Information on this page relates to standard Optional Practical Training (OPT). STEM extension OPT information can be found here.
• Process for OPT Applications
• Different Kinds of OPT and Application Deadlines
• Documents Needed to Request a New I-20 with OPT Recommendation from the Office of International Affairs
• Sending Your Completed OPT Application to USCIS
• Travel Outside the U.S. and Reentry
Process for OPT Applications
1. Meet with your Academic Advisor or Graduate Program Coordinator to request an OPT recommendation letter. The letter should verify your expected program completion date. (a sample letter is attached)
2. Take the CPT/OPT workshop
3. Bring all the needed documents to the OIA
4. The advisor will review your documents, and then prepare your OPT recommendation to SEVIS electronically and generate a new I-20. The OPT recommendation will be printed on page 3 of the new I-20
5. Sign your name on the OPT recommendation I-20 (page1, item 11)
6. Make a copy of your complete application
7. Send your complete application along with a copy of OPT request I-20 and required documents to USCIS. Refer to Sending Your Completed OPT Application to USCIS below
8. USCIS will send you a notice for the receipt of your I-765 EAD (OPT) application (2-3 weeks). Once you have received your receipt notice, you can track the status of your individual case using the case status search feature of the USCIS Web site. You may elect to receive email alerts about your case status from this Web site.
9. USCIS will approve or deny your OPT. If approved, they will mail your EAD to you. (3-5 months average processing time). Approximate processing times for the various applications and petitions that the immigration service centers adjudicate are published on the case status section of the USCIS Web site.
Different kinds of OPT and Application Timelines
There are two kinds of OPT, Pre-completion and Post-completion. To understand which type to request, you need to figure out your completion date.
Definition of Completion Date
The completion date is generally established as the last day of the last month of the final term in which you will register to complete academic requirements (e.g. April 30 for winter, June 30 for spring, August 31 for spring/summer, or December 31 for fall.)
Employment begins and ends before the completion of the academic program.
Earliest time to apply:
• If a student has not completed a full academic year: 90 days before completion of full academic year
There are three types of Pre-completion OPT:
Type A: During the student's annual vacation
• Student must intend to register for the next term
• OPT may be part- or full-time
Type B: While school is in session
• Student must be registered full-time
• OPT may be part-time only
Type C: After completion of all course requirements (excluding thesis/dissertation)
• After completion of all course requirements excluding thesis/dissertation
• If Type C OPT is part-time, student must be registered full-time
• If Type C OPT is full-time, student need not be registered
Employment begins after completion of academic program.
Earliest time to apply:
• Up to 90 days before program end date
Deadline for Application to be Received by USCIS:
• Up to 60 days after program end date
• Within 30 days of date DSO recommends in SEVIS. You can judge this by the date in Item #10 on page 1 of your OPT recommendation I-20
PhD candidates who wish to request a post-completion OPT start date earlier than the standard completion date should contact an International Office advisor for guidance.
Documents Needed to Request a New I-20 with OPT Recommendation from the Office of International Affairs
To apply for OPT, you must complete the OPT workshop and bring the following documents to the Office of International Affairs for your appointment:
• OPT application request form sign by the applicant
• A letter from your academic advisor (a sample letter is attached)
• The OPT Online Review Course
Sending Your Completed OPT Application to USCIS
• Base Fee for I-765, payable to Department of Homeland Security. Personal check, cashiers check or money order is acceptable. If you use a personal check, please be sure to wait for the check to be cashed before closing your bank account. (The current cost of filing the I-765 is $410. Be sure to check the website: www.uscis.gov
• Two full-face passport-style photos. The photos must be identical and in color with a plain background. They must be no more than 30 days old when the I-765 is filed at USCIS. Put photos in an envelope. You should attach the fee and the photo envelope on top of the entire application (on the upper left-hand corner). Please do not staple the fee and the photos. Use a pencil to gently write your name and SEVIS ID on the back of your photo.
• Original USCIS Form I-765. Instructions for completing the I-765 for OPT. (completed, signed and dated legibly by you).
• Photocopy of the new I-20 with OPT recommendation.
• Photocopies of all your previous I-20s.
• Photocopy of paper or pint-out of electronic Form I-94
• Photocopy of previous EAD, if applicable.
• Photocopy of most recent F-1 visa page (except Canadians) OR approval of change of status to F-1 (I-797) if applicable.
• Photocopy of your passport pages showing your biographical information and its expiration date. Keep in mind that if the photo in the passport is not clear or varies widely from your current appearance, a clear copy of another form of identification, such as a state-issued driver’s license or identification card will also have to be sent.
Mailing to USCIS
The U.S. Postal Service is the only service that delivers to a P.O. Box address. You may need to send your application via express (next day) mail to meet the USCIS deadline. It is recommended to keep a mailing receipt.
Refer to the USCIS I-765 instructions for the correct USCIS mailing address. The address you use on the I-765 will determine to which USCIS service center you mail the application.
NOTE: Because it makes you subject to additional requirements, the Office of International Affairs does not recommend using the “e-file” option on the USCIS Website to submit your application. To avoid possible processing delays we advise the submission of paper applications by U.S. Mail.
