Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional practical training (OPT) is employment designed to provide you with an opportunity to gain actual experience in your chosen profession for a maximum of one year. Its purpose is to "round off" or complement your academic work. It differs from curricular practical training in that it does not have to be required for your degree, nor does it have to be for academic credit. Optional practical training may be done before you complete your studies, and/or after you complete your studies, but may not exceed a total of 12 months.  An eligible student who has been granted 12 months of optional practical training becomes eligible for another 12 months of optional practical training after changing to a higher educational level.

Please note that certain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree holders may be eligible for an additional 17 months of OPT in addition to the regular 12 months of OPT.  The OPT extension for STEM degree holders will not be discussed in this handout.  Please refer to the handout on Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Degree Holders for further information.
Basic Eligibility Requirements
In order for you to be eligible to apply for OPT, the following criteria have to be met:
  1. You must have been enrolled as a full-time student in valid, lawful status for one full academic year directly preceding the training;
  2. You must be in valid F-1 status at the time you submit your application and continue to maintain valid F-1 status;
  3. The employment must be directly related to your major field of study, and
  4. The employment must be appropriate for someone having your level of education.

The F-1 regulations are very clear on who qualifies for off-campus employment authorization and who does not. Students in exchange programs and students in special/executive programs (i.e. Global Executive MBA, Higher Education Leadership), do not qualify for any type of off-campus paid employment before or after their studies (with the exception of Internship with an International Organization Employment for exchange students) since they do not meet the eligibility requirements for these Immigration benefits.

Exchange program students: In order to qualify for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and/or Optional Practical Training (OPT), a student must complete one full academic year (excluding time spent in F-1 status in Intensive English Programs) in F-1 status. In the case of CPT and pre-completion OPT, a student must be returning to study in the U.S. after employment. In the case of post-completion OPT, a student must receive a U.S. degree. Exchange Students are not eligible for employment at the end of their exchange year because they are neither returning to study in the U.S. after the employment, nor will they receive a U.S. degree.

Special/Executive program students: In order to qualify for off-campus employment, a student must complete one full academic year (excluding time spent in F-1 status in Intensive English Programs) in F-1 status. Special/Executive program students are not eligible for employment upon completion of their degree because they will not have completed one full academic year in F-1 status.


You may submit an application for optional practical training up to 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year, provided that the period of employment will not begin until the completion of the full academic year as indicated by your Advisor at International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).


Types of Optional Practical Training:

OPT is available in the following cases:

(A) Before Completion of Studies:
  1. Part-time (20 hours per week) or full-time (40 hours per week) during your annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session if you are currently enrolled and intend to register for the next term; or
  2. Part-time (20 hours per week) while school is in session; or
  3. Part-time (20 hours per week) or full-time (40 hours per week) after completion of graduate course requirements (but before completion of a course of study), excluding a thesis or dissertation.
You may apply no earlier than 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year, provided that the period of employment will not begin until the completion of the full academic year, and no earlier than 120 days before the requested OPT start date. The OPT application must be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 30 days of the OPT recommendation being entered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.

(B) After Completion of Studies:
Provided you are completing a Bachelor's, Master's or Doctoral Degree Program at the U.S. institution you are authorized to attend. Post-completion OPT must be at least 20 hours of activity per week.

