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Optional Practical Training Tutorial

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1 Optional Practical Training Tutorial
International Student & Scholar Services Center for International Studies Updated 4/13/2010

2 Welcome to the OPT tutorial
Welcome to our OPT Tutorial! To expedite the OPT application process, we have introduced an easy-to-follow format which will allow you to:      1) learn about OPT,      2) understand the application process, and      3) download all the necessary forms, all at your own pace. Please read this material carefully so that you are aware of all rules and regulations concerning your OPT. Once you have completed the tutorial, you will be able to download the OPT application and drop this off at the Center for International Studies. You can pick up your I-20 in 5 business days after it is received at CIS.

3 Eligibility to Apply Eligible:
F-1 student who has been in lawful full-time status for one academic year A job offer is not required at the time of application We recommend you submit your application 90 days before you want to start working on OPT. USCIS must receive your OPT application before the last day of your 60-day grace period. Not eligible: Students in an intensive English-language or certificate program If you have exceeded 12 months of full-time CPT during this program level

4 Types of OPT – Post-completion
1. Post-completion OPT Full time after completion of all degree requirements 12 months full-time per program level Must apply for OPT by the end of your 60-day grace period Your grace period lasts for 60 days after your program end date. Please apply no later than 10 days before your grace period ends. Must begin OPT by the end of your 60-day grace period Must complete all practical training within a 14-month period following completion of program (i.e., 60-day grace period plus 12 months OPT = 14 months maximum)

5 Types of OPT – Pre-completion
2. Pre-completion OPT May work part-time or full-time during summer* Part-time only during the academic year (20 hours/week maximum)* *Most students use CPT as opposed to these options so it does not deduct from your 12 months of post-completion OPT. Full time after completion of all course requirements for the degree (currently working/enrolled in thesis/starred paper). If you are applying for pre and post-completion OPT, two OPT applications are required. NOTE: Part-time pre-completion OPT is deducted at ½ time rate. The total of pre and post-completion OPT combined cannot exceed 12 months. The 90-day unemployment rule does not apply to pre-completion OPT. Those who only do pre-completion OPT are not eligible for STEM extensions.

6 Applying - General “When should I apply?” We recommend you submit your application 90 days before you want to start working on OPT. Post-completion OPT forms must be received at USCIS by the end of your 60-day grace period. You may apply up to 90 days before your program end date. *If you wait until the end of your grace period to apply for OPT, it will affect your 90 days of unemployment. Additionally, you may not receive an entire year of OPT authorization. “Can I expedite my OPT application?” If your OPT start date is greater than 2-3 months away, this is not necessary due to regular processing times with USCIS. If your OPT start date is less than 3 months away, you must include a job offer letter with your application. Note: Expediting OPT is not guaranteed and there is no timeline of when your OPT application will be processed. “What happens if I don't receive my Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by end of the grace period?” This is ok, you will still be in status as long as you have applied for OPT. You just cannot start working until you receive your EAD. “What happens if I don't receive my EAD by start date of OPT?” You MUST WAIT TO BEGIN WORKING until you receive your EAD.

7 Applying – Choosing OPT dates
Ex: Graduating in Spring 2010 (ending 05/07/2010) 5/7/ /8/ day grace period 7/7/10 End of semester Earliest date Last date to start Can choose any date to start in between OPT End date is 12 months after start date (ex: 05/08/2010 to 05/07/2011) You will receive an additional 60-day grace period after the end of your OPT (each grace period is independent). You can not work during your grace periods. USCIS issued a rule that will allow OPT to be automatically extended if you have a pending Change of Status (COS) application to H-1B to be active October 1st.

8 Applying – Required Documents
Advisor’s recommendation – signed by academic advisor $340 check or money order payable to Department of Homeland Security 2 American passport size photographs I-765 form - Copies of current I-20, US visa, passport with expiration page, and I-94 (front and back). Talk to CIS if you have lost any of these documents. Previous EADs and copy of I-20s issued when requesting employment authorization (if applicable) G recommended e-notification form - Make a copy of your application packet for your records prior to submitting application.

