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Is OPT allowed before graduation?

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  • Is OPT allowed before graduation?

    I'm an F-1 student and have only one class left to complete my degree. Problem is, this last course won't be offered until January 2009. I don't have the financial means to remain in school paying for courses that I don't need. I don't want to go home and lose my chance at OPT (I want to get employer sponsorship). Am I able to apply for OPT before my degree is completed in order to buy myself time here in the states until next January? And if I can apply for OPT early, am I limited to 20hrs/week? and do I have to be doing coursework anyways?

    Thanks to anyone who can help me out!

  • #2
    Re: Is OPT allowed before graduation?

    The ABC’s Of Immigration – Employment Options For Students, Part III - Optional Practical Training For F-1 Students

    Optional Practical Training ("OPT") allows students to work off campus for employers in order to gain training in the student's field of study. Unlike curricular practical training, OPT is not offered as a part of a set curriculum for the student.

    When can OPT take place?

    OPT can take place either before graduation or in the year following graduation. OPT that takes place before graduation can only be used for up to 20 hours per week during the school year (though full time work is permitted during holidays and vacation periods). After graduation, the employment can be full-time. Post-graduation OPT must be completed within 14 months of the student's graduation.

    How much OPT time can a student get?

    A student can have OPT for a maximum of twelve months after graduation. Pre-graduation practical training will be deducted at half the rate so up to 24 months of training are possible.

    Who is eligible for OPT?

    Only students in universities who are pursuing degrees are eligible for OPT. English language students and elementary and secondary school students are not eligible for OPT.

    Can a student work in any type of job while on OPT?

    The student is authorized only to accept positions that are directly related to the student's major area of study. Beyond that there is little guidance and students are generally given a fair amount of leeway here.

    Can a student get an additional year of practical training if the student enrolls in a new program at a higher educational level?

    Yes. New rules allow students to get an additional year of OPT when they move into a degree program at a higher educational level. For example, a student can receive one year of OPT upon completion of a bachelors degree program. When the student then completes a masters degree program, he or she would get another year. And then an additional year of OPT would be available if the student later enrolls in a Ph.D. program.

    What if the student transfers?

    Authorization to engage in practical training employment is automatically terminated when the student transfers to another school.

    What is the procedure for applying for OPT?

    An F-1 student must request OPT from the DSO at his or her institution. The request must include a completed Form I-538 accompanied by the student's current Form I-20. If the DSO wishes to recommend the student be granted OPT, the DSO will certify on Form I-538 that the proposed employment is directly related to the student's major area of study and commensurate with the student's educational level. The DSO will also endorse and date the student's Form I-20 ID to show that practical training in the student's major field of study is recommended "full-time (or part-time) from (date) to (date)." And then the DSO will return to the student the Form I-20 ID and send to the BCIS data processing center the school certification on Form I-538.

    The student will then submit a copy of their I-94 and I-20 ID with Form I-765 application for employment authorization and the required fee to the BCIS service center with jurisdiction over the student's place of residence.

    When can work begin after application is made for OPT?

    Work can only start after receiving an employment authorization document (EAD). The EAD is a laminated small card that resembles a driver's license or a green card.

    There may still be a waiting period before work can begin even if the EAD has been issued. For students seeking pre-graduation practical training, the EAD will only be valid as of the date employment is scheduled to begin or the date of the issuance of the EAD, whichever is later. For post-graduation OPT, the EAD is valid as of the date of completion of studies or issuance of the EAD, whichever is later. A school may properly consider the date of graduation to be the date of completion of studies unless the studies are finished in a prior academic session.

    When should OPT be requested?

    Post-completion OPT must be requested from a designated student official (DSO) prior to completing course requirements or prior to completing the course of study. It cannot be requested during the student's post-graduation grace period. The new rule also requires students seeking OPT during the summer vacation period after the first year of study to request OPT at least 90 days prior to the end of the first academic year.

    OPT can be requested up to 120 days prior to the date of intended employment. The INS by regulation must complete processing on the EAD application within 90 days.

