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Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined as “temporary employment for practical training, directly related to a student’s major area of study”.  The maximum amount of time granted to work on OPT is 12 months per degree level plus a possible 24 month extension for those who qualify (see 24 Month STEM Extension). OPT authorization must be obtained from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

You can use OPT before and after completion of your RIT degree in the following circumstances:

Pre-completion

  • During the academic year while coursework is being taken, part-time (20 hours per week or less) only.
  • During the annual vacation period - full or part-time.


Post-completion

  • After completion of all degree requirements, excluding thesis or project - full or part-time.
  • After completion of all degree requirements - full time only.
OPT Eligibility

To be eligible for OPT, students must have:

  1. Maintained their F-1 student status for at least one academic year.
  2. Completed all required coursework for their degree (excluding a thesis, dissertation, or equivelent requirement)
  3. Completed less than 365 days of full-time curricular practical training (CPT)
  4. Applied within 60 days of completing their program (ISS recommends 90 days prior to program end date)
  5. Not had previous OPT authorization for the same degree level
OPT Application Timeline Considerations

 
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Students may apply up to 90 days before their program end date (graduation date).  Since OPT must be obtained from USCIS, and can take a full three months (or more) to secure, students are encouraged to plan ahead and file applications timely. If an OPT application is received by USCIS more than 60 days after the program completion date, the student will not be eligible for OPT.

Choosing your OPT Start Date
Your OPT start date must be within the 60 day window after your I-20 completion date.

Completion of OPT
If you change to another status, such as another non-immigrant status like H-1B, your OPT authorization ends. In addition, if you begin studies as a full-time student in another degree program, your OPT is terminated.

Program Extensions
Once you apply for post completion Optional Practical Training, you are no longer eligible for a program extension for your current degree program. It is particularly important for graduate students to realize that after completing Optional Practical Training their I-20 may not be extended for the purpose of returning to RIT to complete a thesis.

How to Apply for OPT (UPDATED PROCEDURE)

Students who wish to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) must complete a two-part application process:

  1. Request an updated I-20 recommending Optional Practical Training from International Student Services. The OPT I-20 is requested by submitting the OPT REQUEST FORM

  2. Once students have received the OPT I-20 they mail the following required application materials to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the following order:

    PLEASE NOTE: We strongly recommend that you keep a copy of your complete OPT application for your records.

     

Payment to the Department of Homeland Security.  Please check the current filing fee at https://www.uscis.gov/forms/our-fees You may submit a bank check, personal check, or money order with the correct fee.

The following example of a correctly written check is provided as a guide:


(DO NOT SIGN THE BACK OF THE CHECK)

Two photos of you. Please read the following SPECIFICATIONS
It is very important to include current photos that have not been previously used for your passport and/or visa.
You must write your name and I-94 number on the back of the pictures in pen. Please be careful that the ink doesn't smear.
The following businesses are able to provide the correct photographs:
1. Walmart Super Center – 1200 Marketplace Drive, 585-292-6000
2. CVS Pharmacy – 1431 Mt. Hope Ave, 585-271-5031
3. Clix – 1425 Jefferson Road, 585-292-1660
4. Rowe Photo - 1755 East Avenue (this location only), 585-442-3140

Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance available online at https://www.uscis.gov/forms

Completed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This form should be completed online and printed rather than filled out by hand. It is available online at https://www.uscis.gov/forms

Please follow this example of a completed Form I-765
NOTE: Be sure to open the form in Adobe; do not try to fill in the form within your web browser.


Please sign Form I-765 with blue ink

Your U.S. Mailing Address - Part 2, 5.a. - 5.e.
You must provide your U.S. physical address in this section. The OPT receipt, Approval Notice, and Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be mailed to this address. Please note that the address you list must match your address in SEVIS. Your address in the RIT SIS system is the address listed in SEVIS. If your SIS address is not correct, please correct it before applying for OPT.
 
Information About Your Eligibility Category - Part 2, 27
you will mark either:
(c)(3)(A) for pre-completion OPT, or
(c)(3)(B) for post-completion OPT.
 
A photo copy of the new SEVIS OPT I-20 issued by an ISS staff member with the recommendation for OPT on page 2. This I-20 must have your signature on it.

Photocopies of all previous I-20s.
Please make single sided copies and do not staple.

A print out of your I-94 number from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home or a copy of both sides of your I-94 card, if you have one.

Photocopies of the picture page of your passport, the page with the visa, and the page with dates of extension of your passport if applicable.


Send all documents by certified mail with a return receipt, so that you have a tracking number and proof that USCIS received your application. You can also use a courier service like FedEx or UPS.
 

If your return address on the I-765 is in New York State, send all documents to the following address:

For U.S. Postal Service
USCIS

PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
 

For Express Mail and Courier (FedEx, UPS, etc.)
USCIS

Attn: NFB AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121
Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067 

If your return address on the I-765 is not in New York State, you may need to send your I-76 to a different address. Find out more.

Reporting Requirements While on OPT

Please visit our OPT Reporting page for details on OPT reporting requirements and procedures.

Types of OPT Employment

Paid employment:
A student may work full time or part time (at least 20 hours per week).

Multiple employers:
A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the degree program.

Short-term multiple employers:
Often photographers and other types of artists work for multiple short term employers. These student should maintain a list of all employers and the dates of their employment.

Work for hire:
Students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the length of the contract and the name and address of the contracting company. Please note this type of employment is NOT allowed on STEM.

Self-employed business owner:
Students on OPT may start a business, but the work must be full time. The student must have the proper business licenses and the business must be directly related to the student’s degree program. Please note this type of employment is NOT allowed on STEM.

Unpaid employment:
Students may work as interns or volunteers as long as they work at least 20 hours per week. Please note this type of employment is NOT allowed on STEM.