9 Applying - Check Can be a personal check, money order or bank check ($340) If you are using a friend’s check, write your name and I-94 number on the check in the "memo/for" section. Sign the front of the check only, not the back. Online payments to USCIS: CIS does NOT recommend using the "online payment” due to the delay you may encounter because of "onsite" biometric exams that are required in-person. Department of Homeland Security $340.00 Sign Name Here

10 Applying – Photographs
Correct Photographs Must be taken within past 30 days, cannot be same photo as in passport or visa White background Must be US passport size, not your home country passport size Write your name & I-94 number on the back of each photo in pencil Well-Composed Photos:

11 Applying – I-765 I-765 – Important Notes
Type your info online and print from: *Caution: If you hand-write this form, information may be misspelled on your EAD Check the box: Permission to accept employment #3 – Address in the United States – we recommend you use the address of CIS in case you move. Government mail is not forwarded. CIS will notify you by when mail is received. c/o CIS th Avenue S, LH 101 St. Cloud, MN #11 – If you have never applied for OPT or Severe Economic Hardship, check “no.”  Otherwise check “yes” and include details of previous OPT/SEH (dates granted and which immigration office – TX, CA, VT or NE) and a copy of your EAD. #12-#14 – Information can be found on your I-94 card (stamps from the airport). #16 – (c)(3)(B) Category for Post-completion OPT; (c)(3)(A) Category for Pre-completion OPT. Sign, telephone number and date (bottom).

DO NOT WRITE ANYTHING HERE! SURNAME, Given Name Lincoln, NE /5/06-2/4/07 Granted (attach previous EAD copy) Date stamp of entry on I-94 card c/o CIS 720 4th Avenue S. LH101 08/25/2008 St. Cloud MN Minneapolis/St. Paul India Student Mumbai Maharashtra India Student 05/25/1982 C 3 B I-94#: Include all 11 digits Check if previously had OPT (123) /15/2009 DO NOT WRITE ANYTHING HERE!

13 CIS Procedures READ tutorial and checklist Print checklist
Print Advisor’s recommendation and drop off at CIS front desk with ALL supporting documents and necessary signatures (CIS will call or you if there is a problem) Pick up OPT I-20 from CIS 5 business days later and sign new I-20 (OPT info will be printedon page 3; program end date may be shortened for post-completion OPT) CIS will mail your completed application to USCIS

14 USCIS Authorization You will receive a receipt notice within 3-4 weeks; may track status online at Adjudicated by USCIS (within 3-4 months) Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued You should not start working until you receive the EAD and/or until the date on the EAD. IMPORTANT: CHECK YOUR EAD CARD FOR ERRORS IN YOUR NAME, OPT DATES, etc… If your OPT has been approved online for more than 3 weeks but you have not received your EAD card, contact CIS as soon as possible You can apply for SSN once the date of the EAD is valid/effective EAD is valid for 12 months maximum Please keep in mind that the processing time might take longer depending on USCIS and the date of application. Late spring and summer months are usually very busy.

15 Working on OPT Starting work and unemployment periods:
You may not begin working until you have received your EAD and the validity date is in effect. Employment must be related to the student’s major area of study. Unemployment: You may not exceed 90 days of unemployment during your 12 months of OPT. Volunteering in your field of study for 20 hours/week or more may count as employment for this purpose. Volunteer work must be related to your program of study. Changing employers while on OPT: This is fine as long as the new employment continues to be directly related to your field of study and commensurate with educational level. You must notify CIS of each employer (name and address) that you work for within 10 days of your start date. Working for more than 1 employer: This is fine as long as all positions are related to your major field of study. You must notify CIS of each employer (name and address).

