International Student Services
OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING
Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides students attending Morehouse on the F-1 student visa the opportunity to gain one year of practical experience in the United States following graduation. It is limited to a total of 12 months in a field directly related to the major course of study. At the time of application, students are not required to have an offer of employment. However, during the OPT period, students are limited to a maximum of 90 days of unemployment. OPT participants are required to maintain contact with Dean Wright to insure your good status rating with SEVIS.
- F-1 students are eligible for OPT if they have maintained status for one full academic year (2 consecutive semesters).
- It is possible to break up the 12-month period of time into shorter segments. However, it is not recommended since sometimes the second period is not granted.
- If a student has engaged in 12 months (365 days) or more in the aggregate of full-time CPT, the student is ineligible to apply for OPT
- Students must complete their practical training within 14 months after completion of their program.
Part-time Clinical Practical Training:
- Cannot be for more than 20 hours per week (while full-time Practical Training is anything more than 20 hours per week)
- When students work part-time, the hours will be deducted from the available Optional Practical Training at one-half the full-time rate.
- Part-time OPT is not available once the student has graduated.
Regarding Your Status:
OPT is a continuation of your F-1 student status. Upon completion of your OPT, you have 60 days to do one of the following:
- Change to a nonimmigrant status other than F-1
- Be admitted to and have an I-20 issued for a new academic program
- Transfer your F-1 status to another U.S. institution
- Depart the United States
Travel Outside the United States
Students are strongly discouraged from traveling after the completion of studies while they have a pending application for OPT. USCIS could interpret the student's departure from the U.S. as abandoning the application.
However, once the Employment Application Document (EAD) is received, students can travel with the following:
- The EAD, valid visa, I-20 endorsed for travel by the DSO (no older than 6 months at the time of entry) and a letter from the employer to re-enter the U.S
- Caution: If the student has not yet secured employment, the Immigration Port of Entry inspector might not allow re-entry to the U.S.
- Travel during OPT without a valid visa to return is NOT RECOMMENDED. However, the student visa can be renewed with the EAD and a letter from the employer.
OPT Validation - Conditions of Employment and Unemployment
Although you do not need a job to apply for OPT, you are now required to have employment for at least 9 months of your authorized period of OPT. Students are limited to accruing 90 days or less of unemployment during the 12 month period. If you are changing positions, the regulations allow for a 10 day grace period. It is important to note that leaving the United States does not prevent accrual.
SEVIS requires that institutions report a student's change in legal name, address, or non-immigrant status; any change in the employer's information (address and name) and any interruption of such employment throughout the duration of OPT. Upon receipt of the EAD, the student should provide a copy to the Office of International Student Services. In addition, students must update their information every six months starting from the date the OPT begins and ending when the F-1 status ends; the educational level changes; there is a transfer to another school, or OPT ends.
H-1B Cap Gap
Effective April 8, 2008, students on post-completion OPT, who are the beneficiaries of a timely filed H-1B petition requesting an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year, can continue their employment and have continued duration of status while awaiting a decision on the H-1B petition. The extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on behalf of the student. To take advantage of the Cap Gap, the following information is required:
- A properly filed petition
- If selected for waitlisting, a photocopy of the documentation.
- If approved for the H-1B, provide documentation to the international students office so that a new I-20 can be generated reflecting the extension.
If a rejection/denial of the H-1B request is received, and it is beyond the expiration date on the EAD card, the student must terminate employment. Additionally, within 60 days of notification of denial of the petition, the student must depart the U.S. or change to a status other than F-1.
Students benefiting from the Cap Gap should not leave the United States after the expiration of the EAD. Students who decide to leave the U.S. will not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. as F-1 students. Students with an approved H-1B will need to obtain a new visa stamp and can only re-enter under the auspices of the H-1B visa. Students should discuss H-1B requirements with the employer.
17 Month STEM Extension
The U.S. government extended the period of eligibility of OPT for certain majors for an additional 17 months for a total of 29 months of post-completion OPT. Students who completed programs in specific majors in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are eligible for the extension.
A student should apply for the STEM extension during the last three months of the approved EAD.
Applying for OPT Form I-765 Special Instructions
The complete instructions for the Form I-765 can be found at http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/I-765instr.pdf. OPT is authorized in three forms with one of the 3 codes stated in the regulations: for pre-completion OPT use (c)3(A); for post-completion OPT use (c)3(B); for the 17-month STEM extension use (c)3(C).
It is important to note that students cannot apply for OPT earlier than 90 days before the completion of their program of study and up to 60 days after graduation.