General Questions

Practical training is the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in your program of study to off-campus work in your major field. OPT is authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The authorization process can take up to 3 months. The maximum amount of time granted to work in F-1 OPT status is 12 months per degree level plus a possible H1B cap gap extension OR a 24-Month extension for those who qualify (see information below).

F-1 students may use some or all of the available 12 months of practical training during the course of study or save the full twelve months to use after graduation. Students may apply for POST-completion (post-graduation) OPT up to 90 days before completion of studies and up to 60 days after.

USCIS MUST RECEIVE the application no later than 60 days after graduation or 60 days beyond the I-20 end date (whichever is earlier). Doctoral students may submit no later than 60 days from the last day of the month in which they submit their dissertation to the Graduate School.

Students must file the application with USCIS within 25 days of getting the new I-20 Form from OGS.

To be eligible to apply for OPT, you must: (1) have been in full-time student status for at least one academic year by the requested start date of your OPT, and (2) be maintaining valid F-1 status at the time of the application, and (3) have not used OPT at the same degree level previously.

Yes, but only at a higher degree level.

OPT may be used in "chunks" during an annual vacation or a semester before completion of studies, but after completion of studies, it may only be used as a single block of time (minus the difference of any previously-used OPT periods).

No. Once you apply for post-completion OPT, the OPT work eligibility for that degree ends. There is no recapture of unused OPT time.

OPT is not a different immigration status. A person with OPT authorization is still an F-1 student holding an EAD for OPT.

Work only after your receive the OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by the USCIS, and the effective start date listed on the employment document has been reached.

Application Process

Authorization for OPT is granted by USCIS and processing can take up to 3 months. Therefore it is important that you apply for the authorization well in advance of the date you wish to start working. You may apply up to 90 days before completion of studies and no later than 60 days after. If you are a doctoral student, apply not later than 60 days beyond the last day of the month in which you submit the dissertation. You MUST file the application within 25 days of receiving the new Form I-20 from OGS.

No.

Your start date must be within the 60 day grace period after the program end date on your Form I-20 (May to July for Spring graduates and December to February for Fall graduates). You cannot choose a date before this period starts or after this period ends. Thus, if you have a job that starts more than 60 days after your program end date, you cannot select your job's start date as your OPT start date; the latest OPT start date you could select is the 60th day after the program end date on your Form I-20. For example, if your job starts September 1st and you graduate May 19, you cannot put September 1st on the OPT Request form, the latest OPT start date you could select is July 18th.

Each student must take into account his/her personal situation when selecting a start date. 4.Here are some things to consider: 

  • Date you submit your OPT request form (The later you submit the form, the more likely you'll need to select a later OPT start date)
  • Travel plans after graduation (Please go to the Travel section of the Post-Completion FAQs to learn more about traveling abroad while your OPT application is still pending)
  • Whether or not you have a job offer and the start date of that job

If you have already submitted your application to USCIS, you cannot change the start dates of your OPT recommendation. If you have not sent your OPT materials, then you may ask your advisor to cancel the previous OPT recommendation. You will then have to provide your international student advisor with new dates so that s/he could recommend your OPT again.

Form I-765:

  • Question 3: Address
    • This is where USCIS will send correspondence and the EAD card.
  • Question 15
    • Indicate whether you have or have not applied for an EAD card before. If you have applied before, indicate where the application was filed. Hint: check the old receipt/approval notice.
      • EAC = Vermont Service Center
      • WAC = California Service Center
      • LIN = Nebraska Service Center
      • SRC = Texas Service Center
      • YSC = Potomac Service Center
  • Question 20
    • Indicate reason: (c) (3) (b)

After 90 days, OGS can contact the Vermont Service Center to request information about your case. Speak with an IS Advisor.

Yes, you may request that the OPT application be withdrawn and the recommendation in SEVIS be canceled, but only if you have recently mailed it to USCIS. Contact your IS Advisor as soon as possible if you need to cancel the OPT application. Once your OPT application has been approved by USCIS, it cannot be canceled or withdrawn.

While on OPT

Yes. During the entire Post-Completion OPT period, students must submit employment information to the SEVP Portal. STEM OPT recipients must submit employment information to the OGS STEM OPT Advisor.

