1 Intro to OPT Thursday February 15, 2018 Phillip Thomas International Student & Scholar Advisor
2 WHAT IS OPT? Optional Practical Training (OPT) Up to 12 months of full-time employment authorization after you complete your to gain professional experience in your field of study OPT is granted in the form of an Employment Authorization Document or commonly called EAD card. Dates of validity are printed on the card.
3 TODAY S OBJECTIVES 1. Understand how to apply for OPT 2. Know what to choose as your OPT start and end dates 3. Know when to submit your: OPT recommendation request ISO OPT application U.S. Government
4 AM I ELIGIBLE? Full-time student maintaining F-1 Student status for at least one academic year Passport valid at least 6 months into the future F-1 students are eligible for an additional 12 months of OPT after each higher degree level (Bachelor s Master s Ph.D.) Job offer is not required Part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility
5 MAJOR APPLICATION STEPS 1. Speak with your Academic Advisor or Program Director to obtain a letter verifying your expected completion date 2. Submit application documents* to the ISO to obtain an OPT recommendation (new Form I-20) 3. Mail required documents* to USCIS * See ISO s OPT Guidelines for list of required documents
6 PROCESSING TIMES 1. Speak with the Academic Advisor or Program Director to obtain a letter verifying your expected completion date Processing times vary, arrange this early 2. Submit application documents to the ISO to obtain an OPT recommendation (new Form I-20) Up to 10 business 3. Mail required documents to USCIS Approximately 90!
7 WHEN TO APPLY? Program end date: May 15, 2018 Application window: February 14 - July 14, 2018 USCIS must receive your application within these dates OPT recommendation expiration : after the issue date of your new I-20 Keep in mind processing times!
8 This is the window for applying to the ISO and USCIS for OPT Note: -The is the last day of exams at GW for any given semester. -Your graduation date, or the date when your diploma is conferred, is not considered your. Application Window before 60 after
9 OPT START / END DATE You select the proposed start and end dates of your OPT authorization period when you request an OPT recommendation from the ISO. Dates below are based on the spring 2018 application cycle Earliest possible OPT start date: May 16, 2018 Latest start date you may select: July 14, 2018 Maximum OPT authorization: 365 Latest possible OPT end date: July 14, 2019
10 The OPT start-date that you choose and the ISO puts on your I-20 must be a date between your and 60 from the. This coincides with what would be your graceperiod. Note: When you complete your OPT, you receive a 60-day grace period. Application Window 150 OPT Start Date 90 before 60 after
11 OPT START / END DATE Things to Consider: May not begin employment prior to OPT start date OPT period cannot be extended Time granted is considered time used Up to 90 accrued of unemployment
12 OPT START / END DATE Scenario 1 I already have a job offer and want to begin working immediately after I finish my. Begin gathering materials now! Submit your request to the ISO as soon as possible. Choose an earlier start date. Submit your application to USCIS as soon as your application window opens.
13 Step 1: Apply for OPT early Scenario 1 Step 2: Choose an early start date Application Window 150 OPT Start Date 90 before 60 after
14 Step 1: completed Applied for OPT early Scenario 1 Step 2: completed Chosen an early start date Application Window 150 Step 3: Mail to USCIS Wait approx. 90 for USCIS decision OPT Start Date 90 before 60 after
15 Scenario 1 Step 4: Approval. If no issues, can work from the start-date on EAD. You have 90 of eligible unemployment. Application Window 150 OPT Start Date 90 before 60 after
16 OPT START / END DATE Scenario 2 I want to take a break before starting a new job. You may submit your application to USCIS when the window opens. Choose a later start date.
17 Step 1: Apply for OPT early Scenario 2 Step 2: Choose a later startdate Application Window 150 OPT Start Date 90 before 60 after
18 Step 1: completed Applied for OPT early Scenario 2 Application Window 150 Step 3: Mail to USCIS Wait approx. 90 for USCIS decision Step 2: completed Chosen an early start date OPT Start Date 90 before 60 after
19 Application Window 150 Scenario 2 Actual OPT start date OPT Start Date Because applied early with a later start-date, OPT likely to be approved before start-date, which means you will be given your requested start-date. Employment may begin from that date. Unemployment begins from the EAD start-date 90 before 60 after
20 OPT START / END DATE Scenario 3 I m worried that I will not be able to obtain a job offer soon. Submit your application to USCIS later during your application window. USCIS does not back-date authorizations. (It will not grant you an OPT start date that is earlier than the date that your case is processed.) Unemployment begin accruing when your OPT authorization begins.
