1 APPLYING FOR OPT Being prepared to submit your application
2 WHAT IS OPT? OPT, or Optional Practical Training, is a one year work authorization that is available for F-1 students. OPT can be used before or after you graduate, though most students use it for employment after graduation. Pre- Completion OPT is part-time. Post-Completion OPT is fulltime. Your OPT employment must be in your field of study. You can work anywhere in the US while on OPT. OPT can be extended for an additional 17 months if you graduate with a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM). However, your employer must also be enrolled in the government s E-Verify program.
3 AM I ELIGIBLE FOR OPT? To be eligible for OPT you must meet all of the following requirements: You must be in valid F-1 status. You must have a valid passport. You must have been enrolled full-time for a full academic year before applying for OPT. You must be registered for courses that require on-campus presence in the semester that you apply for OPT, even if you plan to graduate in the summer. If you plan to graduate in the summer you must be registered for credits that require on-campus presence in the summer. There is no exception to this requirement. Employment while on OPT must be directly related to your field of study. The maximum initial amount of OPT is 12 months. You have not used more than 12 months of full-time CPT (Curricular Practical Training) You have not previously had 12 months of OPT at your current academic level.
4 SO HOW DO I APPLY FOR OPT? PLAN AHEAD!! An OPT application is very time sensitive in many different ways! Your application for OPT will have to go to United States Citizenship Immigration Service (USCIS) for processing. You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. USCIS usually takes 90 days to process your OPT application, but it can take longer. You cannot send your OPT application to USCIS more than 90 days before your graduation date. You must indicate your preferred start date for your OPT. You cannot change the requested OPT dates once you have submitted the OPT application. Your OPT start date must be within your 60 day grace period (between your graduation date and the next 60 days). During your 12 months of authorized OPT, you can have no more that 90 days of unemployment. Your OPT application must be received within 30 days of the date on the new I-20 that has the OPT recommendation on the third page. CONFUSED?
5 OPT TIMELINE Trying to understand all the dates involved in the OPT application process is confusing. Here s what you need to know if you are applying for OPT in Summer The earliest date you can apply for OPT: 9/20/2013 The program end date for your I-20 will be: 12/19/2013 Your OPT start date must be between : 12/20/2013 until 2/17/2014
6 OPT TIME LINE Remember! It generally takes USCIS more than 90 days to process an application. Your application could be approved before 90 days or after a 90 day period; ISSS has no way of knowing when your application will be approved. Once your OPT starts, remember you cannot have more than 90 days of unemployment.
7 OPT TIMELINE Let s look at a picture representation of your OPT application this Summer semester Earliest Application Can Be Sent 9/20/2013 End of Fall 12/19/2013 Earliest OPT start date 12/20/2013 Latest OPT start date 2/17/ days 60 days
8 BUILDING YOUR OPT APPLICATION ISSS needs the following items in order to process your OPT request. We will go through each item in a moment. 1. The completed ISSS OPT Application Form 2. The completed I-765 form 3. A check or money order for $380, made payable to the US Department of Homeland Security 4. 2 new US style passport photos 5. Copies of the following: Passport, US Visa, and I-94 card (front and back)
9 #1 ISSS OPT APPLICATION FORM You must complete the top portion of the form. Your academic advisor must complete the bottom portion. (Exception: Arts & Science undergrad advisors do not need to sign) If you are a graduate student with thesis/dissertation option, please make sure your advisor completes all three of the blanks.
10 #1 ISSS OPT APPLICATION FORM BUT WAIT! What should I put as my start date? Well, let s explore your options..
11 #1 ISSS OPT APPLICATION FORM When picking your start date, there are many things to consider: ISSS cannot pick your start date for you. Do you have a job offer? Do you want a break between school and starting work? How long will it take you to find a job? If only we could see the future!!
12 #1 ISSS OPT APPLICATION FORM Let s go back to our timeline Earliest OPT start date 12/20/2013 Latest OPT start date 2/17/2014? You can chose any date between12/20/2013 and 2/17/2014. If you know that you have a job waiting for you after graduation, you can use the job offer start date. If you do not have any job opportunities yet, and might need more time to look for employment, pick a date closer to 2/17/2014 (or however long you think you need to secure a job offer).
