WHEN IS OPT AVAILABLE?
An F-1 student is eligible to receive a total period of 12 months of OPT for each successive degree level that is completed.
- Bobby receives a Bachelor’s degree from a U.S. institution. He is eligible for 12 months of OPT for his Bachelor’s degree.
- Bobby does not use the OPT period, and enrolls in a Master’s program. He receives his Master’s degree. Bobby will have only 12 months of OPT available as a result of his Master’s degree.
Frequently Asked Question
Why does Bobby only have 12 months of OPT after his Master’s if he never used the OPT period from his Bachelor’s degree?
OPT must be used AT THE TIME of the degree. To maximize his work authorization in the U.S., Bobby should have used his period of OPT after his Bachelors, and then completed his Master’s degree and used the additional 12 month OPT period gained. In choosing to enroll directly in a Master’s program after completing his Bachelor’s, Bobby forfeited his 12 month OPT period for his Bachelor’s degree.
- Bobby receives a Master’s degree from a U.S. institution.
- Bobby uses the 12 month OPT period following his Master’s degree.
- Bobby then decides to go back to school and pursue another Master’s degree.
- Bobby does NOT have another period of OPT available to him after his second Master’s degree.
Frequently Asked Question
Why does Bobby not have another period of OPT available after his second Master’s degree?
OPT is allowed once per degree level. If Bobby chose to pursue a Ph.D., he would again be eligible for another period of OPT.
WHO IS THE APPLICATION FOR OPT ADJUDICATED BY?
Permission to participate in a Standard OPT program is granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The International Student Advisor/Designated School Official in International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) MUST submit the OPT request in the SEVIS system BEFORE the application can be submitted to the USCIS.
IS A JOB OFFER REQUIRED PRIOR TO APPLYING FOR OPT?
Although having a job is not a prerequisite for OPT eligibility, USCIS requires all students in a period of OPT to be employed. A student who is actively pursuing employment during the approved OPT period is considered to be in legal, F-1 status. Students are given a 90 day (3 month) unemployment period during the 12 months of approved OPT.
CAN I WORK FOR MULTIPLE EMPLOYERS?
Students may work for as many different employers as they choose during the approved OPT period. All opportunities must directly relate back to the student’s major program of study.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT REGARDING OPT PROCESSING TIMELINES?
Right now we know that OPT processing with USCIS is taking at least 90 days. Most cases are being processed at or just beyond the 90 day mark. Some cases are taking longer. Right now there is no reliable way to expedite the OPT processing time and USCIS processes cases on a first come first serve basis.
WHEN CAN I START WORKING USING MY OPT?
Only after the start date on the EAD card and only if you have the original EAD card in hand.
WHAT IF MY REQUESTED OPT START DATE IS AFTER MY JOB OFFER DATE?
If you have not mailed your OPT application to USCIS then you may return your I-20 to ISSS with a note confirming the change to your requested OPT start date. If you have mailed your OPT application to USCIS, please keep in mind that changing your OPT start date after your application has been received by USCIS, is not simply a process of ISSS issuing a new I-20. Once USCIS has received your application, if you want to change the OPT start date, we must notify USCIS of your request, wait for USCIS to reply, and then issue a new I-20. This action will stop your application process and may cause additional delays in processing of your application.
WHAT SHOULD I TELL MY EMPLOYER IF MY OPT START DATE IS AFTER MY JOB OFFER START DATE?
You may share whatever information you feel important with your employer. We recommend that you have a open conversation with your employer. You should be honest about the date USCIS received your OPT application and when you expect to receive your EAD card. Use the 90 day processing time as a guide. Most employers will understand and be able to adjust your start date. It is better to have this conversation early and not wait until you are close to your employment start date. Keep your employer informed regarding your OPT processing.
CAN I EXTEND MY GRADUATION AND RECEIVE CPT AUTHORIZATION, SO THAT I CAN START WORKING SOONER THAN MY OPT START DATE?
Your graduation date is not a consideration regarding the end date on your I-20. The end date on your I-20 is based on the date that you will officially complete your degree requirements. Also, CPT will not be authorized during your final semester unless it is a required part of your degree program. Please keep in mind that an extension to your I-20 end date would only be granted based on documented academic or medical reasons, not for the purposes of employment.
AS A GRADUATE STUDENT, WITH THESIS/DISSERTATION REQUIREMENTS, WHAT DATE AM I ELIGIBLE TO REQUEST MY OPT TO START?
Graduate students in masters or PhD programs that require thesis or dissertation, may use their defense date or graduation date as their OPT start date. Please note that any on campus employment must end on your I-20 end date. Your I-20 end will be updated to your defense date or graduation date, per your request, in order to facilitate your OPT application.
MAY I CONTINUE WORKING ON CAMPUS AFTER MY I-20 EXPIRES, BUT BEFORE I RECEIVE MY EAD CARD?
No, all on campus employment must end on your I-20 end date. You may not begin working again until the start date on your EAD card, and only if you have received the original EAD card. This includes volunteer work as well.
WHERE CAN I OBTAIN THE MOST UP TO DATE INFORMATION REGARDING MY OPT APPLICATION AND PROCESSING?
The best site to visit is USCIS.gov as USCIS is the agency responsible for processing your OPT application. On the USCIS web page you will be able to check your OPT application status and find the contact information for USCIS. You can call the USCIS customer service number (1-800-375-5283) to speak to a USCIS representative about your specific application.