FAQ's on OPT
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of your F-1 status. Below are some frequently asked questions about OPT.
If you have questions that are not answered on this site please stop by the ISO. We are here to help!
- EADs may not be forwarded to new addresses by the U.S. Post Office. Therefore, you must be certain that the address you list in item #3 of Form I-765 is (and will be) your address when your application is processed.
- Employment may not begin until the EAD card is received. You may only work during the validity dates of your EAD card.
- The EAD for Optional Practical Training will allow you to work only in a job related to your major area of study.
- Once authorized for OPT, you may accept employment anywhere in the U.S. When you are on OPT, you will still be in F-1 status.
- If you transfer to another school or begin study at another educational level, then your OPT authorization will automatically be terminated.
- While on OPT you have a total of 90 days when you may be unemployed. Once you exceed 90 days your OPT becomes invalid and you will have to depart the U.S. or transfer programs or schools.
- If you are eligible for STEM OPT then you receive an additional 30 days of unemployment or 120 days over your 29 months of OPT.
What is OPT?
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary work authorization granted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). Students in F-1 visa status are required to have this work authorization if they wish to remain in the United States and work after completing their program of study.
Who is eligible to apply for OPT?
- Students in F-1 visa status who have been in status for at least one academic year are eligible to apply for OPT. Time spent in the U.S. in a status that allows for study in the U.S. other than F-1 can count towards this one-year requirement. In addition, you must be in the U.S. when you file your OPT application to be eligible for OPT.
How long does OPT allow me to work in the U.S.?
- F-1 students are eligible for up to 12 months of OPT per degree level. An additional 17-month extension may be possible for certain majors.
What do I get if my OPT is approved to show that I am eligible to work?
- When approved for OPT by the Department of Homeland Security, you will be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) which notes the day you may start and must end employment. You can NOT start working before this start date. You also must receive your EAD card before you can begin working.
Do I need to have a job to apply for OPT?
- No. OPT is not specific to an employer. You can apply before you have a job, and you can change jobs while on OPT. In addition, OPT is not limited to a geographic location and you are eligible to work anywhere in the United States.
Can I work in ANY job once my OPT is approved?
- No. OPT employment MUST be directly related to your field of study (your major at the University of New Haven). (For example, a Political Science major can NOT work as a sales clerk at a clothing store.)
What happens if I can’t find a job after my OPT is approved?
- You begin accumulating unemployment time after the start date on your EAD card begins. You are only allowed 90 days of total unemployment while on OPT. Approved company vacation time does not count as unemployment time.
Do I need to be working in a full-time, paid position in order to avoid accruing days of OPT unemployment?
- No, you do not have to be working full-time or getting paid while on OPT. However, you must work a minimum of 20 hours per week. You can work in multiple jobs/internships/volunteer positions that add up to 20 hours or more per week total.
Can I travel outside the U.S. while my OPT application is pending?
- It depends. Before graduation, students can travel outside of the U.S. while their OPT application is pending and return to the U.S. without much risk. However, after graduation, ISO strongly discourages students from traveling outside of the United States while their Post-Completion OPT application is pending approval.
Can I travel outside the U.S. after my OPT application is approved?
Once your OPT application is approved and you have received your EAD card, you may travel outside of the United States, as long as you have the appropriate documents when you re-enter the U.S. You will need to have the following to re-enter the U.S. after international travel:
- a valid travel signature on your Form I-20;
- a valid passport;
- a valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport;
- a valid EAD card; and
- a letter from your employer proving that you are returning to a job in the United States.
How early can I apply for OPT?
- You can apply for Post-Completion OPT up to 90 days prior to your program end date (graduation day) and up to 60 days afterwards (during your grace period). For Pre-Completion OPT, you can apply up to 90 days before your intended start date.
When an F-1 student on OPT or STEM OPT applies for a change of visa status to H1-B in a timely fashion, they are eligible for a cap-gap extension of their OPT. A cap-gap extension of the OPT authorization starts on the day after the current OPT expiration and extends the OPT authorization until September 30. The H1-B visa status takes effect on October 1. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
1. Can you tell me the status of my H1-B application?
- No. We don’t receive information from USCIS about your H1-B application. Neither your case status nor case number appears in SEVIS. What you see in your SEVIS portal is what is in SEVIS. The H1-B application is between you and your employer. ISO is not involved. When you transition from the F-1 visa to the H1-B, your employer becomes your sponsor and the University will no longer have jurisdiction over your visa status. Please ask your employer or your immigration attorney any questions about your H1-B application. If you did not personally receive the I-797C receipt notice with your assigned case number, then the attorney who filed the H1-B petition should have your case number. You can track your case status online at www.uscis.gov.
2. Can you check the status of my SEVIS Record?
- What do you want to know about your SEVIS record? Have you already checked the portal to see what is there?
If you need to reset your portal access, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the email address you wish SEVIS to send the reset link.
Are you asking whether a cap-gap extension appears in your SEVIS record? This is the only thing we can check for you. If you would like us to reprint your I-20 with the cap-gap extension, please email email@example.com.
3. I filed for the H1-B but the cap-gap extension doesn’t appear on my SEVIS record.
- The cap-gap extension should automatically appear in your SEVIS record if you have a timely-filed H1-B petition. Your employer should have filed this on April 1. If your employer waited too long, it will not be timely-filed and you will not be eligible for the cap-gap extension. If the cap-gap extension does not show in SEVIS, we can request a data fix based on evidence to have it appear in SEVIS. To request a data fix, you must submit a copy of the I-797 receipt notice proving you filed the H1-B petition in a timely manner. Send us a scan of the I-797 receipt notice, and we will submit the request to SEVP. SEVP will review the evidence and make a judgement on your request. If approved, they will add the cap-gap extension to your SEVIS record, and then we can print out an I-20 with the cap-gap extension on it.
4. What happens to my cap-gap extension if my H1-B petition is not selected in the lottery?
- If your H1-B is not accepted in the lottery and your petition is then denied, the cap-gap extension will terminate. In this case, your OPT authorization will end either on its original end date (if it has not yet passed) or upon denial of your petition (if the original end date has passed). There is no grace period following the termination of a cap-gap extension. ISO encourages students to have alternate plans, because there is a strict limit as to how many H1-B petitions are accepted. Many petitions are denied simply because the limit was reached and they were not selected. An H1-B petition, even if selected in the lottery, must be adjudicated by USCIS, so there is no guarantee the petition will be approved.
5. What happens if after September 30 I find out the pending H1-B petition is denied?
- Per new USCIS guidance, any student who has a pending H1B receipt past September 30th, upon denial, will have their record automatically completed and backdated to September 30th. The student will not be awarded a 60-day grace period. If you have a pending H1B receipt but would still like the option of transferring your record to a new University if the H1B is denied, you must submit transfer paperwork prior to September 30th.