13 #1 ISSS OPT APPLICATION FORM But wait! There s more you should know! Earliest OPT start date 12/20/2013 Latest OPT start date 2/17/2014 #1? #3? #2? 1. If you chose 12/20/2013 as your start date and you are applying less than 90 days before 12/20/2013, you might not get your OPT approved in time to start work. Plan Ahead! 2. If you chose 2/17/2014 as your start date and you get a job offer to start on 1/15/2014, you cannot start work until the start date printed on your EAD card. You cannot change the requested start date once you send your application. 3. If you chose 1/15/2014 as your start date and you do not have a job on that date, you start accruing unemployment time, if the OPT has already been approved and it s the start date on your EAD card.
14 #1 ISSS OPT APPLICATION FORM Still can t decide on a start date? That s understandable. Think over the information in the previous slides. You must decide what start date is best for you! Remember, you cannot change the OPT dates after you have submitted the application.
15 #2 I-765 FORM The I-765 form is available on the USCIS website We highly recommend that you complete this form online so it is readable at USCIS Do not submit the form online, just fill it out and print the completed form
16 Here are some hints on filling out this form You must check this box The name you put on line one MUST match your passport. Family name is first in all CAPS. ISSS recommends that you use our office address ISSS, UCB 123 Boulder, CO Make sure that your country of citizenship and place of birth are correct #2 I-765 FORM
17 #2 I-765 FORM Your birth date must be in MM/DD/YYYY order Do NOT include your social security number! Put your I-94 number here Have you applied for an EAD card before? If yes complete this box and the next 2 lines
18 #2 I-765 FORM Lines 12, 13, and 14 involve information from your I-94 card Number 16 should look like this: (C)(3)(B) This will be different if you are applying for a different work authorization. Leave number 17 blank, this is reserved for a STEM extension Sign the I-765 between these two lines
19 #3 A CHECK OR MONEY ORDER FOR USCIS In order for USCIS to process your form you must pay the I-765 processing fee. This fee is currently $380 US Dollars You can use a personal check to pay this fee. If you don t have a US checking account you can purchase a money order from a bank or a local grocery store. Make the check or money order payable to US Department of Homeland Security. Make sure you sign and date your check, but do not endorse the back of the check. Make sure you have sufficient funds in your account.
20 #4 TWO NEW PASSPORT PHOTOS With your I-765 form, USCIS requires that you provide 2 new passport photos, done in the US style. You can get passport photos at the Buff One Card Office or any photo retailer (Kinko s, Rite Aid, Costco) Do not use old photos you may have gotten in your home country. Your application will be returned! Carefully, print your name on the back of each photo in case your photos are separated from your application.
21 #5 COPIES OF YOUR PASSPORT, VISA AND I-94 When processing your application, USCIS will need to see your immigration documents. You must provide them with current copies of the following documents: Passport bio page and any extensions (color copy preferred). Your current US visa (color copy preferred). Both sides of your I-94 card or your electronic I-94 record from
22 READY? NOW WHAT? Bring all of your OPT application materials to ISSS during advising hours. An advisor will review your paperwork. If everything is complete, the advisor will submit your OPT request to SEVIS. The advisor will also shorten your I-20 to reflect your graduation date. The advisor will generate a new I-20 for you reflecting the ISSS advisor s OPT recommendation on page 3. An advisor will also print a list of any CPT authorizations on your SEVIS record.
23 ISSS PROCESS The next business day, an advisor will contact you by to come in and sign your new I-20. A copy of your new I-20 will be included in your OPT application. You will get to keep the original I-20. An ISSS advisor will give you the mailing information so you can send your packet to USCIS.
24 YOU ARE DONE! NOW WHAT HAPPENS? USCIS will issue you a Receipt Notice once they get your application and cash your check or money order. The Receipt Notice (or I-797) will be sent to ISSS. If you used the ISSS address, you will receive an from ISSS to pick up your Receipt Notice at our front desk if you used the ISSS address. The Receipt Notice contains a tracking number that usually begins with LIN. You can use this number to track the status of your application at When your OPT is approved, USCIS will make you an EAD card (Employment Authorization Document or OPT card). They will mail this card to ISSS. As soon as this card arrives at ISSS, you will receive an to pick up your card. Remember, it can take over 90 days to get this card in the mail.
