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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

  • Overview


    Overview


    Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that allows students in F-1 status to gain practical experience and training in a field directly related to their major area of study before or after completion of the program. Students are allowed a maximum of 12 months of OPT, which may be completed all at once, or in several different intervals. (e.g., three months each summer).

    Employment authorization is given in the form of a small, plastic card called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This card will show your photo, signature, and the terms in which employment is authorized. It will also specify the time period during which you are eligible for employment. You may not begin working on OPT until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and it is within the dates listed on your EAD.

    Who Can Apply

    • You do NOT need to have a job offer in order to apply for OPT.
    • You must have been a full-time student for at least one academic year in the US.
    • You must currently be in F-1 status.
    • You must be in good academic standing, maintaining a sufficient GPA and be making normal progress toward finishing your degree.
    • You must not have used more than 12 months of OPT in the past at your current degree level.
    • If you complete your academic program and travel internationally BEFORE applying for OPT, VIS is not able to provide you with an OPT recommended I-20 (a necessary part of your OPT application).
    • If you are finished with your academic program, you can still apply for OPT as long as the government receives your application within 60 days of the date you finished your studies at Stony Brook AND you have not left the US since completing your program.

    How Long Your OPT Lasts

    You are eligible for a maximum of 12 months of OPT for each degree level you complete. If you are studying within certain fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), you may be eligible for a 24-month STEM OPT extension, for a total of 36 months.

    Students on post-completion OPT must report your employment information within 90 days of your authorization OPT start date. If you don't report your employment or cannot find a job within that time, your OPT will automatically end.


    How Long Does It Take to Get Approved

    It takes around 3-4 months to get approved for OPT so it is important to plan ahead. Below is a breakdown of the timeline:

    1. Your academic department signs off on a request form (1-2 weeks).
    2. VIS prepares your new I-20 (5-7 business days).
    3. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) evaluates your application (3-4  months).  Click here for USCIS' most up-to-date processing times.

    How to Apply

    To use OPT before you finish your studies, review the Pre-Completion OPT information.

    To use OPT after you finish your studies, review the Post-Completion OPT information.

  • Post Completion OPT


    Post Completion OPT

    Post-completion OPT is Optional Practical Training used AFTER finishing your program of study. Remember, OPT is employment that is directly related to your major field of study and is only for students in F-1 status.

     

    When to Apply

    The earliest you can apply is 90 days prior to your completion date. The latest you can apply is 4 weeks after you complete your degree requirements to allow for adequate processing time. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will not accept applications received 60 days or more beyond the completion date.

    If you are a graduate student completing a thesis or dissertation, your completion date would be the date your academic advisor indicates you will finish all requirements for your program. This date doesn't have to match the end of semester date but in many cases it will. If you have any questions on your completion date, be sure to contact us.

    Reasons to File as Early as Possible

    The US government can take three to five months to process your OPT application. Check the US government processing times. [You must select "I-765" for form type. For Field Office or Service Center, most of our students' applications go to the Potomac Service Center.] It is best to plan ahead and apply as early as possible because USCIS only rarely expedites applications (see USCIS expedite criteria). For December graduates, that means you should apply by mid September; for May graduates, by mid February. By applying early, you can avoid the risks that come from an OPT request being denied after the grace period has ended.

    Choosing Your Start & End Dates

    Post-completion OPT may start any time during the 60 day grace period after degree completion, and must end within 14 months of degree completion date.

    You are eligible for one year of OPT available per academic level of study. If you've never used OPT at your current academic level, then you will most likely want to put an end date one year after your selected OPT start date. For example, if you are indicating a start date of May 25, 2023, your end date would then be May 24, 2024.

    USCIS processing typically takes about 3-6 months, so you should apply for OPT as early as possible to maximize the 12 months available.

    For more assistance, click here or contact your International Student Advisor for assistance.

    How to Apply

    STEP 1: VIEW THE OPT WORKSHOP

    Attend an OPT Workshop to get tips on preparing a successful OPT application and reminders on what you need to do while you are on OPT to maintain your F-1 status.

    In lieu of attending an OPT Workshop, you can review the OPT Presentation or recorded webinar.

