Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment authorization that allows an F-1 student to work in a position directly related to his or her field of study after completion of academic studies.
Students are eligible to finish a thesis or dissertation while on 12-month OPT as long as the Graduate School and academic advisor agree. Students must finish all degree requirements within the 12-month OPT.
- You must be in good academic standing with the University.
- No job offer is required.
- F-1 students are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT at each degree level—for example, you may have 12 months of OPT at the bachelor’s level and another 12 months of OPT at the master’s level.
- All employment must be directly related to your field of study.
- You must have a valid passport.
- You have not had more than 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
When and How to Apply
- If you are an undergraduate student and blow 12 credits in your final semester OR a graduate student and below 9 credits you MUST apply for a Reduced Course Load BEFORE you apply for OPT.
- Complete the OPT 101 prep course on Canvas and print out your score report from the "Grades" tab. Fill out the Google form here to request to be added to the course.
- Fill out the OPT advisor recommendation form, and have your advisor complete their section. Submit the completed form along with the grades printout by email to the google form OPT Academic Advisor and Review Request Form or in person at the office (do not submit via both methods). Be sure to include your selected OPT start date on the academic advisor recommendation form. This date cannot be more than 60 days after your program end date.
- Once IPS receives both documents, an OPT review appointment will be scheduled. Make sure you bring the necessary documents listed below to the review appointment (except the new OPT I-20 which you will receive at your review). If you do not bring a complete set of documents, or if you are late, your review will be rescheduled. If you are not in Houghton, your review can be done over email; send the advisor recommendation form to IPS and say in the email you would like an email review (you will not set up an actual review time) and then wait for your OPT I-20 from email@example.com and further instructions will follow.
- If you already have a job offer, fill out the 12 Month OPT Employment Reporting Form web form before your OPT review.
Documents required for OPT Packet
- Completed and signed I-765 Form (type or print legibly in black ink). For the time being you need to write your address in the mailing address section due to the chance MTU will close completely. You will just need to send scanned copies of your documents to IPS. See application guide for help completing the form. Do not e-file your application! You must send all 7 pages of the I-765 even if the pages are blank.
- Two passport photos taken within 30 days, with your name and I-94 written on the back of each in pencil. IPS offers this service for $10. Pay online in advance and bring the receipt as proof of payment when you come to get your photo
- IPS Passport photo hours:
Mondays from 3 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Fridays from 11:30 p.m. - 2 p.m.
- IPS Passport photo hours:
- Money order (from a bank) in the amount of $410, payable to "US Department of Homeland Security." Make sure you sign the money order.
- Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application is optional and used to request a text message and/or email from USCIS once your application has been received at the processing center.
- Copy of new OPT I-20 and copies of all previous I-20s. If you think you are missing any I-20s fill out the Missing I-20 Request google form.
- Copy of the following pages of your valid passport: photo page, renewal page if original has expired, and pages showing amendments such as name changes or corrections.
- Copy of your visa: photo page and copies of all US visa stamps.
- Copy of your latest I-94.
- Other documents to include if applicable: offer letter from your future employer, copy of any previous EAD cards, photocopy of any correspondence with USCIS such as envelopes, receipts, notifications, etc. as may be appropriate for the situation.
Do NOT submit required OPT forms unless you are within 90 days of your academic program end date.
- Mail the application packet to USCIS. USCIS must receive your packet within 30 days of the new OPT I-20 generated date.
- USCIS will send a Receipt Notice, called an I-797C, within two to four weeks, to IPS. IPS will scan and email you a copy of the receipt. You must collect the original I-797 from our office or request it to be mailed to your US address if you are no longer in Houghton. You must keep this receipt; it is needed for OPT STEM Extension and H-1B processing.
- You can track the progress of your application on the USCIS website. Keep in mind the status will say pending until it is approved because USCIS does not update on a regular basis.
- Once your EAD card arrives at IPS we will email you a scanned copy. You must collect the EAD card in person or pay for UEMS Express shipping to have it sent to you. You cannot begin work until you have the EAD card and your start date has arrived. Make sure to keep the paper the EAD card is attached to - you will need it when you apply for the STEM Extension.
Your OPT start date is printed on your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card). The start date is your requested start date or the date USCIS approves the application, whichever occurs later. Please note start dates cannot be changed. Here is a sample EAD card:
You Need to Know
- Fees can change without prior notice. Check USCIS for the latest updates.
- You can take recreational courses while on OPT. However, if you begin a new degree program, your OPT is automatically terminated.
- OPT is authorized as full time however, you are eligible to work part time.
- USCIS may send Form I-797 (approval notice) prior to sending the actual EAD card.
Employment Reporting Requirements
Maintain F-1 Status
While you are on Post-Completion OPT, it is your responsibility to maintain your F-1 status. Failing to comply with Michigan Technological University and US government rules and regulations will jeopardize your F-1 status.
F-1 status is dependent on employment. You cannot be unemployed for more than 90 days total.
