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Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students : All Details

Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students : All Details

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Are you currently studying or planning to work in the USA? Read this blog on OPT(Optional Practical Training), and understand how you can work in the USA.

GyanDhan

Bipasha Goswami

Updated on: 25 Oct 2023
 

Most of the international students studying in the USA want to work after they complete their graduation or are still in college to gain some practical experience. It is where the role of OPT comes into play.

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What is OPT?

OPT means Optional Practical Training. It is temporary employment that allows international students to work in the USA and is directly related to your F-1 major area of study. This certainly helps you get practical life experience. Once your details are verified and eligibility criteria are met, you can easily obtain OPT employment authorization for up to 12 months. Also, students pursuing STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) subjects can extend this further for 24 months. Generally, students need OPT once they graduate, but you can apply for it even when you are studying!

However, in pre-completion OPT, the duration will be deducted from the overall period.

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Eligibility criteria for OPT

Under the following conditions, a student is eligible for OPT:

  • list items In a SEVP-certified school or university, the student has completed one academic year as a full-time student.
  • list items English should not be their second language.
  • list items The student's employment must relate to the student's major area of study.
  • list items A student doesn't need a job letter before getting the OPT.
  • list items Before starting, a working student needs to get an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
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Types of OPT

It is mandatory that whatever OPT you are willing to apply for should be directly related to your major area of study.

Now, let's look at the types of OPT:

  • list items Pre-Completion OPT: You can apply for pre-completion OPT once you get enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year at any university, college, or seminary. Also, it's not mandatory to have an F-1 visa for that one full academic year; your non-immigrant visa can work too during that time. Once you get authorization for pre-completion OPT, you can work up to 15-20 hours or less per week while you are studying in school or at a university. You can work as a full-time employer when your school or university is off.
  • list items Post-completion OPT: Once you have completed your studies, you can apply for post-completion OPT. You can work up to 20 hours per week as a part-time or full-time employee under it.

Generally, these two are the most important, but the following two can be considered:

  • list items 24-month (STEM) OPT Extension: Students pursuing or who have graduated from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields are eligible for this type of OPT extension for up to 24 months.
  • list items Cap-Gap OPT Extension: Many regulations allow some students with a pending or approved cap-subject H-1B petition to remain in F-1 status during the cap-gap period. The regulations fill the "cap-gap," which would otherwise occur if F-1 status were not extended to eligible students.

To know more about US Visa Types and Its Importance, click here.

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How to apply for OPT?

The OPT application process is technical. While applying, it is important to keep all the deadlines in mind. Ask the international student center if you need any clarification. If you skip any steps, your chances of finding work in the United States may suffer.

So, keep the following steps in mind:

Timing

Before applying for any OPT, be it pre or post-completion, you must be enrolled in school in the US for at least 9 months.

For post-completion OPT, you can apply 90 days before your graduation and a maximum of 60 days after graduation. You can select your preferred date for your employment on the application itself.

Also, as discussed earlier, you need to get your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. USCIS might take some time to process your application, so you should apply for OPT as soon as possible for the smooth functioning of your job process.

You cannot start to work before you have received your employment.

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Application Steps

It is advisable to consult your international student advisor while filling out the steps for the application form.

However, below are some basic steps that might help you out:

  • list items I-765 Form: This is the main application form for employment authorization. Once your school approves it, this needs to be submitted to USCIS. Your school or college provides this form with starting and ending dates and other information about your personality.
  • list items The Filling Fee: It generally costs around $410.
  • list items Passport-sized photographs: Within 30 days of submitting your application, you should take at least two identical color photographs of yourself. You can check the specific size and other things in the I-765 form. The important thing to remember is to write your name and SEVIS ID number at the back of your photograph.
  • list items Various Document Copies: You will need copies of your form I-94 arrival/departure record EAD card  updated I-20 passport ID page
  • list items You will need copies of your form I-94 arrival/departure record
  • list items EAD card 
  • list items updated I-20
  • list items passport ID page