21 Scenario 3 Step 1: Apply for OPT later Application Window 150 OPT Start Date Step 2: Choose a later start-date, though the chosen date is irrelevant when fewer than 90 separate the receipt of your application and your chosen date 90 before 60 after
22 Scenario 3 Step 1: completed Applied for OPT later Step 3: Mail to USCIS. Wait approx. 90 for USCIS decision Application Window 150 OPT Start Date Step 2: completed Chosen a later start-date 90 before 60 after
23 Date applied Scenario 3 Actual OPT start date Application Window 150 OPT Start Date Difference between OPT startdate on EAD and the 60-day period after your enddate is subtracted from your OPT eligibility. 60 after For instance, if your OPT is approved by USCIS for a date 2.5 months beyond the OPT start-date period in light red, then you should subtract that difference from 12. In this scenario, you would have approximately 8.5 months of work eligibility instead of 12 months (unlike in the other two scenarios where you likely will receive the full 12-month period)
24 Progression of the Application Cycle The following slides show the general timeline and how it changes the later you submit your application to both the ISO and USCIS
25 Application Window 150 OPT Start Date 90 before 60 after
26 Application Window 150 OPT Start Date 90 before 60 after
27 Actual OPT start date Application Window 150 OPT Start Date 90 before 60 after
28 Actual OPT start date Application Window 150 OPT Start Date Subtract time from OPT period equivalent to this red arrow 90 before 60 after
29 Actual OPT start date Application Window 150 OPT Start Date Subtract time from OPT period equivalent to this red arrow 90 before 60 after
30 HOW TO APPLY STEP 1: Speak with your academic advisor or director to obtain a letter verifying your expected completion date. Consider your plans after graduation. Think about an OPT start date and when to submit your OPT application to USCIS. This will impact when you will need to submit your application to the ISO.
31 HOW TO APPLY STEP 2: Submit application documents to the ISO front desk. The ISO will issue you a new Form I-20 with an OPT recommendation, and you will receive a notification . Processing time: up to 10 business See ISO s OPT Guidelines for list of required documents Review the information on your new Form I-20 for accuracy, and check your documents for any suggested changes. Sign your new Form I-20 and make a copy. You will keep the original and include the copy with your application to USCIS.
32 HOW TO APPLY STEP 3: Mail required documents (including a copy of your new Form I-20) to USCIS. Review your documents carefully! Use a U.S. mailing address on Form I-765 that will be valid for at least the next 4 months. (It can be your address or a trusted friend s address.) Make a copy of your application materials for your own records. Mail your OPT application using certified mail or an express mail service (FedEx, UPS). Get a tracking number. Must be received within the application window.
33 HOW TO APPLY STEP 4: Check your mail. In 2-3 weeks, USCIS will mail a receipt to the address you provided in your application. The I-797 Receipt Notice will have a case number that you can use to check your application status online. If your OPT application is approved, USCIS will mail you your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Processing time: Approximately 90 Check the dates and information on your EAD for accuracy.
34 HOW TO APPLY STEP 5: Submit a copy (front and back) of your EAD to the ISO through ISOGateWay ( When you get a job offer, report your employment information to the ISO through ISOGateWay.
35 TYPES OF EMPLOYMENT ALLOWED All employment must be directly related to the of study listed on your Form I-20. All employment must be appropriate for the level of study listed on your Form I-20. Full-time: at least 20 hours per week Paid or unpaid employment Unpaid/volunteer employment is allowed for initial 12- month OPT (must comply with U.S. labor laws)
36 REPORTING REQUIREMENTS While engaging in OPT, you will still be considered to be in F-1 Student status. To maintain legal presence in the U.S., you must comply with OPT reporting requirements: Report any changes of information relevant to your F-1 status (change of status, OPT termination, move abroad, name change) Report employer, address, start date, and end date of all employment, including breaks or gaps in employment ISOGateWay Keep your current U.S. address updated GWeb
37 OPT & NEW DEGREE PROGRAMS F-1 students are prohibited from pursuing a new degree while engaging in post-completion OPT. Before beginning a new degree, you must forfeit any remaining OPT and be issued a new I-20 by your new institution.
