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Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
A Special Note About Receiving Your OPT I-20 During COVID-19:
ISSS is normally prohibited from sending I-20s electronically. However, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, SEVP has temporarily allowed schools to send copies of I-20s electronically, and USCIS will temporarily allow students to use those copies for their OPT applications.
Once OPT is approved, an electronic copy of your OPT I-20 will be sent to your e-mail. It is only a copy and is only to be used for the purpose of preparing your OPT application. Please print the I-20 and sign it in blue ink before including it in your application.
Like Curricular Practical Training (CPT), the work must be in the student's field of study; however, OPT is unlike CPT in several ways:
- A student may work for one or more employers, change jobs, or look for work (up to 90 days) during the training period
- OPT is limited to 12 months per degree level (exception for some STEM majors)
The following links provide further detailed information on OPT.
- Periods of Participation
- When to Apply
- Authorized Periods of Employment
- The Application Packet
- While on OPT
- Travel on OPT
- Study on OPT
- After OPT
To be eligible for OPT, you must:
- Make periodic reports to UM regarding your employment
- (For post completion OPT) Apply no earlier than 90 days and no later than 60 days from final academic degree requirements. (Administrative enrollment is not considered when determining final degree requirements.)
Periods of Participation
Definition of "Completion Date": Your completion date is the end of the term in which you complete all degree requirements (this includes thesis/dissertation submission). Your I-20 will be shortened to this date when you apply for OPT.
Pre-Completion (OPT beginning before completion date)
- Part-time during the semester while remaining registered full-time
- Full-time during annual school vacations
- Full-time during the semester only if:
- you are a Masters thesis-option student who has completed 6 credits of 799 by the start date of your OPT; or
- you are a Ph.D. student who has completed 12 credits of 899 by the start date of your OPT.
Post-Completion (OPT beginning after completion date)
- Full-time after completing your program of study
Note: Students will become eligible to apply for another 12 month period of OPT when they move to a higher degree level. Some students with a STEM major may be eligible for a one time 24-month extension if they meet certain requirements.
When to Apply
- You may apply for OPT up to 90 days before the requested employment start date
- You may apply for OPT no later than 60 days after the end of the term in which you finish all degree requirements
Note: USCIS can take up to 3 months to process your work authorization, which comes in the form of a photo ID known as the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Therefore, ISSS suggests that you apply 3 months in advance of your desired employment start date. The OPT start date must be within your 60 day grace period (for Post-Completion OPT).
Authorized Periods of Employment
- You may begin working once you receive your EAD card and you have reached the start date on your EAD card
- You may not accumulate a total of more than 90 days of unemployment
To apply for OPT, please follow these instructions:
- Attend an ISSS Optional Practical Training (OPT) Workshop. At the workshop, an ISSS staff member will discuss eligibility, application process, required forms, and the student's rights and responsibilities. The workshops are offered multiple times a week. Because space is limited, you must register for these sessions. To register, log in to your iTerp account, click on Session Sign-Ups > OPT Workshop or OPT Workshop for MS Business Students.
- You are no longer required to make an appointment with an ISSS advisor to apply and request an I-20 for Pre or Post Completion OPT. After attending the OPT Workhop, iTerp allows students to upload documents, complete forms, and submit them electronically to the ISSS office to request a new OPT I-20. By using iTerp, students will submit an Academic Advisor Request e-form in lieu of the paper Exit Plan Form. You should not request an Academic Advisor Request e-form if an Exit Plan Form is already signed by your academic department.
Note: Students applying for Pre-Completion OPT are required to make an appointment with an ISSS Advisor and review their documents in person.
- An ISSS advisor will review the request and process your OPT I-20.
- You will receive an email confirmation to sign up and attend an OPT Exit Workshop. These workshops are offered multiple times a week. Do not register for an OPT Exit Workshop in iTerp before receiving the email from an ISSS advisor that your I-20 has been completed.
Note: Keep in mind your OPT application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the OPT I-20 creation.
- Prepare all remaining materials for the Application Packet and bring them with you to the OPT Exit Workshop. At this workshop, you will receive the newly issued OPT I-20 and review the application packet together with an ISSS advisor.
- After the exit workshop, make photocopies of each item in the application packet for your records and mail the entire packet (by certified or return receipt mail) to the Service Center with jurisdiction over the address on your application (must be received within 30 days of OPT recommendation).
