Optional Practical Training (OPT)
As an international student, you've likely heard the letters "OPT" mentioned by someone: a fellow student, International Admissions or Student Services, a potential employer. You know that it has something to do with employement after graduation, but what are the details of the program? The information provided on this page is designed to help answer your basic questions. For more detailed answers, and to receive approval to apply for OPT, register for and attend one of HPU's regularly offered OPT Workshops.
OPT, an acronym meaning Optional Practical Training, is a program available for international students whereby students may work for an employer off-campus in the United States for a specific duration of time. This work, as defined by the United States Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS), must be "employment which is directly related to an academic degree that is obtained." OPT may be taken during an academic program but is usually taken after the completion of such a program, and can be taken as a combination of both. It can be utilized for employment anywhere in the United States.
International students who meet all of the following criteria are eligible to apply for OPT:
- Hold an F-1 visa (J-1 visa holders are not eligible);
- Have maintained their immigration status for one full academic year;
- Have studied full-time for the entire duration of that academic year;
- Are in good academic standing with the university;
- Have not completed twelve (12) months or more of Curricular Practical Training (CPT) in their current or recently completed degree plan;
- Have, at maximum, ninety (90) days before completion of studies or, at maximum, sixty (60) days since graduation.
Students are not required to have secured a job offer before applying for OPT.
Most students having met the criteria above are eligible to apply for twelve (12) months of full-time work via OPT post-graduation. Per forms filed with USCIS, employment authorization (the graduate's ability to work) will begin on the date requested or the date the employment authorization is adjudicated, whichever is later.
There are two exceptions to the twelve (12) month limit on OPT:
- Degree holders in certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) may apply for a one-time, seventeen (17) month extension of post-completion OPT, for a total of twenty-nine (29) months of OPT. If you believe that you may be eligible for such an extension, click here to learn more.
- OPT participants who are the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition from an employer requesting an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. Those students whose applications are approved will have their OPT extended until the start date of employment, October 1. In contrast, extension of status and work authorization automatically terminate upon rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student’s behalf. This process is referred to as the H-1B Cap-Gap Extension.
Following completion of OPT, those individuals who did not secure a work (H-1B) visa, permanent residency, or citizenship and who fulfilled all necessary requirements associated with OPT and their student visa while on OPT must leave the United States within sixty (60) days.
Employment Relating to Academic Program
Since OPT is defined by the United States Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) as "employment which is directly related to an academic degree that is obtained," the employment obtained by the student during OPT must be connected to the degree which the student was conferred by HPU. As an example, a student who graduated with a Marine Biology degree would not meet this requirement by working the cash register at a convenience store, designing t-shirts for a local housing development organization, or performing accounting services for a local bank.
Students found in violation may have their OPT revoked and would need to leave the United States immediately.
Unemployment During OPT
OPT recipients may not accrue an aggregate of more than ninety (90) days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT carried out under the initial post-completion OPT authorization. This means that during the course of your OPT following completion of your degree program, you are not able to be unemployed for a total of more than ninety (90) days. If this is exceeded, the participant is in violation of their visa regulations and must leave the United States immediately.
Students granted a 17-month OPT STEM extension have additional unemployment days. To learn more, click here.
Reporting Requirements to HPU
All students on OPT must continue to report the following to International Student Services:
- Any change in name or address (via HPU Pipeline)
- The name and address of their employer
- Any change to the name and address of the employer
- Any change to visa status
- Any interruption of such employment
All reporting as listed above should be done by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise indicated.
Additional reporting requirements for those students who secure the 17-month STEM extension can be found here.
OPT recipients must follow all travel requirements of regular international HPU students studying on a student visa. This includes filling out all required paperwork and obtaining a re-entry signature from International Student Services when traveling outside of the United States while on your F-1 visa. Note that while the re-entry signature while studying at HPU was valid for a total of twelve (12) months, the re-entry signature during OPT remains valid for only six (6) months.
In addition, individuals on OPT who are traveling domestically or abroad should carry both their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a verification of employment (typically issued in letter format by the employer), in addition to the standard documents for international students to carry while traveling.
Additional travel restrictions may applly for students on the OPT STEM extension. For more information, click here.
After attending the mandatory OPT Workshop provided by International Student Services (ISS), students will work with ISS to file their application (Form I-765). Applications can only be filed up to ninety (90) days before completion of studies and only up to sixty (60) days after the program completion date, provided that each individual application is filed and received at the processing center within thirty (30) days of the date the International Student Advisor enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.
Once complete, these applications are sent to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) and may take 3 to 4 months to process. Employment is granted by the USCIS, with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.
A Notice of Action (NOA) will be sent to students notifiying them of the outcome of their application (accepted or not). If employment authorization is granted by USCIS, the student will be sent an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. If an EAD is not received within 90 days of the "received date" on the NOA, contact International Student Services.
For more information about OPT provided directly from the U.S Citizenship & Immigration Service, click here.