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US OPT Visa Rules for finding OPT Jobs

Published: 06/10/2022
 
What is F-1 Optional Practical Training or OPT?
OPT or optional practical training is the training that is related to an F-1 student's area of study. This training lets students apply their gained knowledge to off-campus positions related to their respective fields. Optical practical training is authorized by US citizenship and immigration services (USCIS). This authorization process can take anywhere from 3 to 5 months. The time granted for the training depends on the degree, 12 months for a degree and 24 months for those who qualify.
These 12 months of OPT can be used during F-1 or after completing the course. If a student wants to apply for the OPT training, they should apply for it 90 days before or 60 days after the course ends. The application must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after graduation or 60 days after the Form I-20 expiration date (whichever is earlier). Doctoral students have 60 days from the last day of the month in which they submit their dissertation to the Graduate School to submit their dissertation. USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of the IS Advisor's signature on page 1 of the Form I-20.

Who is eligible for filing OPT application and finding OPT job opportunities?
To be eligible for the training, students need to be:
  • A full-time student for at least one academic year by the start date of OPT.
  • Has an F-1 status been maintained during the time of application?
  • I have not used OPT before for the same degree.
 
After completing one degree and OPT job for 12 months, if I start another course of study, would that make me eligible for another 12 months of OPT job?
Yes, you are eligible for another 12 months of OPT, but the condition is that the degree needs to be higher than the previous one. For example, if your get OPT for Bachelors program, then you have to pursue Masters to be eligible for additional 12 months of OPT. To get additional 12 months of OPT after Master’s program, you need to pursue Phd. 

I have OPT Job. Does the 12-month OPT period need to be used at once, or can it be used in parts?
There are two conditions. OPT is used in increments if the student is training during the study course.
Secondly, after completing the study course, the OPT needs to be used at once, and if there were any increments taken during the course, they would be deducted from the total time of 12 months.

Can I save any unused post-completion OPT time and use it later?
No. Once you apply for Post-Completion OPT, your OPT eligibility for that degree will be terminated. There is no way to reclaim unused OPT time.

What type of visa is needed to work on OPT job?
OPT does not mean a different immigration status. A person who is an F-1 student and is authorized by the USCIS holds an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) for OPT. Hence F1 visa student on OPT Visa is eligible to work for any employer. 

When am I supposed to looking for OPT Job and start working under OPT status?
You can start working under OPT when:
  • You have received the Employment Authorization Document from USCIS.
  • The date mentioned on the EAD is reached.
How long does the OPT authorization process take, and when am I supposed to apply for OPT?
The authorization procedure takes place under USCIS, and the authorization process can take between 3-5 months. According to this information, you need to apply way before the date you want to start working. You are supposed to apply at least 90 days before completing your study course or degree, and you are not supposed to delay the application more than 60 days after your degree completion. In the case of a Doctoral degree, apply no later than 60 days after the last day of the month in which the dissertation is due.

Is it important for OPT applications to have a OPT job offer?
There is no restriction on having a job or job offer to apply for OPT. You can apply for OPT as soon as you complete your study course and do not need any job offer or job for it.

What start date am I supposed to put on the OPT request form?
On forms 1-20, you should put a start date within the 60 days grace period after your study program ends. This makes May-July for spring graduates and December to February for fall graduates. You cannot select a date before or after this period begins or ends. Thus, if you have a job that begins more than 60 days after your program end date, you cannot select the start date of your job as your OPT start date; the most recent OPT start date you can select is the 60th day after the program end date on your Form I-20. For example, if your job begins on September 1 and you graduate on May 19, you cannot put September 1 on the OPT Request form; you can choose the most recent OPT start date as July 18.
The students need to consider their situation when deciding on a start date. Here are the most important things they should consider:
  • The date you submit your OPT request form.
  • If you have any post-graduation travel plans.
  • If you have a job offer.
 Is there a way to change my OPT start dates after submitting the OPT application?
If your application has been submitted to the USCIS, there is no chance of changing the start date of your OPT recommendation. If you have not submitted your OPT requirements, then you have a chance to ask your Advisor or mentor to cancel the previous recommendation. You will have to email your IS advisor the new start date so that they might recommend it.

How to complete the form 1-765*?
The guidance is provided by Georgetown University's Office of Global Services (OGS) and International Student & Scholar Services.
NOTE* the form 1-765* should be downloaded from the USCIS website to make sure you have the latest version of the form.

General Guidelines to fill the form 1-765*:
You need to read the instructions very carefully. There are some application requirements which are only listed in the instructions and are not on forms 1-765*. You should read the instructions on the USCIS website.
  • Use OGS Sample Form I-765 (PDF) as a general guide. Answer the questions pertaining to you.
  • All pages of the form should be submitted, even if they are not pertaining to you.
  • Type your responses and then print the form.
  • You will have to sign in black ink on form 1-765*; types or stamped name is not allowed.
  • If a question does not apply to you, write N/A (not available) or none in black after printing the form.
  • Make multiple copies of the Part 6 page if you need to provide more information.
  • If you need more space to respond to a specific question, use Part 6, Additional Information. Suppose you provide any information on this page, sign and date each page, and write your name at the top.
  • For assistance with any questions, particularly the additional information required in Part 6, consult the OGS Sample Form I-765 (PDF).
Is there any specific order for the OPT application documents?
The order is listed in Form 1-765* filling instructions.

