OPT Frequently Asked Questions
General OPT Work Authorization Questions
No, you do not need a job to apply for OPT. You can apply for OPT prior to having a job. You are also permitted to change employers while on OPT.
OPT is a benefit of F-1 status and it is not a new status nor does OPT require a new visa. You will remain in F-1 status while engaging in post-completion OPT.
No, your employer does not have to be part of the E-verify program when on Post or Pre-Completion OPT. E-Verify is only a requirement of the 24-Month STEM OPT extension. Please visit our STEM OPT Extension page for more information.
If you were authorized for Pre-Completion OPT, that time will be deducted from the 12 months you have available for Post-Completion OPT. If you used Pre-Completion OPT part-time, it will have no impact on your 12 months Post-Completion OPT.
OPT can be used once per degree level. For example, if you already completed a Master's degree and had approved OPT for that Master's program, you cannot use OPT again upon completion of another Master's program.
You are eligible for additional OPT, but only at a higher degree level. For example, you completed a bachelor’s degree and used OPT. You would be eligible for OPT at the Master’s and/or Ph.D. level. If you completed your Master's degree and used OPT, you would be eligible for OPT at the Ph.D. level.
No, ISSS cannot expedite your application. The ISSS processing time is a maximum of 10 business days. However, you can help ISSS process applications in the queue sooner than the 10 business days by doing the following:
Making sure you have submitted your Final Semester Request in Workday if you are enrolling less than full time.
Making sure you completed the Registrar's Program Completion in Workday prior to submission of the OPT Application.
Submitting complete applications – no missing documents, no missing signatures, empty fields, etc.
Filling out the OPT application correctly with a start date that is within regulation.
Not sending emails about processing times. Sending emails asking about processing times or asking to process an application sooner creates an undesired effect of slowing down the process because email communication is a priority of ISSS and we read and respond to all emails.
OPT Work Authorization Application Process
Post-Completion: You may apply no earlier than 90 days before completing your program of study.
Pre-Completion: You may apply no earlier than 90 days before the requested start date.
Yes, you can apply for post-completion OPT during the 60-day grace period. However, if you apply within the 60-day period after completion, you are not likely to receive your full 12 month OPT benefit due to USCIS processing times.
The earliest day you can select is the day after the end date of your program. The latest day you can select is 60 days after your program end date. If your card is processed after the start date you selected, USCIS will adjust the start date. USCIS will also adjust the end date accordingly, but the end date will be no later than 14 months after your program ends.
While CPT is authorized by the ISSS staff at Stevens, OPT is granted by USCIS. It can take 90 days or more to receive an EAD card for OPT. We recommend that you have an honest conversation with your employer about the timing of your OPT. If you complete a CPT employment on the last day of the semester, and you do not have an EAD card for OPT, you should not continue to work or even be paid with that employer once the CPT ends. You should only commence working with the company once you have your EAD card and the start date on the card has been reached.
USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of the date your OPT was recommended in SEVIS.
ISSS recommends that USCIS receives your application within 25 days of the date the I-20 was issued (the date next to the ISSS staff member’s name on the first page of your new I-20), as a precaution.
If you are too close to the 30 day deadline and you are unsure you will be able to submit your application in time, please contact [email protected] for assistance. Do not submit your application. If you submit your application after the 30 days, USCIS will accept your application and then deny your application upon adjudication. Due to long processing, it is often not possible to reapply and you will have to leave the U.S.
The average length of time for USCIS to adjudicate an application is 3-4 months (90-120 days). OPT applications are eligible for premium processing for a fee with USCIS. If you wish to apply for premium processing, please visit the USCIS website for additional details.
You may only work after you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and the effective start date on the EAD has been reached. If you work without proper work authorization (EAD), it is a violation of your F-1 status. It may affect your ability to obtain immigration benefits or legally remain in the U.S.
Requirements During OPT Work Authorization
You must work a minimum of twenty (20) hours per week to be considered employed. This does not mean you have to work 20 hours in one place. You can satisfy this requirement by engaging in employment with two companies for 10 hours each, for example.
