An F-1 student who has been in status for one academic year and who is in good academic standing is eligible, with the recommendation of either Marne Ausec or Lisa Swaim, and the approval of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), to work off campus in a position which is directly related to the student's field of study.
OPT may take place:
A student is eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT at each degree level. Part-time OPT (20 hours or fewer per week) is deducted from available practical training at one-half the full-time rate. An application for OPT must be received by USCIS before a student completes the 60-day grace period following his/her program of study and the OPT must be completed within 14 months of a student's program completion.
In order to obtain employment authorization under this category, the student must file an application for employment authorization with USCIS. The application process may take up to 90 days to be processed. Upon approval, the student will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Employment may not begin until the EAD card has been received and the effective date has been reached.
When Should I Apply for OPT?
Students must apply for OPT before completing the 60-day grace period following program completion. Since processing can take 90 days, we recommend applying 3-4 months in advance of the requested start date. No specific job offer is required at the time of application. However, students should keep in mind that once an application is sent, the length of practical training granted is deducted from the student's 12 month limit, and students must begin reporting any periods of unemployment to OIE beginning with the requested start date of OPT. Students seeking OPT prior to program completion are advised that, while no job offer is required, the time requested with the OPT application cannot be altered or canceled if the student does not secure a position.
What is a STEM Extension and When Should I Apply?
An additional 17-month period of work authorization is available to students on post-completion OPT who have graduated with a specialized degree in qualifying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and have a job offer from an E-Verify employer. To file for the extension, a student must contact Marne Ausec or Lisa Swaim and ensure that the Form I-765, the supporting evidence and the fee payment reach the USCIS Service Center before the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT period. USCIS recommends filing 90-120 days before the OPT expiration date.
Limits on Unemployment During OPT Periods
Students are limited to an aggregate of 90 days of unemployment during post-completion OPT, including the extension period granted to bridge the gap between the end of the post-completion OPT period and an approved October 1st H-1B employment start date. During the post-completion period open to all F-1 students, positions as volunteers or unpaid interns (for at least 20 hours per week) will count as employment for the purpose of maintaining F-1 status.
Students granted STEM OPT extensions are permitted a maximum of 120 days of unemployment during the entire post-completion training period. Students authorized for a STEM extension must work at least 20 hours per week in an area directly related to their field of study and are not permitted to count any volunteer work or unpaid internships as employment for the purpose of maintaining F-1 status.
Note: if there are less than 10 days between periods of employment, the student does not need to report the unemployment time to the Center for Global Engagement at Kenyon.
Please use CGE's address when filing your OPT so that we can receive the EAD for you. (The card should not be forwarded by the post office.) If you move while working on OPT, you must notify Marne or Lisa within ten days of moving. By regulation, we must update your current U.S. address in your SEVIS record immediately.
Reporting Requirements During OPT Periods
The Department of Homeland Security also requires that you submit employer information each time you accept employment during your OPT period. Please report this information to Marne or Lisa.
This reporting responsibility is an on-going requirement. Failure to submit accurate address and employment information throughout the OPT period may result in the loss of your F-1 status. As indicated above, you are also required to report any periods of unemployment.
Students granted STEM OPT extensions must report the following to CGE:
Within 10 days --
Every 6 months from the start date of the STEM extension -
Cap-Gap Extensions - Bridging the Gap Between OPT and H-1B Status
Note: H-1B is a work category for Temporary Work in a Specialty Occupation. The job must require a bachelor's degree in a particular field and the applicant must hold that degree. Many students move from OPT to an H-1B visa, which much be petitioned by the employer
F-1 students who have a properly filed an H-1B petition and change of status request pending with USCIS may receive an extension permitting them to remain in the United States and/or continue employment until the requested start date indicated in the H-1B petition. Students who find themselves in this situation must consult Lisa or Marne to confirm eligibility and request documentation of the extension.
Travel Outside the United States after Graduation
If you are graduating and are planning to use the OPT benefit, you must apply for OPT before completing the 60-day grace period following program completion and you must receive the EAD card before traveling outside the United States.
In order to return to the United States, you must have an EAD, form I-20 signed for re-entry within the past 6 months, a valid F-1 visa, a valid passport and a letter from your employer, stating that you are returning to the United States to resume employment or begin a new position. While no job offer is required to apply for OPT, proof of employment is necessary if you wish to travel and re-enter the United States during the OPT period.
Should you leave the United States during OPT and require a new F-1 visa, please note that Consular Officers may reject F-1 visa applications made by students on OPT. Employment in the United States may be viewed as a step towards Permanent Residency. Students on OPT remain in F-1 status and thus must continue to prove non-immigrant intent. Consult with Marne or Lisa before you make your travel plans.