Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Students can select to participate in 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) prior to completing their degree, or in the year following degree completion. This type of work authorization requires an application to the USCIS in conjunction with the student’s UC Designated School Official (DSO).
There Are A Few Key Reminders To The OPT Process:
- The experience must be directly related to your major or course of study.
- You can apply for 12 months of OPT at each educational level (i.e. you may have 12 months of OPT at the bachelors, mater’s level and doctorate level).
- To be eligible you must be enrolled, full-time, for at least one year’s time.
- Apply early! You do not wait for a job offer. You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. Complete OPT Application
- After receiving a new I-20 with DSO recommendation for for work authorization, you must complete work authorization Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization,” (https://www.uscis.gov/i-765) with the USCIS and pay a filing fee – this must be completed within 30 days. Upon approval, USCIS will send you a Form I-766, “Employment Authorization Document,” (EAD). Once you receive this form you will submit a copy to University of the Cumberlands. (EAD Card Form)
- Once you have obtained employment you will need to submit Opt Employment Notification form so that your OPT employer can be added to your I-20.
- You may file up to 90 days prior to your program end-date and not later than 60 days after your program end date. You may not begin work until after you received your EAD.
- If school is in session, you may only work 20 hours per week.
- If you completed a STEM approved program and want to apply for a STEM extension, you must file for an extension of your EAD with USCIS before your current OPT work authorization expires. USCIS recommends that you file 90 days before the expiration of your OPT.
OPT Request Process:
Apply early! You do not wait for a job offer. You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. Allow three months for processing by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), plus additional time for processing the request and obtaining required signatures from University of the Cumberlands, and mailing to USCIS. You cannot work until you receive OPT approval.
- Complete the OPT Request Application
- You may file up to 90 days prior to your program end-date and not later than 60 days after your program end date. A delayed application may result in delayed work authorization and/or loss of full OPT eligibility (12 months) due to the three-month processing time by USCIS.
- Once your request has been processed you will receive an email update with shipping instructions.
- Be prepared to gather the following documents to include with your USCIS application (not required for UC OPT approval):
- Completed I-765 Form
- Photocopy of OPT I-20 that was issued by UC within the past 30 days (page 1-3). Don’t forget to sign it!
- Photocopy of passport identification page
- Photocopy of F-1 visa page
- Two passport-style photos
- Photocopy of the front and back of your I-94 card--or, if you do not have an I-94 card, a copy of your F-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained at CBP.gov/I94
- Photocopy of previously issued EAD (if applicable)
- Pay the associated filing fee via check or money order payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" (Do not postdate your check. The date format for your check should be as follows: month/day/year). This amount can change, please double check the instructions for the I-765 to verify the fee amount.
- Completed G-1145 Form (optional; it signs you up for email/text message notification of your application's arrival at USCIS)
Please know that although University of the Cumberlands provides information, the OPT application, is your application. We do not approve the application or have the authority to influence the process. It is not advised to travel outside the country during the application process or while on OPT. Please note that if you choose to travel during the application process, it could be difficult to respond to any requests you may receive from USCIS about your application.
Responsibilities during OPT
- You must notify the University of Employment using the OPT Employment Notification form (this document is required to have employer information added to your I-20).
- You must report any changes to your employment, address, and/or name within 10 days to the University of the Cumberlands.
- You must work a minimum of 20 hours per week in a position related to your field of study.
- You cannot exceed more than 90 days of unemployment while on OPT. Days of unemployment prior to your EAD start date do not count towards the 90 days. It is your responsibility to keep records of your employment and any periods of unemployment.
- Avoid long absences from the US during the OPT period. Time spent outside of the US while unemployed by a US employer counts toward your 90 days of unemployment.
- Attempting to re-enter the U.S. close to the expiration date of your OPT can be risky.
- You must not enter the U.S. in a status other than F-1. This may result in the loss of your OPT eligibility.