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Optional practical training (OPT) is defined as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." A student who is maintaining valid F-1 status may apply for OPT to pursue off-campus employment for one year following completion of degree. Average waiting time after application is three (3) months.
*For best results, apply three (3) months before graduation!
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now requires all students in F-1 status who have been granted Optional Practical Training employment authorization to report the location of the OPT experience, including name and address of their OPT employer or organization. The IOCP is required to report this information to DHS through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Students must begin reporting this information by the start date of their OPT and report changes or interruptions in employment (within 10 days) during OPT. If your OPT begins and you have not secured an OPT location/employer, then you still must report information to DHS through the IOCP. It is your legal obligation to report this information. If you fail to report OPT activity/employment information to the IOCP, you could be considered in violation of your F-1 immigration status by the Department of Homeland Security.
While on OPT, students must notify the IOCP office within 10 days of any changes in the following information:
Q: Can I take classes while I’m on OPT? While engaged in post-completion OPT, students are eligible to engage in coursework as long as it is incidental to their OPT employment (limited to part-time enrollment.) OPT is effectively cancelled by official SEVIS transfer to another school or change in academic level. Students interested in changing schools or academic levels should consult with OIS about their OPT employment.
Q: On the OPT application, I am asked to choose my OPT start date. Which date should I choose? It is up to you to decide when you would like your OPT to begin, but you must choose a date between 1-60 days after your program end date. When choosing your OPT start date, keep in mind the following information:
Q: Do I need a job offer to apply for OPT? No. Unlike CPT, you do not need to have a job in order to apply for OPT. You have up to 90 days after your OPT begins to find a job.
Q: Why wasn’t my I-20 end date extended when I applied for OPT? OPT is an extension of your F-1 status, not an extension of your academic program. The start and end date on your I-20 indicate the dates that you are pursuing your academic program. The I-20 along with your EAD card show the extension of your status for one additional year.
Q: I haven't received my work authorization card yet, but I found a job. Can I begin working? You must wait until you have your EAD (work authorization) card to begin working. However, in some cases an OPT application may be expedited if you can provide a letter showing that you have an offer of employment. Contact the IOCP office for assistance with this.
Q: It has been more than 90 days since I applied for OPT, but I have not received my EAD card. What should I do? Contact IOCP and/or check the status of your case at www.uscis.gov. We may be able to contact USCIS to determine the reason for the delay. If you changed addresses after you applied for OPT and did not notify USCIS, your EAD card was probably returned as undeliverable. Government mail is not forwarded, so it is important to update your address with USCIS immediately if you move while your OPT application is pending.
Q: My prospective employer has questions about hiring international students. Can the IOCP office help? Prospective employers may contact the IOCP office if they have general questions about hiring international students, but we cannot answer specific questions about your situation unless you authorize us to do so by completing an information release waiver. Another resource with basic information about hiring international students is available on the NAFSA: Association of International Educators website.
Q: Can I travel during OPT? Please review the Travel page of our website for information about traveling during OPT.
Q: Can I take classes while on OPT? You may take part-time classes while on OPT, but if you start a full-time degree-seeking program you will need to obtain a new I-20. Transferring your SEVIS record to a new degree program will terminate any unused period of OPT.
Q: Am I eligible for Hamline insurance while I am on OPT? You must be enrolled in at least 4 credits to be eligible for Hamline insurance. However, we strongly recommend that ALL students maintain insurance while on OPT. For important information about health insurance in the US, please refer to the Health Insurance page of our website.
Q: Can I have more than one employer? Yes, you may have more than one employer but all jobs must be related to your degree. Remember to report any change in employment to the IOCP office.
Q: If I complete a new degree can I do OPT again? Students are eligible for OPT only once per degree level. You will be eligible for another year of OPT only if you pursue a higher degree level (for example, if you complete OPT for a Bachelor’s degree, you would be eligible for OPT again if you complete a Master’s degree).
Q: I am currently on OPT and want to come back to Hamline for another degree. Can I continue my employment with CPT? There is no guarantee that your employment will qualify for CPT for your new degree program. CPT is case-specific and must fulfill an academic objective. Remember that as a student visa holder, employment is secondary to your primary purpose of study. All practical training must therefore be an integral part of the academic program you are pursuing. Please see the CPT page of our website for more information.
Q: What services can I receive from the IOCP office while I am on OPT? The IOCP office should still be your point of contact for questions related to your immigration status or any other related issues while on OPT. You can still request letters or schedule an appointment with our office, or take advantage of other services provided by IOCP. We encourage you to keep in contact with the Hamline community and also consider participating in Alumni events.
Q: How can I end my OPT early and return home? Please report your flight information to the IOCP office and specifically state that you would like to return home and end your OPT early. On the day you depart, this information will be updated in your SEVIS record. If you have other questions about this, schedule an appointment or just contact our office. We encourage you to keep in contact with the Hamline community and also consider participating in Alumni events.
Q: What happens at the end of OPT? Students receive a 60-day grace period following completion of OPT. Employment is not permitted during this time. Before the end of the 60-day grace period you must do one of the following:
Students who completed a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math degree should review the 17-Month Stem Extension of OPT application to determine whether you are eligible.
Q: My employer wants to file an H1-B visa on my behalf. What do I need to know if I am on OPT? If you change status during OPT, please provide a copy of the change of status approval notice to the IOCP office so we can update your SEVIS record. If you have a pending H1-B application that is expected to begin on October 1, and if you are engaged in OPT at the time the H1-B petition is filed, you may be eligible for an automatic extension of OPT. This is referred to as the “cap-gap extension.” In order for work authorization to be extended, the H1-B application must be filed by a cap-subject employer before your OPT ends, with a requested start date of October 1. If the H1-B application is filed during your 60-day grace period but after OPT ends, your F-1 status (but not work authorization) may be extended. You may contact the IOCP office and/or refer to the USCIS website for more information about the cap-gap extension.
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