38 INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL Approved OPT Required documents at the U.S. port of entry: 1. Form I-20 with a valid travel signature on page 2 2. Passport, valid for at least six months 3. F-1 Visa, valid on the date of your planned re-entry 4. Valid Employment Authorization Document 5. Evidence of employment (recommended if you have a job or job offer) 6. Official GW transcript (recommended)
39 INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL Pending OPT Application Before end date: Since you are still an active student, you may re-enter the U.S. with your Form I-20 (with a valid travel signature), passport, and visa. After end date: Travel with your I-797 Receipt Notice from USCIS as evidence of a pending OPT application. If you have a job offer, travel with your job offer letter. If OPT is approved while you are outside the U.S., you will need the EAD to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status.
40 NEXT STEPS 1. Speak with your Academic Advisor or Program Director to obtain a letter verifying your expected completion date Processing times vary 2. Submit application documents* to the ISO to obtain an OPT recommendation (new Form I-20) 10 business 1. Mail required documents* to USCIS Approximately 90! * See ISO s OPT Guidelines for list of required documents
41 MORE INFO ISO s OPT Guidelines document Forms and Handouts tab Upcoming OPT Workshop Thursday, February 15, AM 12: PM Marvin Center, 2 Advising appointments About tab
44 *Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) Guidelines The goal of Optional Practical Training (OPT) is to provide international students with practical on-the-job experience that is directly related to the student s current field of study and commensurate with the degree level. Highlights F-1 international students who have been maintaining their status for at least one full academic year are eligible for OPT. You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. 12 months of OPT for each higher degree level is available. (i.e., one year after a Bachelor s degree, another after a Master s, a third after a Ph.D.) Things to Remember You are not eligible for OPT if you were authorized for 12 months or more of full time CPT at the same degree level. The OPT process is started by the ISO but must be authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If approved, an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) will be issued to you. You MUST NOT begin working until you receive the EAD card. You may only begin working from the dates the EAD card is valid. It may take up to three months to receive the EAD card. (ISO processing time:10 ; USCIS processing time: ) You may apply for the Post-Completion OPT up to 90 before your completion, but not later than 60 after your completion date. Employment must be related to your degree. More than 90 of unemployment during OPT is a violation of F-1 status. You are not allowed to pursue a degree while you are on post-completion OPT. Time authorized for employment by the USCIS is considered time used, even if you did not work. You must report to the ISO any change in name, address, and employer information in order to keep your F-1 status. Three-Step Employment Authorization Process Step 1. Request OPT recommendation from the ISO. (see pages 2-5 for detailed instructions) Step 2. Prepare and mail your application materials to the USCIS. (see pages 6-7 for detailed instructions) Step 3. Receive the EAD card and start working (see page 8) *If you are interested in getting information about Pre-Completion OPT, please consult with your ISO advisor. International Services Office The George Washington University Page 1 of 9 12/12/2016 G:\ISO\Forms & Handouts\F-1 Students\Employ - OPT (Optional Prac Training)
45 Step 1. Request OPT recommendation from the ISO USCIS can take several months to process your request, so please apply early! Your ISO advisor will contact you if there is a problem or question about your application. Please allow up to 10 business processing time in ISO after your request is complete. You will be notified via when you can pick up your application from the ISO. Please note that you need to send the application packet to the USCIS within of I-20 issuance. Document checklist A cover letter written by you See sample on page 3 A letter of certification from your academic advisor See sample on page 4 Completed I-765 form See guidelines on page 5 All previously issued I-20s from GW and prior schools, if applicable (copies) Your I-94 card (copy) Make sure it s legible Include both front and back of paper I-94 card or retrieve electronic copy here Passport (copies) Expiration page/biographic page F-1 visa stamp International Services Office The George Washington University Page 2 of 9 12/22/2016 G:\ISO\Forms & Handouts\F-1 Students\Employ - OPT (Optional Prac Training)
