Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment authorization that allows an F-1 student to work in a position directly related to their 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 complete all degree requirements within the 12-month OPT.
If you plan to work on or off-campus in your field of study after your academic end date in any employment, including postdoctoral training, you must receive the OPT employment authorization.
OPT processing and approval through USCIS can take 90-150 days. Apply early and plan accordingly.
- 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).
- Students under Coursework-only mode must finish all their coursework (30 credits) before starting their OPT.
- Students in Research/Thesis mode may apply for OPT if they are in Candidacy (i.e. they have completed all coursework, but are yet to defend their thesis/dissertation) as long as their academic advisor and the Graduate School agree to it. However, they must be able to defend their thesis/dissertation while they are on OPT.
If you are an undergraduate student and below 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.
- Make sure you are within 90 days of your academic program end date before you start the application process. You can apply up to 90 days before your academic end date and no later than 60 past your academic end date. USCIS must receive your OPT application before the end of your 60 day grace period. IPS does not recommend waiting to apply after your program end date or within your 60 day grace period to ensure you do not lose any of the allotted 12 month OPT time. IPS will not accept your documents until you are within the 90 day period. OPT processing can take up to 90-150 days to be approved by USCIS.
- You must complete an OPT 101 Canvas course. To get access to the course, please fill out the Google form here. Once you complete the OPT Canvas course, print out your score report sheet from the "Grades" tab. You will need to submit the Canvas score sheet along with the signed academic advisor OPT request form below.
- Please fill out the OPT advisor recommendation form, and have your advisor complete their section. Submit the completed form and the Canvas score grades to the Google form 12-Month OPT I-20 Application Request Form. You need to know your advisor has the right to deny signing your OPT recommendation form If they feel you're not making the necessary academic progress. Keep in mind you're here on an F1 student visa; your first priority is education. IPS will support any advisor's decision regarding the refusal to sign the required OPT recommendation. When filling the form, be sure to include your selected OPT start date on the form. This date cannot be more than 60 days after your program end date, and once the necessary I-20 is created, the chosen start date cannot be changed. When choosing your start date, try to remember you can not begin working until the OPT is approved and your chosen start date arrives. Do not submit this form until the form is signed. If the form is not signed, your OPT I-20 will not be processed.
- Once IPS receives both documents, a MANDATORY OPT rules/regulations zoom session will be scheduled. During the mandatory R/R zoom session, an IPS staff member will cover important OPT information. If you want your OPT documents reviewed before you submit them, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org, no appointment is needed. You must send all documents in one PDF, not a zip.
- If you already have a job offer, you must include the job information in the 12-Month OPT I-20 Application Request Form.
On 4/12/2021, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) can now file their form I-765 online if filling under the pre-completion OPT [(c)(3)(A)], post-completion OPT [(c)(3)(B)], or the STEM extension [(c)(3)(C)] categories. For the full news release, please visit the USCIS website. USCIS encourages students to file their OPT applications online. If you prefer to file your OPT application using a paper-based application process despite the benefits of online filing, carefully review your submission to ensure the accuracy and completeness of your application.
Benefits of online filing:
- Immediate filing of OPT application with USCIS and issuance of I-797 receipt notice
- Direct access to USCIS notices including, but not limited to, receipt notice, Requests for Evidence, approval notice, etc.
- Ability to communicate with USCIS through a secure inbox.
- Option to provide additional unsolicited evidence/updates to your application if necessary.
- Minimizes risk of rejection of the application by vetting common reasons for rejection such as applicant’s signature and proper fee payment.
- Ability to pay application fee through your bank account (ACH), debit, or credit card.
Reminders for online filing:
- You must be physically present in the U.S. when your OPT application is filed with USCIS.
- While filing Form I-765 online allows for immediate filing and receipt of your application, the overall processing time for the I-765 application is the same regardless of paper vs. online filing. See the USCIS website for current processing times.
- Please carefully review all answers and documentation before submitting your application to USCIS. Any amendments to the application would need to be submitted to USCIS by uploading evidence in the ‘Unsolicited evidence’ section of the ‘Documents’ tab of your USCIS online account. Additional evidence that was not requested in a request for evidence will be considered by USCIS at their discretion. USCIS will consider the timeliness and relevance of the information when adjudicating your application.