Traveling Abroad While on OPT

ISS does not recommend travel outside the U.S. while your OPT application is pending. After you graduate you will NOT be allowed to re-enter the U.S. without your OPT card in addition to your valid passport, current F-1 visa stamp, I-20 signed within the past six months, and a job offer. Before you graduate, you will be able to return to the U.S. without your OPT card, but ISS recommends carrying proof of your registration (upon request the Registrar's Office will issue you a document called an Official Verification of Enrollment). If you need to travel before receiving your EAD card, please talk with an ISS advisor before leaving the U.S.

Insurance While on OPT

Please note that once you stop enrolling at RIT, you are no longer automatically enrolled in the Student Accident and Sickness Insurance Program. Unless you have an employer who will enroll you in their plan, we recommend that you purchase coverage.

While ISS does not endorse any particular health insurance plan, we are aware of the following providers that have F-1 OPT health insurance options. These companies are members of our professional organization, NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

Frequently Asked OPT Questions

How long does it take to get OPT authorization and when should I apply?
Authorization for OPT is granted by USCIS and takes at least three months to obtain. Therefore it is very important to apply for authorization well in advance of the date you wish to start working.

If I graduate with a bachelor’s degree, work on OPT for 12 months, and then begin a new degree program, am I eligible for another year of OPT?
You are eligible for another year of OPT if you begin a higher level degree. This means you could have a year of OPT after a bachelor’s degree and another year after a Master’s degree. You may not apply for another year of OPT if you do a second Bachelor’s degree.

Do I need to have a job to apply for OPT?
You do not need to have a job offer before applying for OPT. Do I need to have a job while I am on OPT? Yes. The new regulation requires that you do have employment while on OPT. You are required to notify ISS if you do not have a job, and you are only allowed to have a total of 90 days of unemployment during your 12 months of OPT. Please update our office by completing the online form available at http://www.rit.edu/studentaffairs/iss/immigration-visas/opt-reporting

Can I begin working before I receive the EAD (Optional Practical Training card)?
You may NOT begin working before you receive your EAD from USCIS. Working before your OPT has been authorized constitutes illegal employment that will jeopardize your legal status in the U.S.

Will I have to pay U.S. taxes for income earned while on practical training?
In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for fewer than five calendar years are exempt from social security (FICA) and Medicare taxes. This is something you should discuss with your employer because many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax law. You will need to pay all other taxes that may apply: federal, state, and local. You should check to see if your country has a tax treaty with the U.S. allowing students to exclude a limited amount of earned income from federal taxation.

After I’ve applied for OPT can I travel outside the U.S. while I wait for the card to arrive?
After you graduate you will NOT be allowed to re-enter the U.S. without your OPT card in addition to your valid passport, current F-1 visa stamp and the I-20 signed within the past six months. Before you graduate, you should be able to return to the U.S without your OPT card as long as it is still long in advance of your graduation. If you need to travel before receiving your EAD card, please talk with an ISS advisor before leaving the U.S.

What should I take into consideration when choosing a start date for my OPT?
You are allowed to pick a start date any time within the 60 days following the completion of all of your degree requirements. When choosing your start date, the most important things to think about are:

  • What is the earliest date you might want to start working? What if you are offered a position with a company that wants you to start as soon as you complete your degree?
  • If you want the latest possible date to start working (you are not going to travel and you are not going to start working), the latest day is 60 days after you complete your degree requirements.
  • You may not change your OPT dates after your application is sent to USCIS.
     

Can I change my job while I’m on OPT?
Yes, you may work for more than one employer and /or change your employers during the period of authorized optional practical training provided that each position is directly related to your field of study and commensurate with your educational level.

H1B Cap Gap Extension of OPT

H-1B is visa status that allows students to work fulltime.  If a student’s employer files for an H-1B and is approved, the student will change their status from F-1 to H-1B on October 1.  F-1 students whose OPT expires before October 1st (of any year) and who have an H-1B application pending with USCIS may be eligible for a Cap-Gap Extension.   If the H-1B petition is pending and OPT expires prior to June 1, students should contact ISS to request a temporary extension.  ISS will require a copy of the pending H-1B receipt notice or proof of timely filing.  If documentation is accurate, ISS can extend OPT until June 1.  If the H-1B petition has been approved and the OPT expires prior to Oct 1, students should contact ISS to request a new I-20 with a Cap-Gap Extension.  ISS will require a copy of the H-1B approval notice.  Cap-Gap Extensions that are not automatically added by USCIS can be manually added by an ISS Advisor.

For more general information about H-1B or Cap-Gap Extensions, students should contact International Student Services.  For more extensive information, students should contact their employer’s immigration attorney.

Replacing an EAD (OPT Card)

If your EAD is Lost Stolen or Destroyed
If your EAD is lost, stolen or destroyed, you may request a replacement EAD by filing a new Form I-765, filing fee, and documents required for a new OPT application. Please refer to How to Apply for OPT in the F-1 Employment section of the ISS website.  If you did not receive an EAD that USCIS mailed, you can submit an inquiry on non-delivery of a card.

If Your EAD Contains Incorrect Information
If your EAD contains incorrect information that is not due to a USCIS error, you must submit:

  • A new Form I-765
  • The filing fee
  • Any documents specified in the form instructions, and
  • The card containing the error

If your EAD contains incorrect information because of a USCIS error, the Service Center will make the appropriate correction at no cost to you. In this case, you will do not need to submit a new Form I-765 and filing fee. Instead, you will submit:

  • The original card containing the error
  • A detailed explanation of the error, and
  • Supporting documentation on the correct information

An ISS advisor will be able to help you in submitting a request for a corrected EAD that is required due to a USCIS error.

Requests for corrected EADs must be submitted to the Service Center that approved your Optional Practical Training.

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