    STEP 2: A REQUEST TO VIS FOR AN I-20 RECOMMENDING YOU FOR OPT

    Within the Post Completion OPT Request in accessVIS under Practical Training submit all three forms:

        • Obligations for Maintaining your F-1 Status
        • Request for an I-20 Recommending OPT
        • Form I-765 Tutorial (becomes available once the I-20 Recommending OPT e-form has been submitted)

    When submitting the Request for an I-20 Recommending OPT, be sure to have the following documents available for upload in PDF format before beginning this request. Documents uploaded in accessVIS must be in PDF format. Files exceeding 100MB must be compressed before uploading to avoid an error message.

    • Current Form I-94 (card both sides or electronic copy),
    • Passport (including identity pages and expiration date),
    • F-1 Visa stamp (if applicable).
    • Undergraduates Only: Major/Minor Review Form completed and signed by your major and minor advisors.
    • If applicable, upload a scanned copy of your official Letter of Offer from your employer.

     This e-form will first be routed to your general academic advising unit or academic department for completion before it is assigned to your VIS advisor.

    You must review the electronic OPT Application Review Module and submit the I-765 Tutorial eform within the Post-Completion OPT request in accessVIS. You must upload your program completion certificate to the I-765 Tutorial e-form to receive credit.

    Students applying for Post Completion OPT will be assessed a $100 International Student Fee, payable through SOLAR. This is a SUNY approved fee effective since Fall 2012 that is assessed based on the issuance your I-20 recommending OPT regardless of whether you use the OPT authorization or not. Failure to submit timely payment of this fee could result in the Bursar reporting your information to a collection agency.

    STEP 3: REVIEW YOUR NEW I-20 & PREPARE YOUR OPT APPLICATION

    If your request for OPT is approved, you will be issued a new I-20 recommending OPT, and emailed a link to download your updated I-20. You must print and sign this new "OPT I-20" with blue ink. If you notice any mistakes on your I-20 please contact your VIS Advisor immediately. 

    Completing Form I-765 is the next step. There are two ways to file your I-765 application with USCIS, either online or through a paper application. Please only choose one option.

    Filing the Form I-765 Online

    Filing the Paper Based Form I-765

    Do not submit your I-765 application with USCIS until you have received your I-20 recommending OPT.


    Employment Reporting Requirements

    Students authorized for Post Completion OPT may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment. If you don't report your employment, or you exceed the 90 day unemployment period, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) may end your F-1 OPT and terminate your SEVIS record, thus requiring you to leave the US immediately.

    Work done under OPT must be directly related to your major area of study. Any employment that you engage in while authorized for OPT that is not directly related to your major could be considered a status violation. As such SEVP recommends that you maintain evidence for each job documenting the position held, proof of the duration of that position, the job title, contact information for your supervisor or manager, and a description of the work. If it is not clear from the job description that the work is related to your degree, SEVP recommends that you obtain a signed letter from your hiring official, supervisor, or manager stating how the your degree is related to the work performed.;

    Once you have secured an employer, please log in to accessVIS and complete theAdd or Update OPT Employment form.

    Click here to review your reporting requirements and responsibilities for maintaining your F-1 status while authorized for OPT.

  • Pre Completion OPT


    Pre Completion OPT


    Pre-completion OPT is Optional Practical Training used BEFORE finishing your program of study. Remember, OPT is employment that is directly related to your major field of study and is only for students in F-1 status.

    If you apply and are approved for Pre-Completion OPT, regardless of whether you actually find a job, the time will deduct from the total of 12 months of OPT you have at your current degree level. If you get approved for Pre-Completion OPT and don’t use it, it still deducts, so be prudent and intentional.

    Pre-Completion OPT that is 20 hours or less per week will be deducted at half the rate. For example, if you work four months for 20 hours or less per week for Pre-Completion OPT, you would have two months deducted from your 12 month total. Therefore, you would then have ten months of OPT to use before or after graduation.


    How Many Hours Can You Work per Week?

    Fall or Spring Semester: You can get authorized for pre-completion OPT on a part-time basis only (20 hours or less per week) during the fall or spring semester while engaged in course work.

    Master's Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation: If you are working on a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation following completion of all coursework you can get authorization for either a part-time or full-time basis (> 21 hours per week).

    Summer & Winter Break: During holiday periods (such as the summer and winter breaks) you can be authorized for either a part-time (20 hours or less per week) or full-time basis (> 21 hours per week).