25 THINGS TO REMEMBER You cannot start your OPT employment until you receive your EAD card and it is within the validity dates of your card. You cannot work on or off campus after your new program end date in part 5 of your new I-20. For students graduating this Fall the program end date is 12/19/2013. You can only start working if you have your OPT card and your OPT period has started. While on OPT you are still an F-1 student you must report to CU Boulder ISSS: Any change in address to CU Boulder ISSS within 10 days of moving. Your place of employment and address. Any change of your student status. If you start a new academic program while on OPT, the OPT is automatically cancelled. There is no way to get that time back if there was time remaining on it. If you transfer your F-1 program to another institution, you OPT ends on the date of transfer.
26 LET S TALK ABOUT UNEMPLOYMENT USCIS and Department of Homeland Security have declared that students on OPT are allowed only 90 days of unemployment throughout the entire 12 months of OPT authorization. This means that if you are unable to find a job within 90 days, you are considered out of status. If you consult an ISSS advisor on the 85 th day of your OPT unemployment, we will recommend that you leave the US immediately or apply to change your status to something else. If it takes you 60 days to find a job at the beginning of your OPT, then you only have 30 days of unemployment left for the rest of your OPT. ISSS does not terminate your SEVIS record at the end of 90 days, but the Department of Homeland Security will always know if you accrued more than 90 days of unemployment. This could be a problem in the future.
27 SO HOW DO I STOP THE 90 DAYS OF UNEMPLOYMENT? To make sure that your record does not show more than 90 days of unemployment you must: CONTACT ISSS ABOUT YOUR EMPLOYMENT START AND END DATES! Only ISSS can update your SEVIS record to show that you are not unemployed. You can contact ISSS by at OPT unemployment does not begin to accrue until your OPT start date has arrived.
28 TYPES OF EMPLOYMENT ON OPT While you are on OPT, you can participate in many kinds of employment as long as it is in your field of study. Some examples are: Full-time position at a company Part-time employment (at least 20 hours a week) Contract work Self employment Multiple jobs are okay, as long as they are in your field of study You can work over 40 hours a week You can accept a volunteer position in your field, as long as it is truly a volunteer job and not a job that would normally be paid. You should not work for free. This would violate US Labor Laws. If you are unsure if you can accept a certain type of employment contact ISSS for guidance.
29 CAN I TRAVEL WHILE ON OPT? YES! You may travel outside of the US while you are on OPT. You must carry the following items with you: Your I-20 signed for travel within the last 6 months Your EAD card Your valid passport Your valid F-1 visa Proof of your employment or a job offer letter
30 OTHER TRAVEL CONSIDERATIONS If you do not have a job offer or are not employed, ISSS recommends that you do not travel outside of the US. It is possible that you will not be allowed back into the US. If your visa will have expired while on OPT, you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa to return to the US. The OPT EAD card is not a visa. If you are gone from the US for more than 5 months while on OPT, even if you have a job offer, your absence will not be considered temporary and you may be denied entry to the US. Do not leave the US if you have a change of status pending with USCIS. Your application will be considered abandoned if you leave the US while it is pending.
31 CAN YOU GET AN EXTENSION? As mentioned before, students who have received a degree in the following areas of study, may be eligible for an extension of their OPT: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) In order to qualify for the 17 month STEM extension, you must be employed by an employer that participates in the everify system. You should contact ISSS about 3-4 months before your current OPT expires to start the process to apply for a STEM extension. If your employer has sponsored you for an H-1B work visa, and your OPT will end before the October 1 H-1B start date, you may be eligible for an extension of your OPT, regardless of your field of study. Contact ISSS for more details.
32 NEED HELP? OPT can be a complicated process. You can always contact ISSS for more help. Come to see us during walk-in hours or us at And ISSS would like to congratulate you on completing your studies at CU Boulder! We wish you much success!