You may apply no earlier than up to 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year and 90 days before the expected degree completion date, provided that the period of employment will not begin until the completion of the full academic year, and no later than 60 days after the degree completion date. If you apply for OPT during the 60-day grace period after degree completion, you must submit your OPT application no less than 15 business days before the end of the 60-day grace period in order for USCIS to receive your application by the filing deadline. The OPT application must be filed with USCIS within 30 days of the OPT recommendation being entered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.
NOTE: You must continue to be registered even if you are preparing a thesis or dissertation and have finished all your course work, including during a summer session if you expect to complete your degree in that summer session. If you fail to maintain your registration, you will forfeit your opportunity for optional practical training.
Application and Authorization Procedures
Applicants must complete the online ISSS Employment Session (www.miami.edu/employmentsession) prior to submitting the application and supporting documents.  The items listed below are required to apply for OPT:
  1. OPT Request Form
  2. Form G-1145, (Also available from ISSS); “E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance.”
  3. Form I-765 (Also available from ISSS; enter eligibility code (c)(3)(A) in item #16 if you are applying for pre-completion OPT, and eligibility code (c)(3)(B) in item #16 if you are applying for post-completion OPT)
  4. Two U.S. passport-style photos as specified in the I-765 instructions (with name and I-94 number written on back in pencil) (Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure that the photographs comply with the I-765 instructions, and that it is your decision and responsibility if the photographs are sent to USCIS as part of this application. ISSS does not assume any responsibility for USCIS' decision whether your photographs meet the Form I-765 specifications.)
  5. Original SEVIS Form I-20 (signed by student on page 1)
  6. Copy of all previous Form I-20s
  7. Original Form I-94
  8. Copy of passport pages (biographic data, photo, F-1 visa, and passport page with last entry stamp)
  9. Copy of any previously issued EAD, if applicable
  10. Money order for $380.00 made payable to the Department of Homeland Security (obtainable from your bank, any US Post Office, CVS, Western Union)
  11. A letter from your academic advisor (on letterhead) stating your expected date of graduation. Required only if you are completing your degree and applying for post-completion OPT (OPT Advisor Memo).
Applications for optional practical training authorization must be submitted to ISSS for processing before they can be sent by ISSS to USCIS Dallas Lockbox for adjudication. Please be aware that it will take USCIS from 120 to 150 days to adjudicate OPT applications, and that you may not begin employment until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and until the start date on the EAD has arrived.

Other Important Information

Expanded Definition of OPT
Traditionally, OPT has been defined as employment that is related to the student's degree major and appropriate for the degree level. This requirement remains in place; however, the government has expanded the types of activity that qualify as OPT. OPT may be in any of these forms:
  1. Working for one or multiple employers (short or long term).
  2. Working on a contractual basis.
  3. Working as a self-employed business owner on a full-time basis (with evidence of the proper business license).
  4. Working through an agency.
  5. Volunteering or holding an unpaid internship (as long as the position does not violate any labor laws).

Limited Periods of Unemployment during Optional Practical Training after Completion of Studies
During post-completion OPT, your F-1 status is dependent upon employment. Once your post-completion OPT begins, you are not allowed to accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT carried out under the initial post-completion OPT authorization. Exceeding this limit may negatively affect your immigration status and future immigration benefits. You are allowed to volunteer or engage in unpaid internships during your post-completion OPT carried out under the initial post-completion OPT authorization, provided that no labor laws are violated and that the volunteer work or internship is for at least 20 hours per week. Volunteering or engaging in unpaid internships will be considered employment during your post-completion OPT carried out under the initial post-completion OPT authorization.

Health insurance through United Health Care
International students who are no longer enrolled at the University but remain in the United States to engage in post-completion F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) may still be insured under the Student Insurance policy if they originally purchased a plan that continues beyond the completion of their studies.  To verify the termination date of your insurance plan, please call (800) 436-7709 or log on to www.myuhc.com.   If your insurance is no longer in effect, you may enroll for continued insurance:

  1. Complete the appropriate form and mail along with payment, a copy of your employment authorization document (EAD) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and a copy of your Form I-20, to WageWorks, 1155 Reliable Park Way, Chicago, IL 60686-0056, or fax forms to 877-220-3249.
  2. Approximately three weeks after sending the form, log onto www.wageworks.com  and click on “First time user- register with WageWorks now”.  Once registered, you will be able to check the status of your enrollment request.   If you faxed the form and did not include your payment, you may be able to submit the payment electronically.
  3. Once your request is processed (approximately three weeks after sending the form), you will receive the insurance card in the mail.  After payment is accepted and enrollment has been competed, you will be able to print a temporary card at www.myuhc.com. You will need your United Healthcare subscriber number which can be obtained by calling (800) 436-7709.  Please refer to group #709872 when calling to obtain your subscriber number.
  4. WageWorks will notify you only if there is an issue with the enrollment form or if you are denied coverage by sending you a denial of insurance letter and by returning payment to you.

Although insurance coverage can continue during OPT, access to the Student Health Service is limited to enrolled students.  Expenses incurred off-campus will be subject to deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance. Please review the United Healthcare schedule of benefits for information on benefits, exclusions and limitations of coverage or contact the Student Health Service at studenthealth@miami.edu for additional information.


Travel Outside of U.S. While Engage in Optional Practical Training before Completion of Studies
Before completing your studies, you must present the following documents to USCIS at the port-of-entry in order to seek reentry to the U.S.:

  1. SEVIS Form I-20, endorsed for travel by your ISSS advisor within the last 12 months;
  2. Valid passport; and
  3. Valid F-1 visa.
You do not need evidence of a job or a valid EAD issued for OPT to return to the U.S.