- USCIS has the discretion to require biometrics appointments on a case-by-case basis.
- Since online filing has only been announced in April 2021, our office cannot anticipate all potential online filing challenges or assist in-depth with the actual online application.
Recommended steps for completing the I-765 application online
- Create your online USCIS account at https://myaccount.uscis.gov/
- Gather the following documents:
- Digital 2x2 color passport photo that meets USCIS specifications. (IPS offers passport photo services at the rate of 20$ for 2 photos as well as the digital copy by email, upon request. Please click here to purchase the IPS passport photo service.)
- A scan of your passport (the page with your photograph as well as any other page with your personal information)
- A scan of the front and back of any previous EAD cards (if applicable)
- A scan of any previous I-20s with CPT or OPT information (if available)
- A digital copy of your I-20 with an OPT recommendation. The I-20 must be issued within the last 30 days, and it must be signed by an IPS official AND by you. You can use a digital or handwritten signature.
- Your most recent form I-94, available from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home. Select “Get Most Recent Form I-94”.
- A credit (or debit) card with which you can pay the filing fee.
- Go to this link and click on the "File online" option. You will be redirected to the login page.
The Application Details
- Basis of eligibility: Select C3B [May be written as (c)(3)(B)]
- Reason for applying: Select "Initial permission to accept employment"
- Have you previously filed Form I-765?
Check No if you have not previously applied for work authorization with an I-765.
Check Yes if you have previously filed an I-765 (you must provide evidence)
- Is someone assisting you with completing this application? Check No
- Your name:
- What is your current legal name?
- Have you used any other names since birth?
- Your contact information:
- Daytime telephone number
- Email address
- What is your current U.S. mailing address?
- Is your current mailing address the same as your physical address?
- Describe yourself:
- What is your gender?
- What is your marital status?
- When and where you were born:
- What is your city, town or village of birth?
- What is your state or province of birth?
- What is your country of birth?
- What is your date of birth?
- Your immigration information:
- What is your country of citizenship or nationality?
- What is your Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record Number?
- When did you last arrive in the United States? (Date of arrival)
- Place of arrival (For some people, the I-94 record may show a place outside of the US if their immigration was done in a foreign country. That is absolutely fine. Write whatever is mentioned on your I-94)
- Status at last arrival (Select F-1 unless you changed your status after your most recent arrival)
- What is the passport number of your most recently issued passport?
- What is your travel document number (if any)? (You can leave this section blank)
- What is the expiration date of your passport or travel document?
- What country issued your passport or travel document?
- What is your current immigration status or category? (Select F-1)
- What is your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Number? (Take a look at the top left of your most recent I-20. Your SEVIS ID is listed there as N....)
- Other information:
- What is your A-number? (Check “I do not have or know my A-#.”)
- What is your USCIS Online Account Number?
- Has the Social Security Administration (SSA) ever officially issued a Social Security Card to you?
- Do you want the SSA to issue you a Social Security card? (If you do not have a social security number or do not have your card, you should check “yes”. You will need to complete the required information so that the SSA can issue you a social security card.)
- 2x2 photo
- Form I-94, which can be obtained here.
- Previous Employment Authorization Document, if applicable. If you do not have a former EAD, you could upload a copy of the photo page of your passport here.
- I-20s with former CPT or OPT details, if applicable. You should include previous degree level CPT and OPT here if available. If you do not have these documents available, see “Additional Information” below.
- Form I-20. This is the I-20 you will receive from IPS after submitting your OPT I-20 Request Form. DO NOT upload a previous I-20 without an OPT recommendation (dated within the last 30 days) on page 2 of the I-20. The I-20 must be signed by an IPS advisor AND by you. You can use a digital or handwritten signature.
If you have previously been authorized CPT or OPT and do not have former I-20s with these details, you should do the following:
- Section: Evidence
- Page: Post-completion CPT or OPT
- Question: Post-completion CPT or OPT
- Additional Information:
- Type of previously authorized practical training (CPT, OPT, etc.)
- Dates of previously authorized practical training
- Application status (approved, denied, or withdrawn)
- Degree level (Bachelors, Masters, PhD, etc.)