Current mailing address if you have a Michigan address on the I-765:
|For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries||For Express mail and courier deliveries|
U.S Department of Homeland Security
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
USCIS Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S,
Suite 100, Phoenix, AZ 85034
If you will not be at your MI address, please check www.uscis.gov for mailing instructions.
The contents suggested in the following order:
1. Check or money order
2. Photographs – in plastic sandwich bag- Recent “passport” photos.
3. Form I-765
4. Supporting documentation (photocopies of I-20’s, I-94, passport, old EAD, etc.)
When your application is accepted for processing, you will be sent a Form I-797 Notice of action. Keep it. This is your record of your application and your FILE NUMBER.
Decision on your Application:
If your application is approved, your EAD will be mailed to the address on your application form. Please note: government mail will NOT be forwarded. Do not plan to change addresses until you receive your EAD.
If you change your mind:
If after requesting an OPT I-20 from the International Center, you decide not to send your application to USCIS, you must notify us. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org telling us that you plan to not apply for OPT and indicating the date you intend to leave the U.S. (must be within 60 days of I-20 completion date). If you do not notify us, we will be unable to adjust your SEVIS record to accurately reflect your situation. You will also continue to be billed for health insurance.
Travel Outside the U.S. and Reentry
For important information on travel during OPT, refer to Travel Advisory
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT OPT
When can I apply?
The earliest time to request an OPT is 3 months before you expect to begin your OPT employment.
Can I go in person to an USCIS office to apply for OPT?
No. OPT applications must be submitted to the USCIS by mail, as the instructions in this page indicate.
When can I start to work under OPT?
You may only begin employment when you have received the EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card and the beginning date of employment authorization (shown on the EAD card) has arrived.
Do I have to work on OPT?
YES. If you are unemployed more than 90 days, you are no longer considered to be in-status. Employment is verified in SEVIS. It must be reported at the 6 month interval and every time employment/unemployment changes.
Does Pre-Completion OPT have to be part-time?
Yes. Pre-Completion OPT must be part-time during school. (20 hours per week) Pre-Completion OPT during vacation can be full-time.
Does Post- Completion OPT have to be full time?
If I had CPT, can I still have OPT?
Yes, as long as you did not have full-time CPT for 12 months.
What will happen if I start a new course of study?
This will automatically cancel out your OPT authorization.
Can I change employers if I have OPT?
Yes. There is no immigration-related procedure required for doing so. As long as the employment is related to your field of study, you can work for any employer.
Can I travel outside the USA if I have OPT?
In order to re-enter the U.S. after you have applied for OPT, you must have your I-20 signed by an International adviser within the last six months, a valid F-1 visa, a valid passport and your EAD card. It is also wise to carry a letter from your employer, confirming that you are working under the term of OPT employment. If you leave the U.S. before your receive your EAD card, the USCIS may view this as abandoning your application and you could potentially be denied re-entry to the U.S.
Is OPT a different visa?
No. A person with OPT authorization is an F-1 student holding and EAD for OPT. You are still considered a University of Michigan – Dearborn F-1 student.
How long can I stay in the United States after my OPT expires?
Can I return to school after completing OPT?
Yes. You need to obtain an I-20 for the next program of studies, and complete the USCIS procedure for moving to a “new level of study” (if you resume studies at UM-D) or the procedure for school transfer (if you go to a different school) within 60 days of the end of your OPT. Please note that you are only allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to 5 months between the time your OPT ends and the new program of studies is to begin; if the time period is greater than 5 months, you will be required to leave the U.S. and can only re-enter within 30 days of the start of your new program of study.
Must I remain in contact with the UM-D Office of International Affairs while I am participating in authorized OPT?
Yes, the USCIS regulations now require the Office of International Affairs to report certain information on students participating in OPT. You will need to notify us within 10 days if any of following changes occurs:
• Change of name or residential address, ( PO Box not acceptable) phone number and email address.
• Name, address, city, state, zip code, and phone number of supervisor
•Termination of OPT employment, which includes employment that ends because the EAD expires, changing to another employment status such as H1-B, or employment that ends for any other reason.
What is STEM EXTENSION? Extension of OPT is now possible for some students:
You may be eligible to extend your OPT for an additional 24 months, but there are a number of very specific requirements:
• Your degree must be in a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) field. STEM fields are defined by the Department of Homeland Security according to Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes.
• You have a job or job offer from an employer who is registered in the E-Verify program
• You apply for your OPT extension before your current period of OPT ends.
• Your OPT employer agrees to report the termination of your employment or your departure to the International Office or through any other process chosen by the Department of Homeland Security. Instructions for this reporting are not yet available.
•You agree to report the following information to the International Office: change of name or address (through UM-D Connect and the International Office); name and address of employer including any changes; when employment changes or terminates. You must also agree to verify the above information with the International Center every six months. Instructions for this reporting are not yet available.
In order to apply for the OPT extension, you must first apply to the Office of International Affairs for an OPT extension recommendation. If you meet the requirements, the International Office will recommend the extension and issue a new I-20 with the recommendation noted. You must then apply for the OPT extension using Form I-765 with a fee (currently $380.00) to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Processing Center having jurisdiction for your current place of residence.
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