– Optional Practical Training is a 12 month optional opportunity for F-1 students to gain practical experience directly related to their field of study – 12 months of OPT is offered per higher degree level completion – Unlike CPT, an application packet must be prepared and sent to USCIS for approval – There are two types of OPT: Pre- Completion and Post- Completion Pre- Completion OPT Post- Completion OPT • Used before program completion and is typically part -time • If part- time deducted at a rate of 50% • Only used after program of study is completed • Full -time only Pre- Completion OPT • Advantages • May work full- time (restrictions apply) • Does not have an unemployment restriction • Possible program extension • Disadvantages • May not apply for the STEM Extension for a period of precompletion OPT • Would NOT be eligible for CapGap Extension of OPT Post- Completion OPT • • • • Advantages Always may work full- time Eligible for Cap- Gap Extension May Apply for the 17th month STEM Extension if in STEM field • Disadvantages • Subject to unemployment limit • Not able to receive a program extension Eligibility • Must have completed one full academic year, maintained full time status throughout program, and be in valid F-1 status and looking for a job directly related to your academic program • Must not have completed 12 months of full time CPT • Must not have completed a previous OPT at the same degree level. • Must apply within 60 days of completing your program, but no earlier than 90 days of your program end date • Standard Post-Completion OPT, F-1 students must NOT accrue more than 90 days of unemployment after their start date • Employment does NOT have to be paid, but must be at least 20 hours per week to be considered valid For every employment opportunity during your OPT you must: • Work at least 20 hours a week • Be in a job that is DIRECTLY related to your degree program. • Inform CIE of any changes while on your OPT including employment and personal information updates using the OPT Update Form OPT/ STEM Update Form • Keep accurate records of all employment in preparation for DHS requests • - Including: Letters from all employers stating job title, duration, job duties and relevance to degree, and employer location • - Paystubs or bank statements showing payments from employer when applicable Degree Completion: Refers to the day you complete all your degree requirements, Not the Graduation Ceremony - Doctoral/ thesis students: This could be your dissertation/ thesis submission date - Latest date possible is the last date of the semester for most students - Note: You may NOT work on-campus after degree- completion while your OPT is in process - Employment directly related to major of study: USCIS “recommends” you maintain all employment proof to show how it pertains your coursework and the employer details • 90 Days prior to Program End Date OPT applications may be submitted but must NOT have a start date later than 60 days after the program completion end date • Normal processing time is 2 ½ to 3 months once submitted so plan early • Standard 12 months of OPT if granted but again must not accrue 90 days on unemployment once your start date begins • For STEM eligible students, you may apply up to 120 days prior to your 12 month OPT end date but no later than 30 days prior to the OPT end date • Those who participate in OPT AND STEM may NOT accrue more than 120 Days of unemployment • You can apply up to 90 days prior to your completion day but start date must be NO later than 60 days after completion • For regular 12 month OPT you will need: • OPT Application Packet with all forms completed prior to your appointment • Note Adviser recommendation form must be filled out by your advisor or department chair • 380.00 check or money order made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security • Two Passport Style Photos (brand new and recent) • Copy of I-94 front and back • Copy of Passport I.D. pages including expiration date • Copy of Visa • All previous I-20s Note: It is important and recommended to keep ALL your I20s together from your immigration history with the most recent on top • Schedule an appointment with an adviser by contacting our front desk • Once your application is received a receipt will be sent to our office with a number for you to keep track of your OPT request Once, your request has been approved your card will be mailed to us and we will forward it to you. Make sure to keep your address updated! • Know when you want your OPT to begin -It is imperative you have a clear idea of when you want your start to be so you can apply early enough (remember it can take up to 3 months) and be aware that changing the date once submitted is not very feasible • Cancellation of OPT : - Must be submitted prior to the approval and issuance of your EAD card - Be aware there will be no refund if you cancel • You can change employers during OPT but again KEEP RECORDS Of ALL EMPLOYERS • Eligibility Requirements: • Must Be in Standard Post- Completion OPT • Must have currently completed a degree in an Approved STEM Field • List of STEM Eligible Fields (If you are unsure if your major falls under the extensions contact us ASAP) • Must have a E-Verify employer • Must have a paid employment at least 20 hours a week • Must not accrue more than 120 days of unemployment including unemployed days during initial 12 month OPT • You are able to change employers but EACH employer MUST be E-Verified • Cannot travel while STEM Extension is pending • Requires an online validation report every 6 months • Note: You are required to report any changes to CIE within ten days regardless if on an OPT or STEM • • • • • • • • • • • Go online and complete the 17 month Stem Packet STEM Application Packet Send it to CIE for review and issuance of new I-20 Mail to USCIS for approval Note again: You may submit the packet up to 120 days prior to your current OPT end date but no more than 30 days from your OPT completion For your STEM packet you will need: Two new passport photos 380 dollar check or money order made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Copy of Passport, Visa, I-94 (front and back) , EAD Card (front and back) Letters from previous employers and paystubs or bank statements showing paid employment Diploma or Academic Transcripts (if applicable) “Recommended Travel” -Before the expiration of your I-20 -After I-20 expiration with receipt notice (proceed with caution) -With OPT Approval and EAD card along with a letter from your employer Note: While on your OPT and 17 month extension, you are on F-1 visa status and require a signature from our office, a valid visa and passport NOT RECOMMENDED TRAVEL - The period between your I-2O expiration and before your OPT Receipt Notice - Anytime you do not have an employer - While your case is pending with USCIS • You are still an F-1 student while on OPT • Hence you MUST: • Notify our office of any address, contact or employer information by completing the OPT Update Form within ten days of information changing • OPT/ STEM Update Form • Have your I-20 signed by us before traveling outside the US • Note: 17 month extension are required to complete the OPT Update form every 6 month to maintain status even if an H-1B is in process Within 60 days after completing your OPT you have three options: - Depart the U.S. Apply for a change of status within the U.S. Transfer to another institution to begin a new program or begin another F-1 program at SIU Note: You cannot work during the grace period • Eligible students from post- completion OPT may receive a CapGap extension to give them duration of status if their OPT ends before Oct 1 and the H-1B is filed in a timely matter. The Cap Gap will remain in effect till a denial, or approval is made • Note: CIE can only advise F-1 students including Cap- Gap extensions • If you require more information on matters pertaining to your H1B you must consult with your employer or an immigration attorney • For more information on the process and issuance of your CapGap I-20 request, please check out the link below: • Cap- Gap Information • For any F-2 dependents you must make sure to request an I-20 for them when applying and after being approved for any of your employment • Be aware that F-2 dependents are not allowed to work on or off campus under any circumstances! • May also not enroll in a full course of study unless a change of status has been submitted and approved by USCIS • Office Hours: Monday- Friday 8:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.to 4:30 p.m. • Email us: [email protected] • Call us: Telephone: (618) 453-5774 • We are always happy to help!