- Receipt or card number, if known
Review and submit
- Review your application
- Read and agree to the “Applicant’s statement”
- Digitally sign
- Pay the application fee
- Submit your OPT application.
As mentioned before in the previous section, USCIS encourages students to file their OPT applications online. If you still prefer to file your OPT application using a paper-based application process despite the benefits of online filing, carefully review your submission to ensure the accuracy and completeness of your application.
Go through the following checklist of documents and make sure you have all of them.
- Completed and signed I-765 Form (must be typed and signed in black ink. If a section does not have enough room when
typing, you can handwrite the information in black ink.). You can review USCIS I-765 instructions here. Please note, on page 2, question 5.a - 5.e mailing address is IMPORTANT. List a mailing address where you will be once the card arrives. Use the IPS address
listed below only if you don't know where you will be once it is approved, or don't have someone to accept
the card on your behalf.
1400 Townsend Drive,
Admin Building, Room 200,
- Two passport photos taken within 30 days, with your name and I-94 written on the back of each in pencil. IPS currently offers passport photo services at the rate of 20$ for 2 photos plus the digital copy. Click here to avail the IPS passport photo service. You may also get your photo taken at Walgreens or the Houghton post office.
- You must include a $410 money order (from a bank) to the "US Department of Homeland Security." It is important to double-check the OPT fee before getting your money order, as fees can change without notice given to IPS. It is your responsibility to ensure you have the most up to date fee by checking the USCIS website here.
- 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 the new required OPT I-20 and copies of all previous MTU I-20s. You do NOT send any other university I-20s, only 1-20s issued by MTU. 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. You must have a valid passport to apply for OPT and you must have a minimum of 6 months remaining on your passport at all times as an F-1 visa holder.
- Copy of your visa: photo page and copies of all US visa stamps.
- Copy of your latest I-94.
- It can take time for the I-94 to update so list the most recent arrival date and location on the I-765 regardless of what is on the I-94. USCIS will see it has not been updated yet.
- 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.
- Mail the application packet to USCIS. USCIS must receive your packet within 30 days of the new OPT I-20 generated date
You must send your packet to one of the addresses listed below:
USPS (United States Postal Service)
Attn: I-765 C03
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680-5374
FedEx or UPS
Attn: I-765 C03 (Box 805373)
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517
It is the student’s responsibility to verify the shipping address of the sorting facility (https://www.uscis.gov/i-765).
- USCIS will send a Receipt Notice, called an I-797C, within two to four weeks, to the address you have listed on your I-765 application . You must keep this receipt; it is needed for the STEM-OPT extension and H-1B processing.
- For paper filing option, if it has been 30 business days since your application was received, you may contact the lockbox facility (click on the option that says Inquiries Based on Filing Location). Remember to take into account US Holidays and weekends. DO NOT contact them numerous times. Be aware that there are lockbox delays, more information on this can be found here.
- 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.
- If you listed IPS as the mailing address on your I-765, we will email you scanned copies of the receipt notice, approval notice and EAD card as and when they arrive. Do not call IPS or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as you get a notification from USCIS saying your document(s) has arrived. We process all of your documents before you are allowed to receive them; be patient, this can take 3-5 business days after we receive the document(s).
- If you had listed your address or a friend/relative's address, you MUST upload ALL your documents to the USCIS Document Upload Form after you have received all of them. THIS IS A MANDATORY STEP in order for us to properly maintain your SEVIS records.
- 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 under any circumstances, even if your employer asks you to do so.
Here is a sample EAD card:
- Fees can change without prior notice. Check the USCIS website properly 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 (as long as your total hours of work do not exceed 40 hours per week).
- Once you fill out the Academic Advisor Approval Form and the advisor lists the academic end date, and you submit the required OPT request forms, then your I-20 end date is shortened to that date and your OPT is processed at the same time.
- If you get a notification/email/letter from USCIS saying that OPT is rejected for any reason, you must contact the IPS DSO immediately at email@example.com.
- What happens when an RFE is issued?
When the USCIS issues an RFE, your case's processing will be suspended; once the deadline for your response arrives, the processing will resume. You might then expect to hear about your application's decision in about 60 days, but the processing can take longer. If you are ultimately denied and have applied for post-completion OPT, you will need to leave the U.S. or enroll in a school to pursue a program leading to a Master's degree or Ph.D. that is SEVP-approved. Most people who have responded to an RFE can, however, expect further action by USCIS within about 60 days. If you don't receive a response or update within 94 days since USCIS originally sent you the RFE, it's a good idea to reach out to the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283.