Be sure to maintain copies of all OPT materials, including job descriptions, for your personal records.

For the first 12 month period of post-completion OPT, the employment does not have to be paid employment. Therefore, a student who is self-employed (including performance majors with regular “gigs”), interning or volunteering in a position directly related to the academic field would be considered “employed” for the purposes of OPT employment reporting as long as they work in the unpaid position for an average of 20 hours per week. Students should keep documentation for all unpaid employment positions.

For the 24-Month STEM extension, employment must be traditional paid employment.

No! Working before receiving the EAD card, or before the authorized start date on your EAD card has been reached constitutes illegal employment that will jeopardize your legal status in the United States.

No! Once you complete your degree, you cannot work on-campus or off-campus until you have the EAD in your possession and your selected start date has arrived. Working before OPT has been authorized by USCIS constitutes illegal employment that will jeopardize your legal status in the United States.

Once you receive the EAD card and reached the documented EAD start date, you may begin OPT employment and apply for a Social Security Number (if you do not already have one). Keep your EAD in a safe place and email a scanned copy (front and back) to internationalservices@georgetown.edu.

Yes! Immigration regulations require that while on Post-Completion OPT (after graduation), you must report required employment and address information to the US Government. You will also need to request a travel signature every six months if you plan to travel outside the United States and return in F-1 status and must report to OGS is you choose to end your OPT period early for any reason.

If you lose your EAD, you will need to submit a new application and new fee to USCIS before changing employers during the approved OPT period. The new EAD will also be necessary as a reentry document after any travel abroad.

After 90 days of unemployment, an F-1 student in the post-completion period loses valid immigration status. While OGS does not report the violation or terminate the SEVIS record, students are encouraged to depart the United States or change status. Students who exceed the 90-day unemployment limit may be denied future immigration benefits.

If you had intended to graduate, but have not yet completed the dissertation, you can continue to register until you finish the dissertation requirement. In this case, you would still remain subject to the three-month (90-day) unemployment rule.

Beginning a new course of study will automatically cancel your OPT authorization. Transferring to a new institution or changing your educational level at Georgetown will automatically cause the cancellation of our OPT period. OGS does not recommend taking a class or classes (even part-time) that may later be used to satisfy new program degree requirements.

Yes. As long as the employment is directly related to your field of study, you can work for any and all employers you would like. You must report the new employment to the SEVP OPT Portal. Please visit the After Post-Completion OPT is Approved website for more information.

If you still live in the DC area, you will need to wait until the start date on your EAD is current before you can renew your driver's license.

There are two types of extensions available after completion of the initial OPT period: (1) a 24-Month extension for those in certain STEM fields (2)an “H-1B Cap-Gap Extension” which extends work authorization through to the start of your cap-subject H-1B visa. If your OPT ends after your employer has applied for an H-1B but before the H1-B starts on October 1st, a cap gap extension is available. Speak with your IS Advisor.

There is a 60-day grace period following the end of the OPT period. The grace period is only applicable for those who have not exceeded the 90 days of unemployment during the OPT period or the 150 days of unemployment during OPT and the STEM OPT extension.

The 24-Month STEM OPT Extension

The STEM Extension allows F-1 students who have received a degree in specific fields in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, to apply for an extension of their regular OPT period (maximum: two STEM OPT periods per lifetime).

90 days prior to the expiration of the first OPT period students may file an application for the STEM OPT extension.

 

  • The employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and sign and agree to all the employer requirements on Form I-983.
  • The student's current degree must be in one of the STEM fields, or their prior degree is in one of the STEM fields at a U.S. institution (within the last 10 years).
  • The student must have maintained F-1 status while on OPT.
  • The student must apply within 90 days of the current OPT end date.
  • The employment must be full-time (at least 20 hours), traditional, paid employment.
  • There must be a bona fide employer-employee relationship.

 

STEM OPT reporting requirements are very different than the Post-Completion OPT reporting requirements. Please review the STEM OPT reporting requirements carefully. 