46 Guidelines for your Cover Letter F-1 students requesting Optional Practical Training are required to submit a letter to ISO as part of the application. The following information should be included in the letter: Current date Your major field of study and degree objective The date you expect to complete your studies (last day of your final exam in your final semester/ when all degree requirements are complete, not necessarily your graduation date) A description of the practical training (what type of job you will seek) How the practical training is related to your field of study The beginning and ending dates of your requested practical training You may ask for your work authorization to begin on the day after your completion date, as late as 60 after, or any date in between. Your ending date should be within 12 months from your beginning date. If you can t decide on the dates, please see your ISO advisor. Your name (printed), GWID number and signature Sample Cover Letter Your Address Today s date International Services Office st St. NW Suite 505 Washington, DC To Whom It May Concern: I am an F-1 student in the M.S. in. I am currently completing my last semester of study and expect to complete my study on _. I intend to seek a position in the area of. This training is related to my studies in because it will allow me to (example: directly apply the concepts I have learned in the classroom to practical situations in analyzing data, developing statistical reports, and making recommendations based on my research. If I find a position teaching statistics, I will be passing on to my students the concepts I learned in my graduate.) I am requesting that my practical training authorization begin on and end on. Sincerely, Your Signature (wet ink signature) James A. Student (GWID: ) International Services Office The George Washington University Page 3 of 9 12/22/2016 G:\ISO\Forms & Handouts\F-1 Students\Employ - OPT (Optional Prac Training)
47 Guidelines for the Letter of Certification from your Academic Advisor F-1 students requesting Post-Completion Optional Practical Training are required to visit their academic advisor to discuss their completion date. During the advising session, please ask your academic advisor to write a letter on official GW letterhead, addressed to the ISO that includes following information: An indication that you are making normal progress toward completion of your degree. Expected date of completion: By this date, you will have met all course requirements. Generally, the official last day of exams for your final term. Please refer to GW Academic Calendar: If you are working on your thesis or dissertation, the date you plan to defend your work. Sample Letter Letterhead Today s date International Services Office st St. NW Suite 505 Washington, DC After reviewing Mr. /Ms. s academic progress, I certify that he/she is making normal progress toward completion of his/her degree and will be completing all his/her requirements by. Signature Dr. George Washington Please note: This letter must be signed and dated. This letter must be on official GW letterhead. International Services Office The George Washington University Page 4 of 9 12/22/2016 G:\ISO\Forms & Handouts\F-1 Students\Employ - OPT (Optional Prac Training)
48 Completing the I-765 The form I-765 can be downloaded from the Click Forms in the green bar at the top of the page. Check the box indicating that you are requesting Permission to accept employment. Item #3: Address in the United States The address you put here is where the EAD will be mailed so make sure it will be valid in 3+ months. Item #9: Social Security Number (SSN) If you have never worked in the U.S., you may not yet have a SSN. If this is the case, you can leave this space blank. You will be able to apply for your SSN when you get the EAD. Item #10: I-94 Number On this item, you will use your current I-94 number. This is an 11-digit number found on the top left corner of your I-94 card. As an F-1, you will not have an Alien Registration Number. Item #11: Previous Employment Authorization Check yes if you have ever received an EAD. A photocopy of that EAD must be included with your application package. (If you have lost it, write lost EAD in this space). If you have never had an EAD, check the no box here. If you have worked on campus or have used CPT, you will still check no here. Please note that your signature must fit between the lines on the form. If your signature is too big, your application will be returned to you and delay your work permission. International Services Office The George Washington University Page 5 of 9 12/22/2016 G:\ISO\Forms & Handouts\F-1 Students\Employ - OPT (Optional Prac Training)
49 Step 2. Mail your OPT Application to USCIS Review your new I-20 Once you have received your new Form I-20 with the OPT recommendation on page 3 from ISO, please review the following information: Note the OPT recommendation dates on page 3. These dates may differ from those that you requested. Note the end date in item 5 on page 1. Your end date might have been shortened to reflect the actual date when you will complete (or completed) all requirements. You must cease all on-campus and/or off-campus employment the day after you complete all requirements. Document checklist Your application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must include the following documents: Personal check or money order for $410. o DO NOT send cash. The check should be made out to Department of Homeland Security. NOTE: the filing fee for I-765 applications will be $410 for ALL applications received on or after December 23 rd, Two passport style photos*, no more than six months old Original, completed & signed I-765 form Copy (do not send the original) of your new I-20 with OPT recommendation (pages 1 & 2) Copies of ALL previously issued I-20s from GW and any prior schools (if applicable) Copy I-94 card front and back or printed copy from online accessible I-94 o In May 2013, CBP began issuing digital I-94 documents, if you have a digital I-94 you must include a printed copy Copy of your passport identification/ signature page and page showing expiration date Copy of your F-1 visa stamp (Optional) Form G-1145 (if you would like to receive electronic notifications regarding your case) We recommend that you make copies of your entire application for your personal record before you submit it to USCIS. *Photo Requirements Make sure you meet the specifications of U.S. style passport photos. Most places that take passport photos are already familiar with the specifications, but please visit the following website to make sure your photos are well composed: (cont. on next page) International Services Office The George Washington University Page 6 of 9 12/22/2016 G:\ISO\Forms & Handouts\F-1 Students\Employ - OPT (Optional Prac Training)
