International Student Services
OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING (OPT)
Optional practical training (OPT) is different from curricular practical training. OPT is temporary employment authorization, limited to 12 months, that is related to an F-1 student's academic program. The work done does not count towards course credit; therefore it is the student's option to apply for OPT. OPT may be used during a degree program as well as after completion of course requirements. If applying for OPT based on graduation, the OPT application must be received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before the official completion/graduation date. Processing may take up to 90 days, or more. Please apply early.
Students who have been fully-enrolled and in legal F-1 student status for a full academic year, may apply for pre-completion OPT (work experience) in their current degree field of study. Eligible F-1 students may engage in pre-completion OPT:
- No more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session
- During summer vacations and school holidays
- After completion of required course requirements (but before completion of a course of study), excluding a thesis or the equivalent, if the student is in a Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctoral degree program.
Students do not have to have a job offer to apply for pre-completion OPT. To apply, a student must bring the following to International Student Services (ISS):
- Forms I-765 and I-538 (available at ISS)
- $380.00 fee (check or money order only) made payable to, Department of Homeland Security
- I-20 Form (current original Form, not a photocopy)
- Photocopy of I-94 Card, front and back (not the original)
- 2 passport-sized color photos with a white background taken no earlier than 30 days before submission to the USCIS. Lightly print your name and your A#, if known, on the back of each photo with a pencil.
- Copy of Passport. Copy of driver's license, and BGSU ID card, Social Security Number (SSN) are optional.
All of the above-noted documents are then submitted by the student to the appropriate drop box for processing. It is important to note that the processing time of these applications by USCIS may vary--from two weeks to 90 days. There are no exceptions to processing time, and there is nothing that ISS can do to speed up the processing.
If the USCIS determines a student is eligible for pre-completion OPT, they will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. The card is now mailed to the student by USCIS. A student may not begin working until they have the EAD card.
If a student's pre-completion OPT is denied, USCIS will so inform the student and the reason(s) it was denied. If denied, there is no appeal.
A student in pre-completion OPT may legally change jobs during this period as long as the work experience is still in their current degree field of study. No additional paperwork is required to be filed with the USCIS for a change of jobs.
Students traveling outside of the U.S. while on pre-completion OPT will stili need to have the back of their I-20 Form signed by ISS and the EAD card before leaving and for re-entry to the U.S. It is also advisable to take along a letter from the student's employer confirming their employment and dates of employment.
If a student has applied for pre-completion OPT and plans to travel outside of the U.S., they must have received approval and the EAD card before traveling outside of the U.S.
Important Information to Remember
When filling out USCIS forms, students should always use a reliable address. When USCIS returns documents to students, they use the address the student has listed on their USCIS form(s).
Pre-completion OPT cannot be rescinded once applied for (i.e., a student applies for pre-completion PT but then decides not to use it, will still have the pre-completion OPT time deducted from the overall available optional OPT time).
After You Apply
Step One: Mailing the Application
Applications for OPT are mailed to the USCIS Service Center listed on the Instruction Form.
Step Two: Cashing the Application Fee
The first sign that USCIS is processing your application is the cashing of the check. If the check has not cleared your bank within six weeks please contact our office to investigate the matter.
Step Three: Receiving a USCIS Receipt
USCIS will mail a Receipt Notice to International Student & Scholar Services (address listed on the Form I-765). The Receipt Notice will have a receipt number, the date of the receipt notice and USCIS Web Site (http://www.uscis.gov/) to check on the status of your application. USCIS reports that the processing time for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is 90 days after the receipt notice date posted on the receipt. Please contact ISS if any information on the receipt is not correct.
Step Four: Processing of the Application
The application for an EAD is assigned to an immigration officer who will review the paperwork and approve card production. Once a file has been approved, USCIS will scan the photos and signature card into a computer system. This computer file will later be accessed to produce the work card.
Step Five: Making the EAD
Once the card has actually been made it will be mailed to the address you provided on the application.
Step Six: Proof Reading your EAD
When you receive your EAD please look it over for any errors. If any errors are discovered please come and inform International Student Services. We can help determine whether or not it is necessary to send it in for correction.
Travel & Re-Entry
Students on Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training should follow the same procedures for visits abroad and reentry required of a full-time student (a valid passport, I-20 with a valid signature from an immigration advisor from ISS, and valid F-1 entry visa).
Students on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training that travel outside the U.S. temporarily can be readmitted for the remainder of the authorized training period, provided the student presents the I-20 form with a signature of a Designated School Official from ISS which was endorsed within the preceding 6 months along with a valid EAD and letter from employer demonstrating temporary employment in the United States. Students must still have a valid F-1 entry visa and passport. If a student has completed his or her studies and leaves the U.S. before OPT is authorized, he or she will not be able to obtain permission for OPT upon return to U.S. if, indeed, the student is permitted to enter the country at all.
Reporting Requirements While on OPT
There are new reporting requirements for students who are pursuing Optional Practical Training in the U.S.
All students on OPT must report to International Student Services within 10 days of any change in the following:
- Any change in name or address
- Any change in immigration status
- Any interruption of employment (see additional information below), including a return to studies
Students who plan to begin a new academic program at Bowling Green State University will need to fill out the e-form for “New Degree Program”. Students who wish to transfer to another college or university in the U.S. must fill out a “SEVIS Transfer Out” e-form request. These requests must be submitted before beginning a new program, and International Student Services approval for these requests must be granted no later than the end of the 60-day grace period following completion of OPT. Note: OPT will automatically terminate when a new I-20 is created for a new program of study (at BGSU or at another institution).
Employment Tracking and Reporting
It is the responsibility of each F-1 student on OPT to keep track of employment-related information for the duration of the OPT authorization. ICE regulations require that students pursuing OPT report interruptions in employment to International Student Services within 10 business days to avoid situations where a DHS official may determine the student is out of status.
You will need to keep very careful track of your employment—dates, employer names, addresses, supervisor’s contact information. It will be very important for you to track your days of unemployment, and also to retain supporting documentation of the periods of time when you are employed (including offer letters, pay stubs, etc.).
Students granted post-completion OPT can accrue up to 90 days of unemployment.
Unemployment of 10 days or less when changing jobs does not need to be reported to ISS, and does not count towards the 90-day total of days of unemployment.
Students whose employers filed a timely H-1B petition and were granted cap-gap coverage are permitted a total of 90 days of unemployment for the entire period of OPT. Days spent outside of the U.S. while unemployed count towards the 90 days of unemployment permitted.
If a student on OPT nears the 90th day of unemployment, it would be best to make plans to depart the U.S., apply for a change of status to a different status or make preparations to begin a new degree program. Action would need to be taken early enough so that by the end of the 90th day of unemployment, the student would have another option already in progress. DHS has stated that an F-1 student who is unemployed for more than 90 days will be considered to be out of status.
International Student Services will not take any adverse action on a student’s SEVIS record regarding unemployment. The responsibility of ISS is to report interruptions in employment that the F-1 student reports to ISS. Failure to report that information or accruing more than 90 days of unemployment may result in DHS not approving future benefits or requests.
The above documents are in PDF format, which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.