Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) grants an eligible F-1 student an opportunity to work full-time for 12 consecutive months (anywhere in the United States) in a field that is directly related to their degree program at each degree level (bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D). Students remain in F-1 status at the University of St. Thomas even though they may be working elsewhere in the U.S. Students with only their thesis option left to complete should consult with an International Student Advisor.
How do I know if I am eligible?
Eligibility depends on your having maintained your F-1 status throughout your studies in the United States. However, if you have engaged in 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT), then you are not eligible for OPT.
When should I apply for OPT?
An F-1 student may apply for OPT no more than 120 days before the desired start date. This allows enough time for Immigration to review and give a ruling on each application. Our office advises to apply at least 90 days before their desired start date.
USCIS Processing Time
The average processing time is 90 days, therefore we advise that you apply at least 90 days before your desired start date. This countdown starts from the date Immigration receives your OPT application. You are not permitted to begin work until you have received this card. Otherwise, you will be violating your immigration status. If you have not received your card in a timely manner, please contact an International Student Advisor.
Once you’ve received your card and you decide to travel, you must carry: a valid passport and visa, an endorsed I-20 (with a travel signature no more than six months old), an OPT card and an employment verification letter from your employer. Please note that you are not guaranteed re-entry with these items.
Once you have been approved for post-completion OPT, you can have up to 90 days of unemployment from your start date. If you accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment, you will not be in compliance of your F-1 status. If you approach 90 days of unemployment, you should notify your International Student Advisor before nearing this deadline to discuss possible options.
Possibility of Extension
In some instances, students are able to extend their post-completion OPT. An OPT extension requires that a student has received a degree in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) field in the United States and that the student’s employer participates in E-Verify.
If in doubt, report.
You MUST report when there is a change in the following:
- Employment, including employer’s name, address and/or employment dates. Submit your formal offer letter to your International Student Advisor.
- Name and/or visa status, i.e. H1B, permanent residency, etc.
- A departure from the United States if you do not plan to return.
- Any change in your personal address, within 10 days of the move.
After six months of OPT you must:
- Report to your International Student Advisor your employer’s name and address and your personal address so we can report to Immigration that you are fulfilling your reporting and employment requirements.