    When to Apply

    If you have been a full-time student for MORE than one academic year in the US and are currently in F-1 status, you may apply for pre-completion OPT up to 90 days before you want your OPT to start. If you are in F-1 status and have been a full-time student for LESS than one academic year, you may apply for pre-completion OPT up to 90 days before you will have completed one academic year. However, your OPT cannot begin until you have completed the full academic year.


    How to Apply

    STEP 1: ATTEND A WORKSHOP

    Attend a CPT & Pre-Completion OPT Workshop to get tips on preparing a successful Pre-Completion OPT application and reminders on what you need to do while you are on OPT to maintain your F-1 status.

    In lieu of attending a workshop, click to review theCPT & Pre-Completion OPT Presentationor recorded webinar.

    What's the difference between CPT and OPT?  CPT vs. OPT

    STEP 2: SUBMIT A REQUEST TO VIS FOR AN I-20 RECOMMENDING YOU FOR OPT

    Submit the Pre Completion OPT Request in accessVIS to a request an I-20 recommending OPT.

    Be sure to have the following documents available for upload in PDF format before beginning this request. Documents uploaded in accessVIS must be in PDF format. Files exceeding 100MB must be compressed before uploading to avoid an error message.

    • Current Form I-94 (card both sides or electronic copy),
    • Passport(including identity pages and expiration date),
    • F-1 Visa stamp (if applicable).
    • Undergraduates Only: Major/Minor Review Form completed and signed by your major and minor advisors.
    • If applicable, upload a scanned copy of your official Letter of Offer from your employer.

    Once you submit your request for an I-20 Recommending OPT, it takes 5-7 business days for VIS to process your request.

    STEP 3: REVIEW YOUR NEW I-20 & PREPARE YOUR OPT APPLICATION

    If your request for OPT is approved, you will be issued a new I-20 recommending OPT, and emailed link to download your updated I-20. You must print and sign this new "OPT I-20" with blue ink. If you notice any mistakes on your I-20please contact your VIS Advisor immediately.

    Completing Form I-765 is the next step. There are two ways to file your I-765 application with USCIS, either online or through a paper application. Please only choose one option.

    Filing the Form I-765 Online

    Filing the Paper Based Form I-765

    Employment Requirements

    Work done under OPT must be directly related to your major area of study. Unlike curricular practical training (CPT), the work done for Pre-Completion OPT does not have to be an integral part of an established curriculum. Its optional nature allows it to be used for any employment that is directly related to your major/degree program. Any employment that you engage in while authorized for OPT that is not directly related to your major could be considered a status violation.

    SEVP recommends that you maintain evidence for each job documenting the position held, proof of the duration of that position, the job title, contact information fo your supervisor or manager, and a description of the work. If it is not clear from the job description that the work is related to your degree, SEVP recommends that you obtain a signed letter from your hiring official, supervisor, or manager stating how the your degree is related to the work performed.

    Once you have secured an employer, please log in to accessVIS and complete theAdd or Update OPT Employment form.

  • I-765 Explained


    Form I-765 Explained


    F-1 students may filing the Form I-765 online, or by using the paper based application processing. The instructions linked below are provided as a service solely to the international students of Stony Brook University who are applying for Optional Practical Training. We make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information. Due to frequent government updates, VIS may make additions, deletions, or modifications to the contents on this page at any time without prior notice.

    Filing the Form I-765 Online

    Filing the Paper Based Form I-765

     



  • Cap Gap Extension


    Cap Gap Extension


    The Cap Gap is the period after F-1 students’ Optional Practical Training has expired, but before their H-1B work authorization begins on October 1. The OPT Cap Gap Extension automatically extends F-1 students’ immigration status and work authorization in order to bridge the gap between the end of their F-1 status and the start of their H-1B status ensuring the students’ employment and stay in the U.S. are not interrupted.

     

    Who is eligible for the Cap Gap Extension?

    You are eligible for the Cap Gap Extension if your OPT will end before the start of your H-1B, you have maintained F-1 status and you are the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that:

    • has been properly and timely filed AND
    • requests an employment start date of October 1 AND
    • requests a change of status to H-1B

    Note: If your H-1B petition requests consular processing rather than a change of status, you are not eligible for the Cap Gap Extension.

     

    When should I apply?

    You should apply for a Cap Gap Extension as soon as you have proof that your H1-B petition is pending or was approved. In order to continue working on OPT, your H-1B petition must be filed before your Post-Completion OPT ends. Please keep in mind that we cannot extend your I-20 for the cap gap period unless we have proof that your H-1B petition was properly filed, is pending, waitlisted or has been approved.