- Does an RFE mean that your OPT employment authorization application will be denied?
Receiving an RFE does not necessarily mean that your OPT application will be denied. It means that the USCIS requires additional evidence or proof from you to adjudicate your application. The USCIS can deny applications without issuing requests for evidence or notices of intent to deny. The fact that you received an RFE means that you will have the opportunity to fix any errors and offer additional documentation to support why your application should be approved. You need to pay close attention to the deadline for your response. The deadline should be listed in bold somewhere at the top of the letter. If you do not respond on time, the USCIS will likely decide to deny your application based on its belief that you abandoned it or because it must make a decision without the information that is asked for. If you move, make certain to update your address with the USCIS. If you frequently travel, have your mail forwarded to you not to miss an RFE that the USCIS might send. Be sure to check your original OPT requested 1-20 date. If the 1-20 is past 30 days from the date issued, you must contact OPT@mtu.edu to request the original 1-20 be canceled and reissued.
Main causes for receiving the RFE:
- Application not sent with original signature on the I-765 Form.
- Proper box not checked on the first page of the I-765 Form.
- Paid with credit card and payment did not go through. IPS Highly suggests sending
orders as USCIS will only run the Credit Card payment once.
- Missing required documents.
- Not adding your name and I-94 number on the back of passport photos in pencil.
What’s next after receiving the RFE?
- Read the RFE and fix the application error/errors.
- Check the OPT issued I-20. If the I-20 is nearing 30 days from the generated date,
request a new OPT I-20.
- If USCIS receives the RFE with the I-20 older than 30 days from the initial generation
OPT application will be rejected and your SEVIS record terminated. This is your responsibility to
request from IPS/DSO.
- Mail all documents back to USCIS via next day shipping and tracking.
We understand this can be stressful however, it is not uncommon and can be easily rectified by following the USCIS instructions.
A common misconception is that the only difference is employees get paid, and volunteers do not.According to U.S. labor laws, there is more to distinguish between employees and volunteers than whether an individual receives a regular paycheck. Unpaid work may still be considered employment for F-1 or J-1 status holders.
What is an employee? The definition of an employee used in the context of immigration regulations is as follows: “An individual who provides services or labor for an employer for wages or other remuneration.” Please note that the term “remuneration” is very broad and includes various non-monetary benefits, such as free housing, food, gifts, etc.
What is a volunteer? According to the Department of Labor, a volunteer is an “individual who performs hours of service… for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered.”
To be considered a volunteer, the work performed by the individual must meet the following criteria:
- No expectation of compensation
- The volunteer cannot displace a genuine employee
- The services provided by the volunteer should not be the same services for which he or she was previously paid and/or expects to be hired and paid for in the future
- Services are performed for a non-profit organization for public service, religious or humanitarian objective
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.
- Your unemployment starts counting the day of your start date if you do not have an employer listed in SEVIS. We recommend you push your OPT start date to the allowed 60 days after tour academic end date.
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 part time (under 20 hours/week) or full time (over 20 hours/week) in a position directly related to your major area of study. You may:
- Have multiple jobs
- Be self-employed
Volunteer employment reporting follows the same process as paid employment. You will need to enter your employment in the portal, as well as filling out the IPS Google Form.
For all voluntary employment positions, the DSO will be sending the following email to the supervisor listed on the employer form submitted:
I received notification that 'NAME OF STUDENT VOLUNTEER' will be volunteering employment within your department. IPS has begun emailing each voluntary supervisor informing them of requirements.
Students often request voluntary employment with employers. This is allowed on 12 months OPT but not on the 24 months OPT extension.
All voluntary employment must pertain to the student's field of study, and they must actually be volunteering employment. F1 Visa holders who aren't actually volunteering employment but listing employers to prevent using the allotted 90 days of unemployment is illegal and considered fraudulent employment.
Fraudulent employment can result in the revocation of their F1 visa and could result in legal problems for the employer. If you have students volunteering employment and are not upholding the voluntary work agreement, you must inform IPS to ensure the employment is terminated in the government system."
