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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

According to USCIS, “Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. In other words, the students engage in this temporary employment to gain practical experience in their major field of study. OPT can be granted before or after the completion the program. It is an extension of F-1 status until the student finishes OPT. No offer of employment is required to apply for the work permit but the student is expected to be actively seeking employment after applying.

There are Three Types of OPT

  1. Pre-completion OPT to Standard OPT
  2. Post-completion OPT to Standard OPT
  3. STEM Extension OPT

For pre- and post-completion OPT to standard OPT, the application process and fees are the same. Student on pre-completion OPT may work only part-time before the completion of the program while the semester is on, but during summer months may work full-time. Students applying for either must have been enrolled at Biola for at least one full academic year.

ELSP students are not eligible to apply for OPT.

STEM major students will get an additional 24 months of extension after the completion of post-completion OPT.

This page deals only with standard OPT.

Dividing OPT Between Pre- and Post-Completion OPT

Students can use a chosen amount of OPT before graduation and a chosen amount after graduation, as long as the aggregate does not exceed 12 months per educational level.

  • If you have applied for a period of pre-completion OPT, you must deduct that time from your 12 months allowed for the post-completion OPT.
  • Part-time pre-completion OPT will be deducted at one-half rate.
  • Example: four months of part-time will be considered as two months of full-time OPT completed.
  • Full-time pre-completion OPT will be deducted at full rate.
  • Example: three months of full-time pre-completed OPT will be considered as three months of full time OPT done.

Timeline

You may submit your post-completion OPT application following the timeline below:

  1. Apply 90 days before your program completion date.
  2. Your requested OPT start date must be within 60 days of completing your program.
  3. After 12 months of work, you have a 60 day grace period during which you may remain in the United States but may not continue employment.
Timeline illustrating the dates outlined above

  • USCIS must have received your application before the end of 60 days after your program end date. It will be considered late on the 61st day and will be denied.
  • It takes up to 90 days for USCIS to process an OPT application to grant employment authorization.

Choosing Your OPT Start Date

  • Earliest date: You may start your OPT job the day after program completion if you choose to apply around 90 days before the program completion date. Remember, if you apply more than 90 days before program completion date, U.S Immigration will deny your application.
  • Latest date: Up to 60 calendar days after the program completion date.
  • Stick strictly to these deadlines in order to receive employment authorization.

Application Process at Biola

To apply for OPT, you will need around three appointments with a DSO at the Student Immigration Services. Students are not required to have an employer when OPT is requested in SEVIS.

Schedule your appointments when:

  1. Paperwork is completed
  2. A new I-20 recommending OPT is issued
  3. Your application package is ready to be mailed out

Documents needed for submission

  1. Form I-765 in original
  2. Fees: $410. (Check with USCIS to confirm current fees.) Check or money order payable to U.S Department of Homeland Security. No cash is accepted.
  3. Copy of your passport ID page as well as visa stamp.
  4. Two photographs taken for a U.S.-style passport
  5. Copy of the recent I-94 generated from the CBP Website (go to www.cbp.gov/i-94)
  6. New I-20 from DSO recommending OPT within 30 days
  7. Letter from the professor recommending OPT
  8. Documents, if any, to show previous authorized employment by USCIS
  9. Biola off-campus form (for Biola's student files)
  10. Copy of all I-20s received for the current degree level (pages 1 and 2)

Mailing information for the application

USCIS Phoenix Lockbox

For U.S Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:

USCIS
P.O Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

USCIS
Attn: NFB AOS
1820 E. Shyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Receipt Notice from USCIS

USCIS will mail you a receipt notice (I-797C) which you will receive within 10 days after your application has been accepted, use this notice as proof of your pending application or petition.

Reporting requirements by the OPT students to SIS DSOs

Do not submit a change of address request to the USCIS lockbox facilities because the lockbox does not process change of address requests.

  • Change in student’s legal name.
  • Change in student’s address while on OPT.
  • Changes in employment or interruption of employment.
  • Other details about the employment

Students can enter employment information using the SEVP Portal or the DSOs can update SEVIS to reflect the changes. Employment information must be updated in a timely manner.

FAQs

How do I withdraw an OPT request?

  1. If the application packet has not been sent to the service center, the DSO can cancel the request in SEVIS to have the application withdrawn.
  2. If the application for OPT request changes to Pending status, you must write to USCIS to withdraw your OPT application. You must include the receipt number that USCIS sent you in Form I-797C Notice of Receipt.

When can I start employment?

  • You cannot begin employment until the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is actually received and the start date on the card has been reached.
  • Student can check the EAD processing by accessing the USCIS website and clicking case status at www.uscis.gov. For any questions pertaining to your application you may call them at 1-800-375-5283.

If there is a gap between your program end date and your EAD card start date, NO WORK can be done during the gap. It is considered as the student maintaining valid F-1 status but no work is allowed. Any work done during that time will be viewed as unauthorized employment.

What kinds of jobs can I do while on OPT?

  • All employment must be directly related to your major field of study.
  • Volunteer and unpaid positions are acceptable as long as they satisfy labor laws.
  • You may work for multiple employers.
  • You must work a minimum of 20 hours a week at least with one employer.

How is OPT terminated?

Authorization to engage in practical training employment is automatically terminated when the student transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level at the same school.

What are important dos and don’ts I should know?

  1. DO notify the Immigration Services of your employer’s name, address, email, phone number and employment details.
  2. DO work for at least 20 hours a week with one employer.
  3. DO report all residential address and employment changes within 10 days of the change.
  4. DON’T take classes while on OPT.
  5. DON’T be unemployed for more than 90 days from the start date on your work permit (EAD).

What should I know about traveling during OPT?

  • It is NOT RECOMMENDED that you travel outside the US while your OPT application is pending.
  • It is NOT RECOMMENDED that you travel before you have received your EAD and found a job.
  • While working, always obtain permission from your employer for travels (preferably not more than 2-3 weeks).
  • Always travel with your EAD, signed I-20 by the Immigration Services and a letter from your employer.

What is "Duration of Status (D/S)" while on post-completion OPT?

  • For a student with approved post-completion OPT, the D/S is defined as the period beginning when the student’s application for OPT was properly filed and pending approval.
  • D/S also includes the authorized period of post-completion OPT and the 60-day grace period after the OPT employment authorization expires.

While on OPT after graduating, you are still considered a student of Biola for Department of Homeland Security!

  • You remain in F-1 status.
  • It is a benefit given by the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Biola still holds your SEVIS record.
  • Student Immigration services are still your advisors.
  • You still have reporting requirements with Biola Student Immigration Services.

What do I need to report to Biola SIS on OPT participation?

  1. Name and address of the employer
  2. A brief description of the employment to say how it is related to the major field of study
  3. Name of the job title
  4. Full-time or part-time employment with hours per week
  5. Name of supervisor
  6. Email and phone number of supervisor
  7. Current start and end date of employment in the EAD
  8. Date you started employment

Students whose records lack employer information are considered unemployed.

SEVP officials can manually terminate a student who accrues 90 total days of unemployment.

For additional resources and updates, please visit the Study in the States website.

What is the cap-gap extension of OPT?

A cap-gap extension of OPT may be granted to F-1 students while they are in their authorized period of post-completion OPT. They also should be the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition requesting change of status and the start date of the employment should be October 1 of the following fiscal year. The cap-gap extension of OPT may lead to an automatic extension of duration of status and the employment authorization to bridge the gap between the OPT end date (on or after April 1) and start date (October 1) of the H-1B petition. Students need to contact their employer for filing for changes to their H-1B status and inform SIS DSO to get their record updated in SEVIS.