FAQ's on OPT
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of your F-1 status. Below are some frequently asked questions about OPT.
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- EADs may not be forwarded to new addresses by the U.S. Post Office. Therefore, you must be certain that the address you list in item #3 of Form I-765 is (and will be) your address when your application is processed.
- Employment may not begin until the EAD card is received. You may only work during the validity dates of your EAD card.
- The EAD for Optional Practical Training will allow you to work only in a job related to your major area of study.
- Once authorized for OPT, you may accept employment anywhere in the U.S. When you are on OPT, you will still be in F-1 status.
- If you transfer to another school or begin study at another educational level, then your OPT authorization will automatically be terminated.
- While on OPT you have a total of 90 days when you may be unemployed. Once you exceed 90 days your OPT becomes invalid and you will have to depart the U.S. or transfer programs or schools.
- If you are eligible for STEM OPT then you receive an additional 30 days of unemployment or 120 days over your 29 months of OPT.
What is OPT?
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary work authorization granted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). Students in F-1 visa status are required to have this work authorization if they wish to remain in the United States and work after completing their program of study.
Who is eligible to apply for OPT?
- Students in F-1 visa status who have been in status for at least one academic year are eligible to apply for OPT. Time spent in the U.S. in a status that allows for study in the U.S. other than F-1 can count towards this one-year requirement. In addition, you must be in the U.S. when you file your OPT application to be eligible for OPT.
How long does OPT allow me to work in the U.S.?
- F-1 students are eligible for up to 12 months of OPT per degree level. An additional 17-month extension may be possible for certain majors.
What do I get if my OPT is approved to show that I am eligible to work?
- When approved for OPT by the Department of Homeland Security, you will be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) which notes the day you may start and must end employment. You can NOT start working before this start date. You also must receive your EAD card before you can begin working.
Do I need to have a job to apply for OPT?
- No. OPT is not specific to an employer. You can apply before you have a job, and you can change jobs while on OPT. In addition, OPT is not limited to a geographic location and you are eligible to work anywhere in the United States.
Can I work in ANY job once my OPT is approved?
- No. OPT employment MUST be directly related to your field of study (your major at the University of New Haven). (For example, a Political Science major can NOT work as a sales clerk at a clothing store.)
What happens if I can’t find a job after my OPT is approved?
- You begin accumulating unemployment time after the start date on your EAD card begins. You are only allowed 90 days of total unemployment while on OPT. Approved company vacation time does not count as unemployment time.
Do I need to be working in a full-time, paid position in order to avoid accruing days of OPT unemployment?
- No, you do not have to be working full-time or getting paid while on OPT. However, you must work a minimum of 20 hours per week. You can work in multiple jobs/internships/volunteer positions that add up to 20 hours or more per week total.
Can I travel outside the U.S. while my OPT application is pending?
- It depends. Before graduation, students can travel outside of the U.S. while their OPT application is pending and return to the U.S. without much risk. However, after graduation, ISO strongly discourages students from traveling outside of the United States while their Post-Completion OPT application is pending approval.
Can I travel outside the U.S. after my OPT application is approved?
Once your OPT application is approved and you have received your EAD card, you may travel outside of the United States, as long as you have the appropriate documents when you re-enter the U.S. You will need to have the following to re-enter the U.S. after international travel:
- a valid travel signature on your Form I-20;
- a valid passport;
- a valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport;
- a valid EAD card; and
- a letter from your employer proving that you are returning to a job in the United States.
How early can I apply for OPT?
- You can apply for Post-Completion OPT up to 90 days prior to your program end date (graduation day) and up to 60 days afterwards (during your grace period). For Pre-Completion OPT, you can apply up to 90 days before your intended start date.