- Each day, including weekends, during the period when OPT authorization begins and ends that you do not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment.
If your employer offers paid national holidays as a benefit, those days are not counted as unemployment. The number of paid holidays varies by employer.
If you are employed during a period of leave authorized by an employer—for example, a paid vacation—it is not unemployment.
Time spent outside the United States as part of your job is not unemployment.
You must work at least 20 hours a week in a position directly related to your major area of study. You may:
- Have multiple jobs
- Be self-employed
OPT Curriculum Rules
If you have OPT you can take recreational courses. But if you begin a new degree program, your OPT is automatically terminated.
You Must Report
- Any time you relocate you must update your future mailing address in Banweb within 10 days. You must also update your address in the SEVP Portal once your OPT is approved.
Every time you start, change, or end employers you MUST enter the employment information in your SEVP portal. If you did not receive the SEVP portal link or need it reset, you need to fill out the SEVP Portal Reset Request Google Form. You MUST also fill out the 12 Month OPT Employment Reporting Form within 10 days of your start date. If the employer form is not filled out, a new I-20 will not be generated and if IPS does not receive the employer verification form within 10 days of the start date we must update your SEVIS record with the date the form is actually received, which may cause unemployment days to be used unnecessarily.
If you change to a new visa status, including H1-B, LPR, etc. you must email a copy of the approval notice showing the change to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you are unemployed and do not have another job lined up, submit the OPT Unemployment Form.
Every 90 days we need to update our OPT account password. Here, once we receive a temporary password when we follow the steps to reset the password, this temporary password need to be entered now under the current password box when it prompts next on the same page where new password we are entering and not the one we used for past 90 days. It means this new temporary password becomes a current password for the moment while resetting it.
Travel During OPT
Michigan Tech International Programs and Services Office is recommending to all international students to minimize international travel due to the changes to U.S. Immigration Policy. Given the current state of U.S. immigration climate, be prepared for the possibility of increased scrutiny at U.S. Ports of entry through additional questioning and/or inspection of your social media and personal phone. IPS is here to help and support international students in any way we can.
When 12-Month OPT is Pending
IPS advises against international travel while OPT is pending. If you choose to travel, please note IPS cannot help facilitate your re-entry if it is denied.
If you decide to leave and re-enter before receiving your EAD card or a job offer, please carry all the documents listed below:
- Passport (valid for at least six months after you plan to re-enter the US)
- Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport (does not apply to Canadian citizens)
- I-20 (with a travel signature no older than six months)
- I-765 receipt notice (Form I-797)
- If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa when your post-completion OPT application is pending, also be sure to have your I-765 receipt notice (Form I-797) in addition to the usual documents required for a visa application.
When 12-Month OPT is Approved
After OPT is approved, carry all the documents listed above including the EAD card and job offer, if any.
If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa, be sure to have your EAD card and job offer letter in the US in addition to the usual documents required for a visa application.
For more information, see US Department of Homeland Security FAQ for Travel.
You Need to Know
Days abroad do not count toward unemployment if time is excused by your company or travel is for business.
When OPT Ends
- If you are in a STEM field you are eligible for a 24 Month OPT STEM Extension.
If you did not apply or are not eligible for OPT STEM Extension, you have a 60-day grace period after your OPT expires to prepare for departure, or change to another status.
You might be eligible for a Cap-Gap if you are changing to an H-1B visa with an October 1 start date. Please note you do not need a Cap-Gap I-20 in order to continue working.
Students who do not exceed the 90- or 120-day unemployment limit, and who report their work status to International Programs and Services, are automatically granted a 60-day grace period after the end date listed on their Employment Authorization Document (EAD card)
The grace period only covers travel in the United States. You cannot leave the country, even to Canada or Mexico, and re-enter using your current I-20.
Within the 60-day grace period, you can:
Important 12 Month OPT Forms
Use this form to report employer changes: 12 Month OPT Employer Form
Use this form to report unemployment ONLY if you do not have another employer, note you will not receive a new I-20 until you get a new employer: OPT Unemployment Form
Use this form to request your SEVP Portal Reset Link: SEVP Portal Reset Link
Use this form if you would like to request a Cap-Gap I-20 from (April-June): 1st Cap Gap Request Form
Use this form if you would like to request a Cap-Gap I-20 from (June-September 30): 2nd Cap Gap Request Form
As the academic advisor for your student, you have the right to deny the student from moving forward onto OPT. If the student is in research mode and you do not think they will be able to make enough progress on thesis/dissertation during 12 Month OPT, you do not have to authorize them. If the student's I-20 is ending they will need to request a program extension, it may or may not get approved.
How to Submit Documents from USCIS to IPS due to COVID-10
When you applied for OPT, if we told you to change the mailing address on your I-765 to your address, you need to submit all the documents UCSIS sends you to the USCIS Document Upload Form you may upload them as they come in or submit all at once.