Travel Outside the U.S. While Engaged in Optional Practical Training after Completion of Studies
After completing your studies and before your EAD has arrived, you must present the following documents to USCIS at the port-of-entry in order to seek reentry to the U.S.:
  1. SEVIS Form I-20, endorsed for travel by your ISSS advisor;
  2. Form I-797 receipt notice for pending application for EAD issued by USCIS;
  3. Valid passport; and
  4. Valid F-1 visa.
After completing your studies and after your EAD has arrived, you must present the following documents to USCIS at the port-of-entry in order to seek reentry to the U.S.:
  1. SEVIS Form I-20, endorsed for travel by your ISSS advisor within the last six months;
  2. EAD issued by USCIS;
  3. Valid passport;
  4. Valid F-1 visa; and
  5. A letter from the U.S. employer regarding the employment for optional practical training.
Students who do not meet these requirements may not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. Be sure to consult with ISSS when contemplating travel outside the U.S. and reentry to continue optional practical training after completion of studies.

Importance of the Actual Date You Complete Your Program of Study
USCIS regulations refer to the date you complete all requirements for a program of study, not to the date you participate in graduation ceremonies and receive a certificate or diploma. USCIS ignores your graduation date because it realizes that many students, especially graduate students in thesis or dissertation programs, may complete requirements for a degree any day during the year. This means that the last day of an academic term may not be the date you complete program requirements. Your lawful F 1 status expires 60 days after the date you complete degree requirements, and you are expected to leave the country by that date unless you have filed a timely application for optional practical training or made other arrangements to lawfully remain in the U.S.

Actual Date Optional Practical Training Employment May Begin and End
You may not begin work until the following requirements are satisfied: (1) you have obtained an EAD from USCIS, and (2) the date is reached when the EAD authorizes employment to begin. Your beginning date will be the date USCIS assigns at the time it processes your application. This is the date from which your optional practical training time starts counting, not from the date you begin employment.
All Optional Practical Training must be completed during the 14-month window following date of completion of studies. Therefore, depending on when you apply, you may not be granted the full 12 months of optional practical training.

Change of Employer after Optional Practical Training Has Been Authorized
You may change employers after you have begun authorized employment provided the new job is (1) directly related to your major field of study and (2) appropriate for someone having your level of education.
You must immediately report any change of name or address, or disruption of employment during OPT to ISSS for the duration of the authorized training. Complete the Change of Student and Employer Information Form for Students in F-1 Status, also available at ISSS.

H-1B Cap-Gap Extension
Duration of status and work authorization will be automatically extended for a student on OPT who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting change of status and an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. The extension of duration of status and work authorization automatically terminates upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-B petition filed on the student's behalf.
To request an updated I-20 for H-1B cap-gap extension, you must provide to ISSS the following evidence via fax or e-mail:
  • For a properly filed H-1B petition: A statement from the employer that you are the beneficiary listed on a properly filed H-1B petition and proof of delivery to a USCIS Service Center showing the date of receipt
  • For a wait-listed H-1B petition: A copy of the wait list letter from USCIS to the employer
  • For a receipted or approved H-1B petition: a copy of the Form I-797 and/or the I-797 receipt number
Students on H-1B cap-gap extension must continue to report all changes of name and address, and interruptions of employment just like all other students on OPT.

Making a Decision Regarding Optional Practical Training

12 Months of Optional Practical Training is Available After Change to a Higher Educational Level. If you have used 12 months of OPT, you will be eligible for another 12 months after changing to a higher educational level (i.e., if you use the entire 12 months for a Bachelor's Degree, you will be eligible for 12 more months after your Master's Degree).

Authorization May Not Be Rescinded. Once authorization to engage in optional practical training is granted, it may not be rescinded or canceled. This means that after optional practical training is authorized by the USCIS, unexpected delays in completing degree requirements, inability to find an appropriate job or loss of a job may result in loss of otherwise eligible time to work. Once permission to work has been given, it cannot be taken back regardless of subsequent occurrences.

Termination of Optional Practical Training. Authorization to engage in optional practical training is automatically terminated when you transfer to another school or begin study at another educational level.