50 When should I send my OPT application? We recommend that you send your application as soon as possible and within of the date the OPT recommendation I-20 was issued. Keep in mind that your application must be received by USCIS: No earlier than 90 before your end date; No later than 60 after your end date; and Within of the OPT recommendation I-20 issuance. Where should I mail* my OPT application? If the address on your I-765 is in: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Guam, or the Northern Mariana Islands. Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, or West Virginia Mail your application to: USCIS Phoenix Lockbox For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries: USCIS PO Box Phoenix, AZ For Express mail and courier deliveries: USCIS Attn: AOS 1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S Suite 100 Phoenix, AZ USCIS Dallas Lockbox For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries: USCIS PO Box Dallas, TX For Express mail and courier deliveries: USCIS Attn: AOS 2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business Suite 400 Lewisville, TX *The ISO strongly recommends that you send the OPT application by traceable mail so you can track its delivery and confirm its arrival to the USCIS Service Center. International Services Office The George Washington University Page 7 of 9 12/22/2016 G:\ISO\Forms & Handouts\F-1 Students\Employ - OPT (Optional Prac Training)
51 Step 3: Receiving EAD card Your Address on I-765 USCIS will correspond with you at the address you listed on the I-765 form. Use an address that will be valid for at least the next four months (yours or a trusted friend). Please note that mail from USCIS is NOT forwarded by the Post Office. The Notice of Action I-797 You should get a formal receipt, called an I-797 Notice of Action, within 2-3 weeks. This will have your individual receipt number in the upper left-hand corner. If you have not received this within three weeks, please contact your ISO advisor. The Receipt Number This is your case number at the USCIS. You should check the status of your case online through the USCIS website at Request of Further Evidence (RFE) If USCIS has a question about your application, they will mail you a form letter with an explanation of what they require from you. Generally, you will have several weeks to reply, but you should respond as soon as possible. Please contact your ISO advisor if you receive this letter. Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Once USCIS approves your application they will mail an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) directly to you. The time this will take varies and can take as long as The application is not considered late until 90 have passed. Employment Reporting Duty Once your OPT application has been approved and you have received your EAD card, remember to submit a front/back copy of your EAD card to the ISO. While you are on OPT, you must meet certain reporting requirements in order to maintain your F-1 status. You may find detailed information and instructions on how to meet these requirements on the ISO website. Please follow the instructions and use the Post-Completion OPT Reporting Portal to report your employment status and employer information to the ISO to keep your SEVIS immigration record up to date. STEM Extension If you find your current degree, or a degree that you previously received in the US on the following list: you may be eligible for the 24- month STEM extension. Please see the ISO website for details. International Services Office The George Washington University Page 8 of 9 12/22/2016 G:\ISO\Forms & Handouts\F-1 Students\Employ - OPT (Optional Prac Training)
52 Traveling Abroad during Optional Practical Training (OPT) Please see the table below to learn more about the different OPT travel scenarios and the risks involved. For more information, please see: Scenario Risk Level Documents you should carry Program of study not yet completed low Valid visa (or exempt for visa) Valid Passport I-20 with valid travel signature Financial Documents Enrollment letter Program of study completed Submitted the OPT Application to the USCIS EAD (Employment Authorization Document) Issued low Valid visa (or exempt for visa) Valid Passport I-20 with valid travel signature EAD card A letter from your employer Job Offer Submitted the OPT Application to the USCIS EAD (Employment Authorization Document) Issued Job Offer Submitted the OPT Application to the USCIS EAD (Employment Authorization Document) Issued Job Offer Submitted the OPT Application to the USCIS EAD (Employment Authorization Document) Issued Job Offer Somewhat High High Very High Valid visa (or exempt for visa) Valid Passport I-20 with valid travel signature Proof of OPT application (I-797 Notice of Action) A letter from your employer Valid visa (or exempt for visa) Valid Passport I-20 with valid travel signature EAD card Financial Documents Valid visa (or exempt for visa) Valid Passport I-20 with valid travel signature Proof of OPT application (I-797 Notice of Action) Financial Documents International Services Office The George Washington University Page 9 of 9 12/22/2016 G:\ISO\Forms & Handouts\F-1 Students\Employ - OPT (Optional Prac Training)
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