Students graduating with degrees in the STEM fields will first apply for the regular 12 month period of OPT.  Within 90 days of the end of that first OPT period, if all criteria are met, students can apply through OGS for the extension of OPT by completing all the steps on this page.

Start-up positions are accepted for the STEM extensions as long as all of the regulatory requirements are met and there is a bona fide employer-employee relationship.  OGS will require confirmation from students of a bona fide employer-employee relationship. 

The employer must also:

a) adhere to the training plan requirements

b) remain in good standing with E-Verify

c) provide compensation to the STEM OPT student commensurate to that provided to similarly situated U.S. workers

d) have the resources to comply with the proposed training plan.

Yes, you can work after your first OPT period ends and while your STEM OPT application is pending up to 180 days provided USCIS receives your STEM OPT application by the expiration of the first OPT period. Please refer to the I-9 Handbook

Unfortunately, under the new STEM rule implemented on May 10, 2016, students may not engage in any activities that do not constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship, including but not limited to:

  • sole proprietorships
  • employment through "temp" agencies
  • employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire

The employer that signs the Form I-983 Mentoring and Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience. 

No.  All employment must be paid and payment should be commensurate with that provided to similarly situated U.S. workers.  

Yes. However, each employer must employ the student for at least 20 hours per week, register with E-Verify, and sign and agree to all the reporting requirements on Form I-983.  

View the full list of the STEM-designated fields.  The CIP code on page 1 of your Form I-20 must be on this list for you to qualify.

E-Verify is a system operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). E-Verify is currently free to employers and is available in all 50 states. E-Verify provides an automated link to federal databases to help employers determine employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security Numbers. 

It is not recommended as it complicates and may delay the adjudication process. 

Yes. However, the STEM OPT Extension automatically takes effect the day after your current Post-Completion OPT EAD expires, and the STEM OPT Extension nullifies (invalidates) the cap-gap extension. This means that any work you engage in after the current EAD expiration date must meet the STEM OPT Extension requirements.

Travel

Before you graduate: Yes, there are no additional travel requirements.

After you graduate: No, in order to re-enter the United States you must have the following: EAD authorizing OPT, valid passport, a current F-1 visa stamp, I-20 signed within the last six months, AND job offer letter or proof of employment, with salary or bank information.

NO!! If you intend to continue working with OPT, NEVER enter in any other immigration status except F-1. If you leave the United States and re-enter in B status, you may be considered to have abandoned your F-1 status and your OPT will end!

  • I-20 Form recommending OPT and endorsed on the travel line by OGS within the last 6 months
  • EAD authorizing OPT
  • valid passport
  • a current F-1 visa stamp
  • Job offer letter or proof of employment
  • And proof of financial support

No, USCIS advises against travel while you are waiting for the approval of the STEM extension.

If you are going to Canada or Mexico, and staying for less than 30 days, you may re-enter the United States with your expired F-1 visa stamp, your I-94 card, a valid passport, your EAD card, an I-20 that has been signed by OGS within the last 6 months, and your job offer letter or proof of employment as long as: 1) you do not apply for a visa while in Canada or Mexico and 2) you are not a national of Iran, Syria or Sudan.

However, if you are traveling elsewhere, you will need to go to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad and request an F-1 visa renewal. It is impossible to renew an F-1 visa inside the United States.

The risk of denial of an application for a renewed visa stamp for OPT is somewhat higher than while you are in your active student program. The F-1 student visa requires that the applicant show intent to return to the home country at the end of the program, and if the embassy official is not convinced of your intention to return home, the visa application could be denied. However, the majority of Georgetown students do not have problems with the visa renewal process during the OPT period.

Research the visa application requirements on the website for the U.S. Embassy abroad where you intend to apply. In addition to any listed requirements, we encourage students to take a valid passport, the EAD, the most recent I-20 created by OGS and the job offer letter or proof of employment with salary information. You should also be prepared to discuss how the experience will apply to the job market in your home country.

Yes! During the initial OPT and STEM periods, students must have the travel line signed every six months. If students are not located in the D.C. area, they should mail the original I-20 to OGS for endorsement, leaving plenty of time for mailing delays both ways. If you would like OGS to send the signed document back to you via FedEx, please register and arrange payment with eShip Global.