OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING REGULATIONS
Current US Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) regulations governing optional practical training took effect on April 8, 2008. These regulations apply to all students in F-1 status: those who were in the United States on or before that date and those who enter the United States after that date.
Practical training is defined as employment directly related to the student's major area of study. Students in F-1 status must have been lawfully enrolled in school on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year to be eligible for practical training.
A student in F-1 status may apply for Optional Practical Training:
If a student wishes to begin working on OPT before they graduate, they must apply for “Pre-Completion OPT”. Pre-Completion OPT ends upon graduation. If a student wishes to begin OPT authorization after graduation, then they need to apply for “Post-Completion OPT”. Post-Completion OPT must have a start date after the official degree conferral date.
An initial period of Optional Practical Training is limited to a total of 12 months (combined Pre-and Post Completion periods). A student becomes eligible for another 12 months of Optional Practical Training when he or she changes to a higher educational level. Part-time Optional Practical Training, 20 hours per week or less, shall be deducted from the available optional practical training at one-half the full-time rate. A one-time, 17-month extension of post-completion Optional Practical Training is available to certain students who are employed and whose field of study is considered by the U.S. government to be part of “STEM,” (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). There is a separate set of information for 17-month Extensions of OPT.
Any optional practical training granted prior to completion of studies shall be deducted from the amount of practical training available after graduation. Therefore, students are well-advised to consider their goals carefully before applying for optional practical training. Other employment authorization categories, such as curricular practical training or off-campus employment based on economic hardship may be better choices for some students, if they qualify. These latter categories permit students to work while still enrolled, yet, in most cases, maintains students' eligibility for a full 12 months of practical training after graduation. For information on curricular practical training and off-campus employment due to economic hardship, please refer to the separate information sheets describing these training opportunities.
Students authorized for optional practical training after completion of studies may register part-time at a U.S. college or university, but they may NOT be registered for a full-time course load. Authorization to engage in optional practical training is automatically terminated when a student transfers to another school or begins full-time study at a different educational level.
Optional practical training is recommended by the Office of International Student & Scholar Services and authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This means that students must apply by mail to USCIS and pay an application fee to obtain an employment authorization document (EAD). The student must obtain both the recommendation from the Office of International Student & Scholar Services and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS.
An offer of employment is NOT required to obtain approval for optional practical training. However, once post-completion OPT is approved, a student cannot exceed a total of 90 days of unemployment beginning with the start date on the EAD card. These unemployment provisions do not apply to students on Pre-completion OPT who are maintaining full-time enrollment and are still pursuing their studies.
TO make a successful I-765 application for OPT, you must do the following
1.) Submit a completed academic adviser's recommendation form for OPT to the ISSS Office so staff can prepare a new OPT I-20 for you.
2.) Follow the directions at the link below to prepare the required materials you must mail to the USCIS Lockbox Facility along with a copy of your OPT I-20
3.) Pay attention to the deadlines and requirements for a successful OPT application found at the link below
Pay Attention to Application Processing Times, New Directions for Mailing Your OPT Application and Deadlines for Submission:
Applications will not be accepted by USCIS if they are received more than sixty days after the student’s program completion date as indicated on the I-20. Students will lose all eligibility for OPT if they apply after this deadline.
Binghamton University is now required by federal regulation to continue to maintain a student’s SEVIS record for the full period of Optional Practical Training, including any extension.
Guidance on Optional Practical Training and Travel:
Please note: Employment may not begin until the student receives their EAD card from USCIS. Beginning employment before the EAD card is received is a serious violation of immigration regulations and may have serious personal consequences. Federal SEVIS regulations require that the ISSS office report to USCIS all violations of employment regulations.
PROTECT YOUR VALID STATUS!
Web Resources on OPT Rules
There are some excellent web resources available on the new OPT rule:
Department of Homeland Security Announcement
US Citizenship and Immigration Services Q and A
NAFSA: Association of International Educators Resource on the Interim Final Rule
Text of Interim Final Rule
http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-7427.htm (text format, 27 pages)
http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-7427.pdf (pdf file, 13 pages)
BU International Student and Scholar Services
Thanks to NAFSA: Association of International Educators for providing timely information on the new OPT regulations, which was used for this article.
Track the Progress of Your EAD Application:
Last Updated: 10/3/12