No, there is no maximum number of hours you can work on OPT.
OPT employment must be directly related to your major field of study. The U.S. government recommends that you retain proof of each job you have worked including: the position you held, the duration of that position, the job title, contact information for your supervisor or manager, and a description of the work. Please be sure to obtain this documentation for your records.
If it is not clear from your job description that your work is directly related to your degree (for which you received OPT), it is highly recommended that you obtain a signed letter from your hiring official, supervisor, or manager stating how your degree is directly related to the work you perform. It is your responsibility to be able to prove to the U.S. government the direct relationship between your work and your major area of study.
Type of work permitted:
Work for hire (1099 employment)
Self-Employed Business Owner
No, work does not need to be paid. Unpaid employment is permitted when engaging in pre-completion or post-completion OPT. Students are allowed to intern or volunteer in a position that is directly related to their program of study.
Please be cautious of volunteer work. There are labor laws (separate from immigration laws) that prohibit volunteering at for-profit entities. Volunteer work is typically reserved for non-profit entities. You can find more information about what it means to volunteer on the U.S. Department of Labor website.
Yes, you can change jobs on OPT as long as the employment is directly related to your major/coursework. You should submit your OPT Employment change in the SEVP Portal within 10 days of the change. If you must change your employment outside of the 10 day window, you can submit an OPT Employer Update Form in your ISSS Student Portal.
You are permitted 90 days of unemployment during the 12-month period post-completion OPT period.
After 90 days of unemployment, you are out of status. You should depart the U.S. on or before the 90th day of unemployment. Once you depart the U.S. you should submit the Complete Program Request in your ISSS Student Portal.
No, you cannot enroll in a degree-seeking program while on OPT. If a student decides to begin a new full-time program during OPT, the student must get a new I-20 from the school and forfeit the remainder of their OPT time, depending on when the new program begins. If you start a program at another school, you must request your SEVIS record be transferred to that school.
Students are permitted, however, to engage in courses related to self-development (like learning a new language or computer skill) or taking a course that you need as a pre-requisite for a future degree program. These types of courses are permitted because you will not be earning a degree at the end of these courses,
Completing Post-Completion OPT
Once you have been approved for OPT, there is no way to recapture of unused OPT time. If you have decided to leave the U.S. and not pursue the remaining time of authorized post-completion OPT, please email [email protected] to confirm your departure so we can complete your SEVIS record.
If you have not violated your F-1 status during the OPT period (exceeded 90 days of unemployment), you have a 60-day grace period following the end date of your OPT.
If you have been accepted to another degree program at another institution, your SEVIS record may be eligible for transfer to that institution if your new program begins within 5 months of your post-completion OPT end date. For more information about transferring your SEVIS record, please see the Transfer Out Request Webpage.
If you plan to continue your studies at Stevens, ISSS will issue you a new I-20 issued for that degree program. Please see the Change of Level Webpage for more information.
Travel on Post-Completion OPT
You should have the following documents: I-20 with travel signature that is less than 6 months old, valid passport, valid visa, letter of employment/offer letter, EAD card.
Additional details about travel can be found on the Travel Information webpage.
Before Your Program End Date/During Your Program:
You can consider traveling. However, since you are enrolled in courses at Stevens, you should only have a brief trip so you do not miss classes. You should travel with proof of enrollment, your latest I-20 with a valid travel signature, valid passport, and valid F-1 visa.
After Your Program is Over (the program end date on your I-20 has passed):
You need to be cautious of traveling. We do not recommend that you travel after your program end date unless you have the EAD card in your possession as well as a job offer letter/employment letter. You will also need your I-20 with valid travel signature (valid for 6 months), valid passport, and valid F-1 visa.
Students engaging in Pre-Completion OPT:
In most cases, students on Pre-Completion OPT are free to travel outside of the U.S. while their OPT application is pending.
Additional details about travel can be found on the Travel Information webpage.
A travel signature is only valid for 6 months when engaging in post-completion OPT. If you need a new travel signature, please obtain one prior to travel, using the Request for Reprint I-20 (reason: Travel) in your ISSS Student Portal.