5 Things to Know About Optional Practical Training for International Students | Silver Immigration

5 Things to Know: OPT for International Students

Having the work-related experience that complements or supplements your area of academic studies adds invaluable weight to a resume and often helps with fine-tuning one’s career choice. The United States (US) facilitates this type of experience gathering for international students attending its colleges and universities through Optional Practical Training (OPT). If you are studying or have plans to study in the US, below are five things you should know about OPT.

1. OPT Allows International Students to Legally Work in the US

OPT is temporary employment authorized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for international students who hold F-1 visas. Students at the undergraduate and graduate levels can legally obtain work in areas that are specifically related to their main field of study over a 12-month period.

Two Types of Optional Practical Training Are Available

Two types of OPT are available to eligible F-1 students, pre-completion and post-completion.

Pre-completion OPT: Students undertake pre-completion OPT during their course of study. Students may work part-time while school is in session or full-time during the summer.
Time taken to complete any employment during a student’s course of study will be subtracted from the 12-month OPT duration, lessening the time available for any employment on completion of a program.

Post-completion OPT: In post-completion OPT, students engage in on-the-job training after their program has ended. Of the two training options, post-completion OPT is the more popular among students as it lengthens the time they may stay and work full-time in the US.

3. Three Requirements for Eligibility

To qualify for OPT, international students must:

  1. Hold a valid F-1 visa
  2. Be enrolled full-time at the undergraduate or graduate level for at least one academic year
  3. Be studying any other subject besides English as a second language

Students are eligible to apply for OPT once per degree program. This means that students may apply once each for a bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree.

4. The Application Process Takes Approximately Three to Five Months

The application process for OPT can be lengthy, and on average, it takes approximately three to five months for an application to be processed. The process generally involves the following steps:

  1. The student requests an OPT recommendation. The designated school official (DSO) endorses a new copy of Form I-20, the Certification of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status, which recommends the OPT.
  2. The DSO in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) makes a note of the OPT request.
  3. The student pays the appropriate fee and completes and files the Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) with the USCIS. Each Form I-765 must include the requisite supporting documentation:
    a. Two passport-sized photographs
    b. Record of the student’s I-94 travel history
    c. Copy of the student’s US visa
    d. Copy of the student’s passport (page with the photograph)
    Form I-765, the associated fee and any supporting documentation must be filed within 30 days of the DSO’s recommendation.
  4. The student gets a notification via SMS text or email that the USCIS has received their I-765 submission. The notification will contain a receipt number that applicants can use to ascertain the progress of their application online.
  5. If the application is approved, the student receives the I-797 notice of approval and the employment authorization document (EAD) card or work permit.

5. F-1 Students With Certain STEM Degrees May Apply for OPT Extension

F-1 students with degrees in some STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects may apply for a two-year extension of their post-completion OPT. The eligible degrees include:

  • Mathematics
  • Actuarial sciences
  • Computer sciences
  • Physical sciences
  • Engineering technologies
  • Engineering
  • Life sciences
  • Military technologies

Immigration Lawyer in Montreal

The application process for OPT can be complicated, and several issues can arise during the application process and even after your OPT approval. Entrust your immigration issues to the experts at Silver Immigration. We take a keen interest in our client’s issues and expertly navigate the immigration process to obtain a favourable outcome. Need a consultation? Call us at 1 (888) 799-4769 or request an appointment via our online contact form.