    If you do not have an I-797 receipt notice and your OPT will expire before June 1, we can extend your I-20 based on proof that your H-1B petition was timely filed. Such proof should include:

    1. A statement from your employer indicating that you are the beneficiary listed on a properly filed H-1B petition, AND
    2. Proof of delivery of your H-1B petition to a USCIS Service Center (e.g. Express Courier Delivery Receipt)

     

    How do I apply for a Cap Gap I-20 from VIS?

    F-1 Students wishing to request an H-1B Cap Gap Extension should submit the H-1B: Cap Gap Extension Request in accessVIS. You must upload a copy of your H-1B receipt or approval notice and a copy of your valid EAD card before you can submit your application. Only documents saved as a PDF or JPEG are acceptable.

    1. To login to accessVIS click here (https://vis.stonybrook.edu):
    2. Click the "Limited Services" link on the accessVIS homepage.
    3. Enter your Stony Brook ID#, date of birth and Limited Services PIN.
    4. Click on F-1 Student Services (located on the left sidebar toward the bottom of the webpage)
    5. Complete and submit H-1B: Cap Gap Extension Request.

    NOTE: If any of your employment details have changed since you last reported to VIS, you must update them again by submitting the respecting Post/STEM Reporting eform.

    If your petition for H-1B was timely filed (before the expiration of your Post-Completion OPT), a new I-20 indicating your Cap Gap Extension will be issued, and your work authorization will be extended through until 9/30.

    If your petition for H-1B was filed during your 60 day grace period (after the expiration of your Post-Completion OPT), a new I-20 indicating your Cap Gap Extension will be issued, but only your ability to remain in the U.S. will be extended through until 9/30, you cannot work until your H-1B is valid on 10/1.

    How long is the Cap Gap Extension application process?

    In most cases, your new I-20 will be issued within 5-7 business days upon receipt of proper documentation. Occasionally, it is necessary for us to make a request to SEVIS for your “cap gap” information to be manually added to your SEVIS record. If this is necessary, your I-20 may take a few 3-4 weeks.

    You will be notified via e-mail when your new I-20 is ready. It can be mailed to you at your expense or you can pick it up from VIS in person.

    Can I work while my Cap Gap Extension is in process?

    If your petition for H-1B was timely filed (before the expiration of your Post-Completion OPT or 24-month STEM Extension), your work authorization will be extended through until 9/30.

    If your petition for H-1B was filed during your 60 day grace period following the expiration of your OPT (Post-Completion OPT or 24-month STEM Extension), only your ability to remain in the U.S. will be extended through until 9/30, but you cannot work until your H-1B becomes valid on 10/1.

    Note: Your work authorization automatically ends if the USCIS rejects, denies or revokes your H1B petition.

     

    How long will my OPT be extended?

    The length of your Cap Gap Extension is determined by the status of your H-1B petition and the expiration date of your EAD card.

    If Your H-1B Petition is Approved – As long as your OPT was valid when the H1-B petition was filed (ie. received by USCIS), your OPT work authorization and F-1 status will both be extended until September 30.

    If Your H-1B Petition is Pending – As long as your OPT was valid when the H1-B petition was filed (ie. received by USCIS) and you have an H-1B Receipt Notice, your OPT work authorization will automatically be extended until September 30.

    If Your H-1B Petition was Filed, But Not Receipted – As long as your OPT was valid when the H1-B petition was filed (ie. received by USCIS), your OPT work authorization can be extended until June 1 and your F-1 status until August 1. If this is your situation, submit proof to VIS that your application was delivered to the USCIS.

    If Your H-1B Petition is Waitlisted – As long as your OPT was valid when the H1-B petition was filed (ie. received by USCIS), your OPT work authorization will automatically be extended until July 28.

    What happens if my H-1B petition is withdrawn, denied or rejected?

    If your H-1B petition is withdrawn, denied or rejected, your OPT work authorization will end 10 days after the notification date and you will have a 60-day grace period from that date to depart the U.S. Note: If the H-1B was denied due to discovery of an immigration status violation or revoked because of fraud or misrepresentation, there is no grace period.

     

    Can I travel outside the U.S. during the Cap Gap Extension?

