Optional Practical Training (OPT):

 is authorization for “temporary employment authorization directly related to the field of study.

OPT employment authorization is granted for 12 months typically after completion of degree requirements.

 A student can apply for OPT up to 90 days prior to the program end date and up to 60 days after the program end date.

It is possible to file the I-765 form (OPT) after graduation; however, we do not recommend it as the USCIS processing times vary and you may lose some of your 12-month employment authorization.

 OPT / OPT STEM Request Form

 OPT STEM DHS Hub

 OPT Checklist

FAQs

 

Who is eligible?

To meet eligibility the following must be met:

  • Maintain current F-1 visa status and continue maintaining F-1 visa status
  • Have been enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year before OPT application
  • Be completing degree/innitial OPT requirements within 90 days
  • Find OPT employment directly related to the course of study.

NOTE: If you plan to spend one or more semesters outside the U.S. before your OPT application, then please consult with an advisor for OPT eligibility. 

When to apply for OPT/STEM OPT?

A student can apply for OPT/STEM OPT up to 90 days before the program/OPT end date and up to 60 days after the program/OPT end date.

Though it is possible to file the I-765 form (OPT) after graduation, the IC does not recommend doing so as the USCIS processing times vary and you may lose some of your 12-month employment authorization.

https://isso.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/styles/cu_crop/public/content/images/graphs-charts/f1optapptimeline.png?itok=Hd1jA-wN 


 

When does OPT start?
The earliest a student can start employment is the day after completing degree requirements. The latest date OPT can start is 60 days after the degree completion date. 

When can I start working?

You must have your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in your possession and the start date must have arrived in order to begin employment.

The EAD will be mailed to the address that you put on the I-765 form. The Post Office will not forward mail from USCIS if you change your address after you apply, unless you change your address by logging in to your USCIS account with your I-797 receipt number and change your address. USCIS will not mail your EAD to a P.O. Box or international address.

USCIS will request more information or will issue an EAD approximately 90 days after receipt of your application, unless you are found ineligible.

If you change your status prior to the OPT expiration date, inform the IC and send a copy of your change of status approval to the office. 

What are the employment requirements to maintain status while on OPT?
  • During post-completion OPT; maintaining F-1 visa status is dependent upon employment. Students must not accrue a total of 90 days or more of unemployment during post-completion OPT. The 90 days of unemployment begins accruing on the start date of the Employment Authorization Document/card (EAD). For more details, please consult an IC advisor.
  • Employment must be related to the field of study and students must work a minimum of 20 hours a week in the student’s field of study.
  • Students must upload the employer information in iService within the first 90 days of the EAD start date.
  • The employment does not have to be paid employment.
  • Employment authorization will begin on the date listed on the employment authorization document.

 
 Students on OPT are required to do/report the following to the Center for Global Engagement via iService using the OPT update form:

  • upload the employer information within the first 90 days of the EAD start date.
  • notify IC immediately if there is ever a change or interruption in your employment status  
  • submit a photocopy of your Employment Authorization Document/card (EAD)
  • update your residential address within 10 days of any changes. Your address must describe where you live. It cannot be a P.O. Box or an office address.

Students on STEM OPT are required to do/report the following to the Center for Global Engagement via iService using the OPT update form:

  • fill out the 6 months report and fill the I-983 form through the OPT update form.
  • submit a 12 months report with filling out the self evaluation in the I-983 form (fifth page of the form)
  • subit a final report in the end of the STEM OPT with filling out the final evaluation in the I-983 forn (fifth page of the form)

 

What to keep in mind during OPT?
If you plan on changing your status, begin this process before your OPT expires.
If you are transferring to another institution, contact the IC, so your SEVIS record may be electronically transferred before the end of your authorized stay.

Continue to check your UM-Flint email as important information will be emailed to your student account. 

What is the grace period following OPT?
Students who successfully complete OPT will receive a 60 day grace period starting on the day after OPT expires. Before the 60 day grace period is over, you must have either departed the U.S., applied to change your visa status from F-1 to another status, or have received a new I-20 to pursue a new academic program.
 
NOTE: Only those who complete OPT and do not exceed the 90 day unemployment limit receive the 60 day grace period. Those who exceed the 90 day unemployment limit during OPT receive no grace period and are considered out of F-1 status.