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 information 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 are unemployed and do not have another job lined up, submit the OPT Unemployment Form.
Recently USCIS notified universities of 1,100 international students who listed fraudulent employment in SEVIS. It is imperative students follow all USCIS rules and regulations. The students caught had their OPT and visa status terminated.
Students who claim to be employed by companies that don’t exist can be arrested and their F1 visas revoked and deported. “ICE has a system of checks in place to mitigate fraud and is committed to protecting national security by ensuring that students, visitors, and schools comply with U.S. immigration laws. If you are working voluntarily and are not actually volunteering, eliminating using the 90 days of allotted unemployment is illegal and considered fraudulent.
IPS wants all students to remain in status; however, if you falsify employment, IPS
must inform the OPT Taskforce, causing you to lose the OPT benefit, and your F-1 visa
will be revoked. Never lie about OPT employment, you will get caught, and the outcome is far worse than
having unemployment days accrue. You need to know USCIS is increasing F1 student employment
site visits ensuring the information provided is accurate.
Moving forward on all Michigan Tech OPT forms, you will be required to answer a question stating, "I acknowledge that this is valid employment, and I understand if this is not valid, I will lose my current and future visa status."
What is the SEVP Portal?
- SEVP has launched an OPT Portal which students on OPT can access to view and update certain information directly in SEVIS.
- The system is free, meaning at no point in using the portal will you be required to provide any payment information or Social Security Number.
- It is mandatory for all 12 month OPT applicants to use the SEVP portal. The portal does not change a student’s reporting requirements in any way.
- You still must report any address or employment changes to IPS by filling out the employment form and updating your address in Banweb.
- Every 90 days you need to update your SEVP OPT account password.
- Most portal questions or issues can be resolved by using and or reading through the SEVP portal links. Before creating an account, visit the link getting started/create-an-sevp portal account. We also suggest watching the Sevp-portal-overview video here; many students find it helpful. You can learn more about the portal and your student record here. If you are struggling with portal passwords, visit the SEVP portal password tip sheet.
When can I access the Portal?
You will get an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. In order to receive an email invite to the portal, you must:
- Have been approved for OPT by USCIS and have your EAD Card.
- Be on OPT and your start date has arrived.
- Have a current and up to date email address in Banweb.
You WILL NOT have access until your chosen OPT start date arrives. Make sure you check your spam folder for the email from USCIS. DO NOT fill out the SEVP Portal Reset-Request until 20 days have passed since your chosen date arrives. It's normal not to receive the link immediately, and no need to worry.
- Check your spam folder to see if the link from USCIS went to spam.
- You can wait to report the employment up to 10 days from the actual start date. For example, you start employment on May 1st; you will have until May 10th to report. If you are approaching the 10th day and still have not received the portal link, you can submit the employment form without first entering the employment in the portal. In the employment form 4th questions, you will choose the option - "No because I do not have an SEVP account due to my OPT not being approved yet or No, I have not received the SEVP portal link from USCIS. The IPS DSO will receive the form and enter all employment information within the SEVP portal. You will still need to activate the portal once you receive the link for future employment updates in the future.
How do I set up the Portal account?
You will need to follow the link and instructions in the email sent by SEVP, including entering your SEVIS Identification number. You need to activate the link ASAP or it will expire and you will need to request it to be reset. Do not panic if you do not get the link immediately. Do not fill out the SEVP portal request until you have received the link. We cannot reset anything until you get the link. It could take up to 20 after your OPT is approved and start date arrives to receive the link.
What can I do in the Portal?
The Portal’s primary benefit is viewing your current employer information and other details regarding OPT and OPT STEM Extension. OPT Students will have the ability to report employer information through the portal. However, you must fill out the employer information form on the IPS Website.
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.
Obtaining/Renewing Driver's License while on OPT
- Students with an approved 12-month or 24-month OPT must bring the EAD card, along with other proof of residency, to the Secretary of State office.
- Explain to the agent that you are on OPT, which means they can only verify your status using the EAD card’s USCIS number.
- You might have to wait to renew your license or get a new one if you are waiting for your OPT to be approved.
- If your Driver's License expires while the OPT is pending many Secretary of State offices can and will issue a three month extension. Each state is different, so make sure you check.