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Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Degree Holders
On April 8, 2008, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the interim final rule that changes several key aspects of F-1 OPT. One of the key changes impacts certain STEM degree holders. Effective April 8, 2008, the 12-month limit on F-1 OPT may be extended by 17 months, for a total of 29 months, for certain STEM degree holders.

Eligibility Requirements
In order for you to be eligible to apply for the 17-month OPT extension for certain STEM degree holders, the following criteria have to be met:
  1. You must have successfully completed a Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctoral degree in a field on the DHS STEM Designated Program List;
  2. You must be currently participating in a 12-month period of OPT, working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to your STEM major field of study;
  3. You must have a job offer from an employer registered with E-Verify employment verification system at the time of the application for the 17-month OPT extension. It is your responsibility to ensure that your employer is registered with E-Verify.
  4. You have not previously received a 17-month OPT extension after earning a STEM degree.
  5. Your Designated School Official at International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) must recommend the 17-month OPT extension in SEVIS, after verifying your eligibility for the extension, certifying that your degree is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, and ensure that you are aware of your responsibilities for maintaining status while on OPT.
You may submit an application for the 17-month OPT extension to ISSS up to 120 days before the current OPT end date and will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending until a final decision on the application has been made by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), or for 180 days, whichever comes first.

Qualifying STEM Fields
A complete list of eligible CIP Codes is available online at http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/stem-list.pdf. DHS will announce any future changes to the list at http://www.ice.gov/sevis/new/.

Application and Authorization Procedures
The items listed below are required to apply for OPT:
  1. OPT Extension Request Form for STEM Degree Holders
  2. Form G-1145, (Also available from ISSS); “E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance.”
  3. Form I-765 (Also available from ISSS; enter eligibility code (c)(3)(C) in item #16)
  4. Two U.S. passport-style photos as specified in the I-765 instructions (with name and I-94 number written on back in pencil) (Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure that the photographs comply with the I-765 instructions, and that it is your decision and responsibility if the photographs are sent to USCIS as part of this application. ISSS does not assume any responsibility for USCIS’ decision whether your photographs meet the Form I-765 specifications.)
  5. Copy of University of Miami STEM degree or transcript
  6. Original SEVIS Form I-20 (signed by student on page 1)
  7. Copy of all previous Forms I-20
  8. Original Form I-94
  9. Copy of passport pages (biographic data, photo, F-1 visa, and passport page with last entry stamp)
  10. Copy of any previously issued EAD
  11. Money order for $380.00 made payable to the Department of Homeland Security (obtainable from your bank, any US Post Office, CVS, Western Union).
Applications for OPT extension for STEM degree holders must be submitted to ISSS for processing before they can be sent by ISSS to the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over your place of residence in the U.S. If you live outside the State of Florida, you must list your residential address in the U.S. in item #3 of Form I-765. In this case, if you move while your application is pending, you need to call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283 or use the "Online Change of Address" function on USCIS' website to update your residential address in the U.S. If you do not update your address, you may not receive your receipt notice and your employment authorization document from USCIS. If you live in the State of Florida, the address listed in item #3 of Form I-765 will be the ISSS address. In this case, your moving while your application is pending does not have any impact on the delivery of receipt notice and your employment authorization document.

Please be aware that it will take USCIS from 120 to 150 days to adjudicate OPT extension applications.

Other Important Information

Types of Employment

A student authorized for a 17-month extension must work at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify employer in a position directly related to his or her DHS-approved STEM CIP.

For a student who is on a 17-month extension, this employment may include
  • Multiple employers. A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to his or her degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
  • Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment, where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. The company for whom the student is providing services must be registered with E-Verify. If requested by DHS, the student must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract period and the name and address of the contracting company.
  • Self-employed business owner. A student on a 17-month extension can start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must register his or her business with E-Verify and work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program.
  • Employment through an agency or consulting firm. A student on a 17-month extension may be employed by an employment agency or consulting firm. The employment agency or consulting firm must be registered with E-Verify, but the third parties contracting with the agency or firm (for which the student is providing services) need not be.

Limited Periods of Unemployment during Optional Practical Training after Completion of Studies
During post-completion OPT, your F-1 status is dependent upon employment. You are not allowed to accrue an aggregate of more than 120 days of unemployment during the total 29-month OPT period. Exceeding this limit may negatively affect your immigration status and future immigration benefits. Volunteer work or unpaid internships will count as 'employment' during any post-completion OPT carried out under the initial post-completion OPT authorization, provided that no labor laws are violated and that the volunteer work or internship is for at least 20 hours/week. However, if you apply for and receive the 17-month OPT extension for STEM degree holders, volunteer work or an unpaid internship will not count as employment during the period of extended OPT.