If your I-765 address is in:
Mail your application to:
|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 Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.||
USCIS Phoenix Lockbox
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
For Express mail and courier deliveries:
|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
USCIS Dallas Lockbox
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries:
For Express mail and courier deliveries:
The Application Packet
To be sent to USCIS:
- A personal check made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security for $410 (write SEVIS number on the check)
- Two color passport photos (2"x2", write name and SEVIS number on back of both photos; must be taken within 30 days)
- The original Form I-765 (sign in blue ink)
- A photocopy of the SEVIS form I-20 requesting OPT
- Photocopies of all previously issued I-20s (SEVIS I-20s pages 1 & 3, non-SEVIS I-20s pages 3 & 4)
- A photocopy of your passport number/photo/expiration date page(s)
- A printed screenshot of the I-94 record (cbp.gov/i94) OR if you have a paper I-94, a photocopy of the I-94 card, front and back (make sure the stamp on the front shows up clearly in the photocopy)
- A photocopy of your most current F-1 visa
- If you would like to receive e-notification about the status of your OPT, attach the G-1145 form to your application.
Form I-765 Guide:
Students requesting full-time pre-completion OPT should also include:
- A letter from your academic advisor explaining that you have finished all program requirements and only have the thesis/dissertation research remaining
- Official transcripts
Your package must be received by the USCIS within 30 days of the creation of the new I-20. Expect an official USCIS receipt within a month of the mailing. If you do not receive a USCIS receipt notice within 4-5 weeks, call USCIS at (800) 375-5283 to see if your application was received.
Note: Photos that do not meet the specifications will be returned and will result in delays. ISSS recommends obtaining photos on campus at Photographic Services located at 1117 Patapsco Building (Bldg 805), 5201 Paint Branch Parkway (one block from the College Park metro station). Call (301) 405-0577 to see if the office is open an hour in advance to check availability (no appointments needed).
It is recommended to not wear white for your photograph.
While on OPT
Report the start of your employment or any changes to your employment information within 10 days via iTerp.
- To report that you have begun work on OPT for the first time or to report a new employer, click OPT/STEM Services > OPT/STEM: Report New Employer Information.
- To update details about a previously reported period of employment, click OPT/STEM Services > OPT: Update Existing Employer Information
- Unpaid or volunteer positions at UMD cannot be used as employment while on OPT
- Changes in Address
- You are still considered to be in F-1 student status while on OPT, so any questions or concerns can be addressed by an ISSS advisor during this time
- You may not accumulate a total of more than 90 days of unemployment on Post Completion OPT
- If you change to a different visa status, please inform ISSS so that your record may be updated
- If you terminate your OPT early, please inform ISSS so that your record may be updated
- You will probably be required to pay federal, state and local taxes. For more information, please visit the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) website
Travel on OPT
You may travel while on OPT. However, please keep in mind that you are still in F-1 status and that you will need the following in order to re-enter the U.S.:
- A valid travel signature on your most current I-20 (within 6 months of re-entry)
- Your unexpired EAD
- A letter from your employer indicating that you currently hold a job in your field of study and will be returning to the U.S. to resume employment
- A valid passport
- A valid F-1 visa
Study on OPT
- Only part-time study, not towards a degree, is allowed on OPT.
- You may decide to apply to another academic program, either at UMD or another university. However, once you are admitted to another degree program, it is important to discuss the situation with an ISSS advisor, as the issuance of a new I-20 will effect/terminate your OPT. If you are admitted to a degree program at another university, ISSS must transfer your I-20 to that institution so they may issue a new I-20 for you.
- If an H-1B application is pending or approved for your H-1B cap-subject employer, you may continue your employment until your employment start date (October 1 of the following fiscal year) or until your application is denied. You will need an updated I-20 from ISSS to prove your work authorization during this period.
- If your H-1B application is pending or approved for your H-1B cap-subject employer, but your OPT had expired before April 1, you would be allowed to stay in the US if you otherwise maintain your F-1 status. You are not authorized to work until the H-1B petition is approved and goes into effect October 1.
- You are entitled to a 60-day grace period beyond the last day of training as indicated on your EAD. You may not work during your 60-day grace period. You will need to notify ISSS if you plan to start or transfer to another program after your OPT.