International Students & Scholars Program, U.Va.

International Students & Scholars Program

A Division of the International Studies Office

Scholarship
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F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Overview of OPT

Optional practical training is available for degree seeking students. An initial period of 12 months may be awarded by Immigration (USCIS) per degree level. You may be eligible for a new period of OPT only if you move subsequently to a higher degree level.

OPT can be used during breaks in study or after completion of your final degree requirement.

OPT requires that you pursue employment in your area of study, but does not require a specific employer at the time of filing.

To begin the OPT process, watch the OPT Application Presentation:

 

[Note: Form I-765 has been updated since this web presentation was produced.  Always use the latest Form as found at www.uscis.gov]

 

Unemployment

No more than 90 days of unemployment is permitted during the initial 12 months of post-completion OPT. For students approved for the 24-month STEM extension, the unemployment allowance increases to a total of 150 days throughout the 36 month period of OPT.  Exceeding the limit of unemployment constitutes a loss of your legal status.  Be sure to report your changes in employment and address to the ISO promptly.

 

Reporting Requirements while on OPT

While on OPT, students should use the Reporting Requirements button on our home page to validate their information every six months and to update the ISO within 10 days of any changes to the following information: 

Beginning December 2016 students will report address, phone number and employment information themselves directly therough the SEVP Portal.

  • Name
  • Residential Address
  • Phone & Email Address
  • Employer Information incluiding full address
  • Start Date of Employment and End Date(if known)
  • Job Title
  • Supervisor's Name, Email Address and Phone Number
  • Any period of unemployment.  You must inform your employer that they are also required to inform the ISO of a loss of employment.
  • Date of departure from the U.S. (if students leave prior to the OPT STEM end date)

 

OPT Eligibility

To apply for OPT you must first obtain a new I-20 from the ISO documenting your eligibility for OPT.  You will subsequently submit a paper-based application for employment authorization to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS).

You must be in lawful F-1 status at the time of filing, and your period of OPT may commence only immediately following at least two full and continuous semesters of enrollment, (Fall-Spring or Spring-Fall).

 

Application Essentials

Applications for post-completion OPT must be filed and reach USCIS:

  • No earlier than 90 days prior to the completion of study which corresponds to the end date of your I-20. The I-20 can be shortened by the ISO if required to accurately reflect your academic status and eligibility for OPT.
  • No later than during the grace period, presuming you have not departed the U.S. once studies are completed:
  • Within 30 days of the issuance date on the original OPT-endorsed Form I-20 given to you by the ISO.

NOTE: If you have not completed all coursework for your degree and are unsure that you will complete your degree on time, you should consult the ISO before submitting the application for OPT.

 

Requesting Start & End Dates of Employment

Students may request OPT to begin on any date from the day after the date of completion of studies up to 60 days after the date of completion of study. Applications for OPT can take three months or more for the USCIS to adjudicate so it is very important to plan accordingly.

 

Authorized Period of Employment

Students may not begin working until they have received a valid OPT employment authorization card (EAD) issued by the USCIS and the start date has been reached.

 

Social Security

Please read the section on Social Security to fulfill the requirements for having an SSN in order to be gainfully employed.

 

Special Topics

 

How to Apply for F-1 OPT

Step One: Review carefully the F-1 OPT Instructional Workshop (Flash)

Step Two: Ask your advisor to complete the Academic Advisor Recommendation Form (MS Word).

Step Three: Complete an  I-20 Request for OPT and Form I-765. Visit the USCIS website for more information. Please complete Form I-765 electronically, save it and print it to bring to the ISO for review.

Step Four: Submit the materials (including Form I-765) to the ISO during advising hours, (Mon-Thurs., 9-12 and 1-4).  If applying for post-completion OPT, do not submit to our office earlier than the 90 days prior to the end of your I-20, or end of studies, whichever is earlier.  

Step Five: Pick up the endorsed Forms I-20 and Form I-765 from the ISO, and follow the OPT USCIS Filing Instructions. The OPT I-20 and full application must be in the hands of Immigration no later than 30 days after the OPT I-20's issue date. Do not E-File your application.

Step Six (optional): Complete Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, if you wish to receive email and/or text messages when your application has been received.  NOTE:  USCIS will continue to mail the receipt notices to you.  Completion and submission of this form for email and/or text message notificaton is an option for you and not a required form.

The U.S. postal service will not forward USCIS correspondence to a new address. If you change your residential address, you must visit the USCIS website to change your address online and provide your application receipt number (see Form AR-11 page on the USCIS website).