Optional Practical Training is the primary means of work authorization for graduates and for students whose off-campus employment is related to their major but not an established part of the curriculum. If you will engage in an internship or other work that fulfills a course requirement prior to graduation, you may be eligible for Curricular Practical Training.
F-1 students are eligible for 12 months of Optional Practical Training employment (OPT) during their course of study in the US. This 12 months may be used at any point after the completion of the first academic year. The OPT may be used part-time during the school year (not usual), for paid internships in the summer, and/or post-graduation (more commonly used). This is only a general review of the possibilities and basic rules.
If you choose to use OPT before graduation (for example, for a summer internship) that time is DEDUCTED from the total of 12 months for which you are eligible. If you do not use any OPT prior to graduation, you are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT to be used within 14 months of completion of the degree.
Maintaining eligibility for most types of F-1 employment means that a student must obtain a position related to his/her major and limit his or her work to: 1) no more than 20 hours per week while school is in session, or 2) full-time work during school vacation periods.
Students should not assume that they are eligible to work without first contacting the Coordinator of International Student Services and completing Form I-765, an application for an Employment Authorization Document (E.A.D.) with ICE. The E.A.D. can take up to four months to procure. All F-1 students must familiarize themselves with the employment regulations and application procedures by consulting with the Coordinator of International Student Services.
An e-mail reminder to international students will be sent in January about OPT information sessions. Students should be sure to attend one of these meetings in order to obtain the most up-to-date information about filing. Filing too late or completing the application form incorrectly could result in the denial of the application.
To learn more about OPT and the specifics of filing I-765 application form, visit http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis (go to "Forms" then scroll down to form I-765)
Remember, please do not work off campus, file an OPT application, or begin a job search before checking with Allen Harrison, Associate Dean of Students for Multicultural Affairs. An appointment can be made by phoning Regina Johnson at (315) 859-4021. You must bring the OPT Intent form with you to your meeting. You should also review the SEVP OPT Checklist.
Students applying for and utilizing OPT are responsible for familiarizing themselves with some important OPT requirements and reminders. Most importantly, students on OPT MUST notify the Dean of Students Office of ANY change of name, address, employer or ANY period of unemployment within ten days. A webform is provided for your convenience in reporting these changes.
Students maintaining lawful F-1 status may obtain written permission to engage in an internship by a "recognized" international organization, such as the United Nations and the World Bank. Students must maintain their F-1 student status while employed by such an organization. Students must check with the Coordinator of International Student Services to get an up to date list of organizations.
The interim OPT ruling allows students applying for post-completion OPT to apply for a 17 month extension (total of 29 months) under certain specific circumstances pertaining to their degree category and their employment. IF you are an alum currently on authorized OPT in a STEM field, read about the new ruling and STEM extension to see if you are eligible to apply.