Does my name need to be put behind my photos in OPT application form?
Yes. It would help if you wrote your name with a felt tip pen or pencil to avoid markings at the front of the photo.
EADs will be mailed via USPS, which will require identification to sign for the document upon delivery. If the mailing address you provided on the I-765 application changes after you submitted it, you must also file an online change of address with the postal service through the USPS website.

What am I supposed to do if my authorization is not complete even after 90 days?
The ISO cannot contact the USCIS until your OPT application has been pending for five months.

Can I cancel my OPT application?
Yes. You can request your IS Advisor about your cancelation, and your Advisor will withdraw your application.

Am I supposed to have a OPT job during the post-completion OPT period?
Yes. During the entire post-completion OPT, you need to have a job and submit your employment information to the SEVP portal. The STEM OPT students should submit their employment information to their respective STEM advisors.

Does the OPT job has to be paid or unpaid?
For the first 12 months, the job is unpaid. As a result, a student who is self-employed (including performance majors with regular "gigs"), interning, or volunteering in a position directly related to the academic field would be considered "employed" for OPT employment reporting purposes as long as they work in the unpaid position for an average of 20 hours per week. If the student is at 24 months extension, the job is paid.

Can I start working on OPT Job before I get my EAD?
No. If you start to work before receiving your EAD card or start working before the mentioned date on the EAD card, you will be subjected to illegal employment that will risk your legal status in the US.

What is the next step after I receive my EAD card?
You may begin OPT employment and apply for a Social Security Number once you receive your EAD card and reach the documented EAD start date. Keep your EAD in a secure location and send a scanned copy (front and back) to your dedicated IS Advisor.

Am I supposed to report to the US government during the post-completion OPT Job?
Yes. You are obliged to report your employment and address information to the US government.If you want to travel out of the US and return in F-1 status then you need to request a travel signature from the US government.

What if my EAD card gets stolen or lost, or if I never get the EAD card?
For such issues, USCIS offers an avenue for inquiry into the non-delivery of the card. But, the most expected outcome of the e-request is that USCIS will not take responsibility for the non-delivery of the cars; instead, it will ask you to apply for a replacement card.
It is more time-efficient for you to proceed with the replacement card application simply:
Prepare the following materials for your replacement application:
  • A cover page indicating the reason for your application (like lost or 'Never Received Card').
  • A brief letter to USCIS outlining your application's circumstances and the hardship you have endured.
  • A copy of the Form I-797 Approval Notice you received by mail.
On Page 2, you will find a new Form I-20 from OGS indicating your authorization approval.
Using the materials listed above, prepare and submit an application in accordance with the instructions in Step 3 on the relevant Post-Completion OPT webpage and the STEM OPT Extension webpage.
Make the following indications on form1-765*:
  • Check item 1.b. instead of item 1. a.
  • In item 12, answer yes.
It is recommended to sign up for USPS informed delivery to ensure that your replacement card will reach you successfully.
You will receive a new Form I-797 Receipt Notice within a few weeks of submitting your application for replacement, which can temporarily be used to meet the Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification requirements. The USCIS Employee Rights website can assist you in navigating the challenges you face in the absence of an EAD card. This Receipt Notice can serve as valid re-entry into the United States in place of EAD.

What should I do if I need to start working on OPT Job while waiting for my replacement card?
For I-9 purposes, an employee may present a receipt for the application to replace any List A, List B, or List C document. This receipt is valid for 90 days from the date of hire (first day of paid work) or, in the case of re-verification, for 90 days from the date employment authorization expired. The employee must show you the replacement document for which the receipt was issued within 90 days.
 
If I exceed 90 days Unemployment limit on OPT authorization period? Are there any drawbacks
If a student is on F-1 OPT, for the dates mentioned on their EAD card ( Start date till Finish Date) , they are allowed maximum of 90 unemployment days. This data is automatically calculated based on the information submitted on SEVP Portal account.
 
After 90 days of unemployment limit OPT Visa students begin to accrue unlawful presence.  Unlawful presence creates challenges with future U.S. immigration benefits, including readmission to the United States. It’s recommended that a student who has accrued beyond 90 unemployment time to depart the United States and close their F-1 record in order to avoid accruing unlawful presence. Also, student may not transfer their F-1 status and do not have an F-1 grace period

Changing employer while I am on first year of OPT job?
Yes, one can change employers, however the employment should be directly related to your field of study. OPT student can work more than one employer. Once joining new employer, the new employment must be reported to the SEVP OPT Portal. Also OPT student should provide employer name and address to international student services.

I can’t find OPT job within 90 days of starting, or the join date is after 90 days. What should I be doing? 
As an F1 OPT student, you are allowed to be on unpaid employment. A volunteer or unpaid intern, that will not violate any labor laws can be performed. Employer should offer at least 20 hours of work and provide offer letter with job responsibility and duration of work.
 
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