferred to another SEVIS approved school.

 

STEM Extension Optional Practical Training (OPT)

When can I apply for a STEM OPT Extension?
  • Please apply for an extension within 90 days of your EAD card expiring. We recommend doing this as early as possible. You are not able to apply for a STEM OPT Extension after your EAD has expired 
 What happens if I change my address during the application process?
  • If you move while your OPT application is being processed and your address is not in your application, you must report this change of address within 10 days of moving to both of the following places
Am I legally allowed to work in the U.S. on an F-1 visa?
  • Yes. F-1 visa holders are legally allowed to work off-campus through Curricular Practical Training (after their first two semesters) and Optional Practical Training (after graduation) as long as they receive authorization through ISSS and USCIS, respectively, prior to working.
Do I need "sponsorship" now or in the future?
  • Companies may choose to sponsor a worker on an F visa during their OPT as long as they meet the H-1B (sponsored worker visa) criteria. If you are choosing to pursue sponsorship then you may want to indicate this as part of your discussions with prospective employers, but we encourage you to make sure each prospective employer understands that you are legally eligible for work for up to 12 months (36 if in a STEM designated field) regardless of sponsorship beyond this term. If you are sponsored for an H-1B you enter a visa lottery and we encourage you and your employer to work with a qualified immigration attorney as part of that process.

 

 

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