You Need to Know
Days abroad do not count toward unemployment if time is excused by your company or travel is for business.
- 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)
- Students are allowed a 60-day grace period following the OPT expiration date to leave the United States, change your status, or transfer your F-1 to a new school or program. In some cases, you may want to pursue these options before the end of your OPT.
- The grace period is only applicable for those who have not exceeded the 90 days of unemployment during the OPT period or the 150 days of unemployment during OPT and the STEM OPT extension.
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:
- Use this form to submit USCIS documents (receipt notice, approval notice, EAD card) to IPS: USCIS Document Upload Form
- Use this form to request your 12-month OPT I-20: 12 Month OPT I-20 Application Request Form
- Use this form to report employer changes: 12 Month OPT Employer Form
- Use this form to report material changes (site address change, supervisor change, job title/description change or company name change): 12 Month OPT Material Change Form
- Use this form to report unemployment ONLY if you do not have another employer (Note that 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 need copies of your previous I-20s: Missing I-20 Request
- 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
- Use this form to upload H1B Approval Notice: H1B Approval Notice Form
- Use this form if you wish to leave the country and terminate your OPT (do not fill this if you are moving on to STEM OPT or H1B) : OPT Termination 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.
- IPS has been notified of USCIS significant delays in issuing receipt notices for OPT applications and petitions. IPS understands how the OPT receipt is causing the in-process OPT applicants anxiety and for some hardship. If it has been 30 business days since your application was received, you may contact the USCIS Lockbox. Remember US Holidays and weekends must be taken into account. All in-process OPT applicants are advised to keep confirmation of the delivery of their application. OPT/STEM OPT Extension deadlines are linked to the date USCIS receives your application, not the date you receive your Receipt Notice. You may or may not receive a letter from USCIS letting you know that your application has been transferred to another lockbox facility. If so, make sure you keep the letter incase your application surpasses the OPT application allotted time.
- As of 01/08/2021, all new OPT and STEM OPT extension applications will be sent to the USCIS Chicago Lockbox. Before January 8, 2021, Form I-765 application for OPT or STEM OPT extension was sent to one of two other USCIS Lockbox facilities. If you sent the packet before 01/08/2021 to Arizona or Nebraska, that's fine, and don't stress. If you sent the packet out after 01/08/2021 to Arizona or Nebraska, USCIS will forward it to the processing center or forward the application to the Chicago sorting facility, and they will forward it to the processing center.
- Unfortunately, due to COVID, USCIS is extremely short-staffed. IPS is staying up to date on all current information. Though we wish we could do more, please remember all universities are having the same issue. Keep in mind this is the US Government, and University DSOs can only do so much.
- If you consider traveling outside the USA, please read the CDC Media Statement issued
01/14/2021; if you do not need to travel, DONT as CDC rules are changing rapidly.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test to all air passengers entering the United States. Air passengers must get a viral test (a test for current infection) within ONE day before their flight to the U.S. departs, and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19. Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger." You can find the most current up to date CDC travel information here.
- The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced a new “OPT Employment Compliance Unit” that will be dedicated to compliance matters involving wages, hours, and compensation within Optional Practical Training (OPT), the STEM OPT extension and Curricular Practical Training. The unit will publish a report at least annually on its findings, with the first report to be published by July 31, 2021. The unit will be responsible for “recommending investigations of employers and students, as needed, to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to ensure that the OPT programs operate in a lawful manner at U.S. worksites.” The unit will also “evaluate whether employers are adhering to the attestations and training plans required under the OPT extension, which will include on-site visitation.”
- If you have any questions or doubts, be sure to check out the Frequently Asked Questions page before emailing email@example.com.
- Remember that IPS does not provide any advice regarding H1B. You must consult with your company's HR department or lawyer and/or an immigration attorney.
If your H1B is approved and it's mid-to-late September, make sure to fill out the H1B Approval Notice Form and upload all necessary documents. Once you do this, IPS will update your records. Do not fill the form earlier than mid-September because H1Bs get activated from October 1, and you need to maintain your F1 status till the day the H1B is approved
If you have consular H1B, DO NOT submit until you receive the H1B visa stamp. For consular H1Bs, IPS cannot change your record until you receive the stamp.