    If your EAD card is still valid, you may travel outside and re-enter the U.S. However, please consult with your immigration attorney regarding any travel plans while your H-1B petition is pending and after it has been approved.

  • OPT Workshops


    Post Completion OPT Workshop Schedule

    This workshop provides tips on preparing a successful OPT application and reminders on how to maintain your F-1 status while authorized for OPT. Attendance and/or review of the OPT Workshop is recommended for any F-1 student who wishes to obtain work authorization to engage in Post-Completion Optional Practical Training.

    Wednesday, September 14th 1:00 PM EST Frey 100
    Thursday, October 20th 5:30 PM EST Virtual (Registration Link)
    Thursday, December 8th 11:00 AM EST Union Auditorium


    View our most recent Virtual Optional Practical Training (OPT) Workshop:

    View the Fall 2022 Optional Practical Training (OPT) Workshop Presentation


    I-765 Tutorial

    Completion of the I-765 Tutorial is required for students submitting the I-765, Application for Employment Authorization to USCIS. During this module, you will learn what the required materials are for the I-765, as well as your obligations for maintaining your status while on OPT. This session is available in the I-765 Tutorial e-form within the Post-Completion OPT Checklist. To receive your Form I-20 recommending Post Completion OPT, you must review the I-765 Tutorial in it's entirety, and upload your program completion certificate in the e-form.

  • SEVP Portal


    SEVP Portal


    As of March 23, 2018, the US government created an online portal for students on Post-Completion OPT to report the following personal and employer information directly to SEVP.

    • Add or edit your phone number.
    • Add or edit your mailing and physical address.
    • Add or edit your employer's information.

    The use of this portal is optional and does not impact your employment authorization. At this time VIS encourages you to submit any updates directly to us in accessVIS. Once you submit your information to VIS, we will update your SEVIS record, and thus the US government on your changes.

    If you choose to use the government's SEVP Portal and have any issues using it, including if you get locked out of it, if you forget or need to reset your password, or if you never received the email providing you with instructions with how to create and log into the portal, please contact your International Student Advisor for assistance.

     

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Who may report employment through the SEVP Portal? All F-1 students who are on an approved period of OPT or STEM OPT may set up an account to report their information. Even if you have already reported your employment to VIS using the respective OPT/STEM Reporting form, you will receive the email about the SEVP Portal.

    Which email will SEVP use to communicate with me? SEVP will use the personal non-Stony Brook email address you most recently reported in accessVIS. This is the email address that we have listed for you in SEVIS and will be the only email that they will communicate with.

    Can I still report my employment in accessVIS? Yes, we advise students report using the Pre & Post OPT Reporting form or the STEM OPT Reporting form depending on their authorization.

    What if I report my employment through the SEVP Portal but SEVP does not have a record of it? This should not be the case. However, VIS recommends that you take a screenshot of your employment reporting when you submit it and save this in your records.

    I am on STEM OPT, should I still use the SEVP Portal? Those on STEM OPT may edit employer information or delete an employer if they have never worked for that company. All 6 month reporting, as well as submission of the 12 month evaluation, 24 month evaluation, end of employment evaluation, and a new employer I-983 (if you change employers) must continue to be done through accessVIS by submitting the STEM OPT Reporting form.

    What if I have trouble accessing the SEVP Portal or have questions once I login? Portal users can now reset their own accounts if they have been locked out of their account. A “Password Reset” option is available on the SEVP Portal log in page. Additionally, SEVP has a website with step-by-step videos and instructions. This is a pilot program of the SEVP Portal and SEVP appreciates your feedback. To provide feedback on your experience with the portal and to suggest improvements, email SEVP@ice.dhs.gov. To help SEVP route your feedback to the right team quickly, please put the following in the subject line of your email: “SEVP Portal Feedback” and the name of your school. We encourage you to be candid in your evaluation, highlighting what you liked and what you didn't like.

  • FAQ


    Frequently Asked Questions

    The purpose of this page is to provide answers to frequently asked questions regarding Post Completion OPT. Should you have further questions, feel free to contact your International Student Advisor directly.

    General OPT Questions
    Your OPT Application
    Filing the Form I-765 Online
    While Your OPT Application is Pending
    International Travel & OPT
    Working on OPT
    OPT Reporting Requirements
    Options After OPT


    For COVID-19 related OPT questions, visit our Student FAQ's During COVID-19 page.