Optional Practical Training
F-1 students who have been enrolled on a full-time basis for a minimum of one academic year and whose proposed OPT employment will be directly in their field of study may be eligible. If the last semester of study is spent outside the United States, F-1 students may not qualify for OPT.
The types of work that are valid as OPT employment include:
- Regular paid employment for at least 20 hours per week. (You may work for multiple employers, as long as it is directly related to your program of study).
- Short-term multiple employments, such as in the music and art field.
- Work-for-hire or services provided by contractual relationships.
- Self-employed business owner. (You must work full time and show evidence of business licenses.)
- Employment through an agency.
- Volunteer or unpaid internship for at least 20 hours a week. This would be an option for someone who doesn't meet the employment requirements.
- Qualified students enrolled in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines may be allowed a 24-month STEM extension. However, the employment must be paid and the employer must be E-verified.
Please be aware that you only have a 10-day exception period between the end of one job and the beginning of the next one.
When should you apply for OPT?
Qualified students can apply for pre-completion OPT up to 120 days prior to their desired employment start date.
Post-completion OPT can be applied for up to 90 days prior to the end of degree completion and up to 60 days following degree completion. This means that the start date you request must fall between your graduation date and no later than 60 days after. You do not have to have a job starting exactly on that date, but be aware that the dates you select will be noted on your OPT card and will count for the 12-month employment term.
•Step 1: Attend a mandatory OPT workshop with ISS
•Step 2 Pick up an OPT handout in the ISS office or download below.
•Step 3: Complete forms, get pictures, make copies of your documents
•Step 4: Schedule an OPT intake appointment with an ISS advisor (call 703-526-6922 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
•Step 5: Mail your OPT application to USCIS
Your ISS advisor will prepare a new I-20 for you as well as provide you with an envelope to mail out your application.
Once you have submitted your application, you will receive a receipt number (EAC Number). This is the number that you will use to check your case status online at www.uscis.gov
What is required while on OPT?
Every student on OPT is required to report any changes of name, address, and/or changes in employment to International Student Services at Marymount University
Employment requirements while on OPT to maintain status:
- F-1 status during post-completion OPT is dependent upon employment, which must be related to the completed degree.
- The employment does not have to be paid employment. Internships and volunteer work would be considered employment, even if unpaid, as long as the unpaid position directly relates to the completed degree.
- No more than a total of 90 days of unemployment may be accrued during any post-completion OPT.
- Employment authorization will begin on the date requested or the date the employment authorization is approved, whichever is later.
- Employment reporting requirements must be complied with in order for the student to maintain status.
Please pay special attention to these reporting requirements while on OPT:
- Report all address changes to ISS within 5 days of moving to your new residence.
- A P.O. box or an office address is not acceptable.
- Report any change of name.
- Report any changes in name and address of employer or any interruption of employment within 5 days.
- Make sure ISS has a photocopy of the front and back of your Employment Authorization card on file.
- Submit your updates using the OPT Employment Update Form
- You must have your Employment Authorization Document/card and the start date must be valid for you to begin employment.
- The Employment Authorization Document will be mailed to the address on the I-765 form. The Post Office will not forward mail. Should you change your address, they will not mail your document to a P.O. box or to an overseas address. You should talk to an International Student Advisor on how to update your address if you move while your OPT application is pending.
- Unless you are found ineligible, you should receive your Employment Authorization Document within 3 to 5 months after receipt of your application.
- It is your responsibility to submit a copy of your Employment Authorization Document to ISS for your student file.
- You must notify ISS if you change status prior to the OPT expiration date. You must also send a copy of your change of status approval to the ISS office.
- While on OPT, you are still in F-1 status. You should familiarize yourself with your responsibilities during your practical training.
- While on OPT, you will no longer be eligible for Student Health Insurance after August of your graduation year.
Travel While on OPT
Please contact your ISS advisor if you plan on traveling outside the United States after you apply for OPT, as traveling outside the U.S. during this time can be risky. If you decide to travel, please make sure you have the following documetns.
- Your passport needs to be valid at least 6 months into the future.
- Your I-20 should have been signed for travel within the past 6 months. If you need a new travel signature, bring your I-20 to ISS Office with a copy of your Employment Authorization Card.
- Your F-1 visa must be valid. If your visa is not valid for re-entry, make preparations to renew your visa while overseas at the U.S. embassy or Consulate.
- Please Note: ISS cautions against F-1 OPT travel if a new F-1 visa is needed. Please consult your ISS advisor prior to traveling.
- Carry your Employment Authorization Card and proof of employment with you.
- Proof of employment may include a letter from your employer or any recent pay stubs.
- If you have an expired F-1 visa stamp and you plan to make a short trip to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent (Caribbean) islands, please consult your ISS advisor.
Options After OPT
- You must depart the United States within the 60-day grace period that follows your last day of OPT.
- If you plan on changing your status, you should do so prior to your OPT expiration.
- If transferring to another school, please make sure to contact ISS so that your records may be electronically transferred prior to the end of your authorized stay.
- Be sure to use official Ports of Departure to exit the U.S. and allow time at airports and land crossings to complete exit interviews even if traveling to Mexico and Canada, if you are subject to Special Registration.