Travel Outside the U.S. While Engaged in 17-Month Optional Practical Training Extension
While engaged in the 17-month OPT extension for STEM degree holders, you must present the following documents to USCIS at the port-of-entry in order to seek reentry to the U.S.:
SEVIS Form I 20, endorsed for travel by your ISSS advisor within the last six months;

  1. Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by USCIS;
  2. Valid passport;
  3. Valid F-1 visa; and
  4. A letter from the U.S. employer regarding the employment for optional practical training.

Students who do not meet these requirements may not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. If your EAD has expired and the OPT extension request is pending with USCIS, you cannot travel outside the U.S., but must wait to travel until you have received the new EAD. Be sure to consult with ISSS when contemplating travel outside the U.S. and reentry to continue OPT while on the 17-month OPT extension for STEM degree holders.

Change of Employer after OPT Extension Application is pending
You may change employers while your application for the 17-month OPT extension for STEM degree holders is pending with USCIS. However, if the OPT extension period has started, you can only change employers if the new employer has registered with E-Verify. You must report the change of employment to ISSS.

Duration of OPT Employment Authorization
The employment authorization period for the 17-month OPT extension begins on the day after the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT employment authorization, and ends 17 months later, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved by USCIS.

Reporting Requirements While on OPT
You must immediately report any change of name or address, or disruption of employment during OPT to ISSS for the duration of the authorized OPT. Complete the Change of Student and Employer Information Form for STEM Degree Holders in F-1 Status available at ISSS and on the ISSS website.
In addition, STEM degree holders on the 17-month OPT extension are required to report to ISSS within 10 days any change of:
  • Legal name
  • Residential or mailing address
  • Employer name
  • Employer address
  • Change or loss of employment
You are also required to make a validation report to ISSS every six months starting from the date the extension begins and ending when your F-1 status ends, you change educational levels at the same school, you transfer to another school, or the 17-month OPT extension ends, whichever comes first. The validation is a confirmation that your name and address, employer name and address, and/or loss of employment are current and accurate. The six-month validation report is due at ISSS within 10 business days of each reporting date. Changes and validation reports should be made visa fax or e-mail on the Change of Student and Employer Information Form for STEM Degree Holders in F-1 Status available at ISSS and on the ISSS website.

Employer's Responsibility
The employer must agree to report the termination or departure of a STEM degree holder on the 17-month OPT extension to ISSS via e-mail (isss@miami.edu with the subject line, "STEM OPT Employer Update") or through any other means or process identified by DHS. An employer must consider a worker to have departed when the employer knows that the student has left employment, or if the student has not reported to work for a period of five consecutive business days without the employer's consent, whichever occurs earlier.

H-1B Cap-Gap Extension
Duration of status and work authorization will be automatically extended for a student on OPT who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting change of status and an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. The extension of duration of status and work authorization automatically terminates upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf.
To request an updated I-20 for H-1B cap-gap extension, you must provide to ISSS the following evidence via fax or e-mail:
  • For a properly filed H-1B petition: A statement from the employer that you are the beneficiary listed on a properly filed H-1B petition and proof of delivery to a USCIS Service Center showing the date of receipt
  • For a wait-listed H-1B petition: A copy of the wait list letter from USCIS to the employer
  • For a receipted or approved H-1B petition: A copy of the Form I-797 and/or the I-797 receipt number
Students on H-1B cap-gap extension must continue to report all changes of name and address, and interruptions of employment just like all other students on OPT.

Making a Decision Regarding Optional Practical Training

12 Months of Optional Practical Training is Available After Change to a Higher Educational Level. If you have used 29 months of OPT for STEM degree holders, you will be eligible for another 12 months after changing to a higher educational level (i.e., if you use the entire 29 months for a Bachelor's Degree, you will be eligible for 12 more months after your Master's Degree).

Authorization May Not Be Rescinded. Once authorization to engage in optional practical training is granted, it may not be rescinded or canceled. Once the 17-month OPT extension has been granted by USCIS, it cannot be taken back regardless of subsequent occurrences.

Termination of Optional Practical Training. Authorization to engage in OPT is automatically terminated when you transfer to another school or begin study at another educational level.

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