Optional Practical Training – (OPT)

Definitions:

OPT – Temporary employment for practical training in the U.S. related to the student’s major area of study.

EAD – Off Campus Employment Authorization Document

Frequently Asked Questions:

Before you apply, you must:

  • Be in current F-1 status
  • Have at least one academic year of F-1 status (2 semesters, summer not included)
  • Be ready to graduate
  • Have used less than 12 months total of CPT during your degree.

Where do I apply? Submit all your forms to the Immigration Specialist in the Center for International Education (CIE). The CIE will mail completed applications to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in Dallas.

When should I apply?

  • Applications may be submitted up to 90 days before your program completion date.
  • Applications must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after the completion date of your program requirements. Submitting your application after this date will not give you more time with OPT, it will actually reduce the amount of time you can work. If you leave and return to the U.S. during the 60 grace period after graduation – you are out of student status and are not eligible to apply for OPT.

How much does it cost to apply? The current application fee is $380. The check should be made out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Money orders are also accepted – but it is easier to have a record of payment if a check is used. The application fee is subject to change, so please check with the CIE when completing your application for the correct amount.

How long does it take to hear a decision? The average amount of time is 90 days. You may check the status of your application on-line at www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis. You will need your receipt number to request any information.

How long is the OPT permit valid? 12 months. The last date of legal employment will be the date of expiration on EAD card.

Can I renew the OPT work permit? Only students in a STEM major approved by DHS are eligible for an extension. Please see the OPT Extension Information available at the CIE.

Can I stay in the U.S. after my OPT expires? Students completing their OPT have a 60 day grace period to remain in the U.S. During this time, students may prepare for departure from the U.S. , or transfer to another university for a new degree program. You must receive an I-20 for your new program within the 60 day period and begin classes within 5 months. You are not allowed to work during the 60 day grace period.

Do I need to have an official job offer before applying? No, however, work must be in the field of the degree received. It is a good idea to be actively looking for employment so you are able to begin working once you do receive your EAD.

May I begin working if I receive a job offer before receiving my EAD? No. Working without the proper authorization is a serious violation of nonimmigrant status. It is the student’s responsibility to follow all USCIS regulations for F-1 status and employment.

What if I cannot find a job? Students with OPT cannot accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment. This would risk losing your OPT authorization. Talk to the Immigration Specialist to discuss various options to avoid meeting this deadline.

How many hours can I work? Upon completion of your program you may work full time. You must work at least 20 or more hours per week.

If I was granted a work permit previously, can I still apply for OPT? Yes. If you were approved to work off campus by applying for Economic Necessity, you can still work full time with OPT. If you worked full time for 12 months or more with Curricular Practical Training, you are not eligible to apply for OPT.

Can I continue to work on campus? On campus employment eligibility ends on the date of graduation; however if you are offered an on campus job in your major after graduation, you may work on campus once you receive your EAD.

May I travel outside the U.S. while my OPT application is processing? It is advisable not to travel during the period after graduation and before you receive your EAD card, since you might not be permitted to reenter the US. Regulations require an EAD card, a job offer and a signed I-20 for re-entry to the US while on OPT status. If it is necessary to travel while your OPT is pending, please make an appointment with the Immigration Specialist.

If I have OPT and decide to apply to another school, may I keep working with OPT? Students on OPT may enroll in school part time without disrupting their work permission. If you desire to enroll full time in a new educational program, you must request a SEVIS transfer from ACU to your new school. You can continue working on OPT until the SEVIS release date for the transfer. OPT is automatically canceled in SEVIS with registration in the new school or a new level of education. Speak with the Immigration Specialist for more information or to initiate a transfer.

I graduated and my visa will expire before I hear a decision from USCIS for my OPT. I am not traveling outside the U.S. Am I out of status? No. As long as you are still in the U.S. and your I-20 is current. If you happen to be denied the work authorization and you have already graduated, you have 60 days from your graduation date to leave the U.S. or apply with a school to continue your studies in the U.S.

If I was not able to graduate by the expected date and I already applied for OPT – what happens? Because this situation is complex, students who may not graduate should carefully consider the timing of an OPT application. If you have already applied for OPT and do not graduate, request an extension of stay immediately – prior to the graduation date. Otherwise, you may lose your F1 student status and not be able to work on OPT at all. If the EAD has not already been processed, it may be possible to cancel your OPT application. Please meet with the Immigration Specialist to discuss your options.

Do I need to communicate with the CIE at ACU after graduating and receiving my OPT? Yes. The Department of Homeland Security has stated that F-1 students on OPT must let the Designated School Official (DSO) at their university know their current address, contact information and employer information. Students must also report any changes within 10 days of the change during the whole OPT period.

What could cause my OPT to be terminated?

  1. Failing to comply with F-1 regulations. (Such as not informing your International Office with your current address).
  2. Transferring to another school to start another program of study
  3. Not informing the CIE with updated information.
  4. Accumulating more than 90 days of unemployment.
  5. Engaging in other illegal activity.

To Report Address Changes:

  • Send address and employer changes to: Lucy.Dawson@acu.edu
  • Report changes to USCIS while your application is pending by going to their website: www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis
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