16 Taxes and Health Insurance on OPT
Question: “Can taxes be taken out of my weekly paycheck?” Answer: Students are exempted from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes during the first 5 years in the U.S.A. These taxes should not be withheld from the student’s pay while she/he maintains F-1 status.  After 5 years students become “residents” for tax purposes only and are subject to paying all taxes. F-1 students are still subject to paying all federal, state, and local as listed in your paychecks. Health Insurance If you choose to purchase the MnSCU Health Insurance Plan while on OPT, you must notify the Center for International Studies and pay the full year’s cost of the insurance plan no later than July 15. You are not required to purchase the MnSCU Health Insurance while on OPT. If you don’t have insurance and anything occurs, you will be responsible for all medical and/or dental bills while on OPT. Under no circumstances is St. Cloud State University liable for any medical and/or dental bills that you incur while on OPT. Health insurance refund: If you are graduating in December, you may apply for a refund of the Spring term’s health insurance if you choose to no longer use SCSU’s insurance. Link to Health Insurance Refund form

17 Maintaining Status on OPT
General On-campus employment is terminated upon completion of degree requirements. You are eligible for another 12 months of OPT when completing a higher degree level. Employment is not permitted during either grace period. Starting a new degree program: your OPT is automatically terminated when you transfer F-1 status to another school, or begin a new full-time academic program. Taking part-time classes: This is fine as long as you are non-degree seeking and part-time. Travel on OPT It is ok to travel after your OPT application is sent, however, return to the U.S. before your term ends and carry proof of enrollment. Traveling outside the U.S. after the term has ended but before you receive your OPT card is not recommended unless there’s an emergency. To re-enter the U.S. while on OPT, you must have an I-20 recently signed for travel, a valid F-1 visa, and an EAD card. It is also strongly recommended that you carry proof of U.S. employment (job offer letter or most recent pay stub). Traveling on an expired visa is ok ONLY if returning to the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands within 30 days. Otherwise, travel is not recommended on an expired visa.

18 While on OPT, notify CIS…
If you change your address, name, or If you transfer to another degree program. Transfer of a SEVIS record to a new school/program will terminate your OPT. If you plan to leave the country and plan not to return. If you change your immigration status (i.e. to H-1B). Fax change of status approval notice to CIS at If you plan to take classes while on OPT. Non-degree classes are okay, however if you wish to start a degree program, you should transfer completely to that degree and obtain new I-20 which will cancel your OPT. Any changes in employer. Must report name and address of employer upon starting work. Any periods of unemployment while on OPT Note: In order to maintain legal F-1 status, you cannot be unemployed for more than 90 days total during this 12 month period.

19 Completion of OPT tutorial
[ ] I have read the Online OPT Tutorial and understand all of the procedures required to apply for Optional Practical Training and the reporting requirements associated with my status while on OPT. [ ] I allow CIS to open the mail received by Immigration and will be notified when it’s received. [ ] I understand that I can apply for a health insurance refund while on OPT and that SCSU is not liable should anything occur.

20 OPT Checklist Read OPT tutorial AND checklist
Print checklist for your records Completed academic advisor recommendation form Completed form I-765 Completed form G-1145 Copy of current I-20 Photocopy of I-94 card (front and back) and copies of passport (biographic, U.S. visa and passport extension pages) Check or money order for $340 payable to Department of Homeland Security 2 passport style photographs. Write your name & I-94 number on the back of your photographs in pencil. If you changed immigration status while in the US, include a copy of I-797 Approval Notice Job offer letter (if expediting ONLY) Copy of previous EAD and previous I-20 with “OPT Requested” on page 3 (if previously approved for OPT or Economic Hardship) Drop off all of the above to CIS Pick up new I-20 from CIS 5 Business days after it is dropped off

21 Course completed Thank you for completing the OPT Online Tutorial. You must now drop off your OPT application/materials. It will take 5 business days to process upon receiving your application.

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