    What happens if the BCIS cannot adjudicate the EAD application within 90 days?

    If the regional service center is taking longer than 90 days, then the student can apply for an interim EAD with a local BCIS office. Local BCIS offices have varying procedures for handling such applications.

    What happens if the student decides to withdraw the EAD application?

    A student can withdraw an EAD application if the employment has not yet begun. If the I-538 has been endorsed and sent by the DSO but the I-765 has not yet been filed, the DSO will send the BCIS a duplicate I-538 with the word "canceled" as well as a copy of the I-20 with "canceled" written on the recommendation section of the form.

    If the I-765 has been filed, the student should send the BCIS a written request to withdraw the application. If the EAD has been issued but the period of employment has not yet begun, the EAD can be returned to the BCIS service center with a request to cancel the OPT.

    If the employment period has begun, a student may not reclaim any eligibility time. Also, if a student transfers schools, all eligibility time is lost.

    What happens if the F-1 student leaves while the EAD application is pending?

    The BCIS considers an alien who leaves the US with a pending I-765 application to have abandoned the application.

    What about travel after the EAD is issued?

    Travel for periods of up to five months is permitted as long as the DSO has endorsed the student's I-20 for travel within the previous six month period.

    What if the F-1 student travels after getting the EAD and needs a new visa stamp?

    F-1 students in theory can get a new visa stamp at a consulate prior to re-entering the US. However, it can often be challenging to prove sufficient ties to the student's home country when the student is coming only to pursue employment rather than to continue coursework. So students should consider getting a new F-1 stamp prior to commencing OPT.

    What about the spouse and children of the F-1? May they accept employment as well?


    Disclaimer: This newsletter is provided as a public service and not intended to establish an attorney client relationship. Any reliance on information contained herein is taken at your own risk.

    More info... The Immigration Law Portal of Siskind Susser Bland, LLC - Immigration Lawyers.

    Optional Practical Training (OPT)

    OPT is the most commonly known work authorization. As a benefit of your F-1 student status, you are allowed up to 12 months of off-campus employment that is directly related to your major. Although the vast majority of students prefer to use their OPT benefit immediately after graduation, there are other categories of OPT. All of these require the authorization of not only your International Student Advisor, but of the regional CIS Service Center. The three options of OPT are:
    • Part-time Pre-Completion OPT
    • Full-time Pre-Completion OPT
    • Full-time Post-Completion OPT

    Part-time Pre-Completion OPT

    You may work while you are still a student, during the school year, no more that 20 hours per week. Since you are not working a full schedule, this is the least desirable option; however, in some instances this may be for you. For instance, if you are certain you will be returning to your home country immediately upon graduation, you may wish to work part-time during your senior year. Be aware that you will lose some or all of your Post-Completion OPT if you choose this.

    Full-time Pre-Completion OPT

    You may work full-time hours while you are still a student, during summer or winter breaks. This is desirable if you have a rare employment opportunity you do not wish to pass up. If you choose this option, you may still do Post-Completion OPT, but you will lose a comparable amount of time from the 12 months available to you. For example, if a student receives Full-time Pre-Completion OPT for the three months of summer between his/her junior and senior years, he/she may still do Full-time Post-Completion OPT for nine months after graduation.

    Full-time Post-Completion OPT

    This is the option that the vast majority of students choose because it both maximizes their stay in the US and allows them to obtain the most on-the-job experience in their chosen field. Students apply several months before graduation and choose a start date that will take place after they have graduated. They are then allowed to work up to 12 months, full-time.

    More info...
    Employment Opportunities - San Francisco Art Institute
    Attached Files
    I'm not a lawyer. The information I gave is based on certain research. Please review the information yourself to make an informed decision. Also, the information I posted may no longer be accurate.


    • #3
      Re: Is OPT allowed before graduation?

      Hi Sandra,
      What will happen if someone receives post completion OPT card and cannot graduate before the validity start date? Can he be employed?


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