Optional Practical Training

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. OPT is a benefit of the F-1 visa when the F-1 visa holder has successfully completed a degree program within the United States. Students who meet the eligibility requirements for OPT can submit an application to USCIS for 12 months of Post-Completion OPT immediately following degree completion. Students who earned a degree in a STEM field may also be eligible for a 24-month STEM extension of their initial OPT period.

OPT Overview and Information Handout (pdf)

 

Post-Completion OPT Eligibility Requirements
  • Must be in valid F-1 visa status, I-20, passport, and I-94
  • Must have completed at least one (1) full academic year
  • Must expect to graduate at the time of application (you may only continue to be enrolled in a thesis/dissertation course)
  • Cannot have been approved for 365 days of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • You can apply as early as 90 days before your graduation date
  • You can apply as late as 60 days after your graduation date
  • You do NOT need to have already received an employment offer in order to apply for Post-Completion OPT

 

STEM Extension Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for the 24-month extension, you must:

  • Have been granted OPT and currently be in a valid period of OPT
  • Have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a school that is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency and is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) at the time you submit your STEM OPT extension application.
  • Your STEM extension application must be received by USCIS before your 12-month OPT ends.
  • The earliest you can apply for STEM is 90 days before your 12-month OPT ends.

 

Applying for 12-month Post-Completion OPT

Common questions while OPT application is pending:

 

Once you are approved for Post-Completion OPT

Congratulations! You will receive your EAD card in the mail, and you will be able to begin working once you have your EAD card in-hand and you are within your approved employment dates as printed on the card.

If you used ISAO’s office address for your application, we will notify you as soon as we receive your card in the mail, and we will also prepare an updated I-20 showing your OPT approval. If your card was mailed to you and you would like an updated I-20, please submit a Request for Documents form along with a copy of the front and back of your EAD card to isaoadvisor@umkc.edu

To maintain your F-1 visa status, you are required to keep your employment history and contact information up-to-date in the SEVP Portal. While on Post-Completion OPT, you are expected to update this information on your own directly in the portal. However, updating this information in your portal does not update your Pathway record with UMKC. So, please be sure to also report any address or contact information changes directly in your Pathway account as well.

Common questions once OPT is approved:
ERROR on your EAD card? Submitting requests to USCIS

Missing a document or card? Find a typographical error on your EAD card? You can submit an e-Request to them here: https://egov.uscis.gov/e-request

USCIS Guidance for Correcting Errors on EAD card

If your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card was approved by the Potomac Service Center and contains incorrect information due to USCIS error, please follow the instructions below:

Submit a letter that explains the error. Include the EAD card containing the incorrect information, documents showing that USCIS made an error (such as a copy of the application you sent to USCIS with your correct information, a copy of your birth certificate, with your correct name). Send your letter and supporting documents to the Potomac Service Center at

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Potomac Service Center
2200 Potomac Center Drive, Stop 2425
Arlington, VA 20598-2425

If USCIS made an error, you do not need to submit a new Form I-765 or pay a new filing fee.

 

SEVP PORTAL: https://sevp.ice.gov/opt/

When will I have access to the SEVP Portal?

Once your Post-Completion OPT has been approved by USCIS and the start date listed on your EAD card has passed. If you have been approved but your start date is still in the future, you will not have access since you are not yet authorized to begin work.

How do I get access to the SEVP Portal?
  • Once your approved OPT period has begun, you will receive an email from do-not-reply.sevp@ice.dhs.gov to your UMKC email account with the subject line “Optional Practical Training Approval – the next step. Create an SEVP Portal Account”.
  • The email will contain instructions for setting up your SEVP Portal access, including a unique link that can’t be shared and expires in 14 days. You will need your SEVIS ID (located on your I-20, start with N). If you do not see the email, check your junk mail or spam folder. If it is not there, email us at isaoadvisor@umkc.edu for assistance.
  • If you have entered your SEVIS ID incorrectly three times, your account creation request will be locked and you must contact our office to have it reset.
  • Please review the SEVP Portal Guide for additional information.
  • Please remember that the SEVP Portal is FREE. SEVP will never ask for money in an email.
What happens when I update my information through the Portal?
  • It will automatically update your SEVIS/F-1 record.
  • If you would like an updated I-20 reflecting your employment information, please fill out Form #9 which can be found on the International Advising page of our website.
  • Please note that any updates to your record done by an ISAO advisor will not be visible in the SEVP portal for at least 24-48 hours after an advisor is able to update it. Please note that it may take 3 to 5 business days for advisors to update.

 

Applying for 24-month STEM Extension of OPT

Common questions while STEM OPT extension application is pending:

If you would like to change employers but your STEM application is still pending, you will need to submit the following documents to ISAO:

  • Employer Form: STEM Only
  • Form I-983 for your new employer
  • E-Verify number for your new employer
  • Copy of your I-797 Receipt Notice showing your STEM application is pending

You can send these documents to us by email at isaoadvisor@umkc.edu, and we will prepare an updated I-20 for you with the new employer information. You will need to return a signed copy of this updated I-20 to us, and we will then forward all documentation on to the USCIS Service Center.

 

Once you are approved for the STEM OPT extension

Congratulations! You will receive an updated EAD card once your extension has been approved. If you used ISAO’s office address for your application, we will notify you as soon as we receive your card in the mail, and we will also prepare an updated I-20 showing your extension approval. If your card was mailed to you and you would like an updated I-20, please submit a Request for Documents form along with a copy of the front and back of your EAD card to isaoadvisor@umkc.edu

Just like with Post-Completion OPT, you will be required to keep your employment and contact information up-to-date throughout your STEM OPT period in order to maintain your F-1 visa status. However, once on STEM, you can no longer add NEW employers to the SEVP Portal. This is because adding a new employer requires you to also submit a new I-983 to ISAO.

 

SEVP PORTAL: https://sevp.ice.gov/opt/

To add a NEW employer to your employment record in the SEVP Portal, you will need to use Employer Form: STEM Only and submit it to our office with the final self-evaluation from your previous employer and your completed I-983 from your new employer. We will then add the new employment record into the SEVP Portal.

Reporting information in your SEVP Portal while on STEM OPT

The SEVP Portal should be used to do the following:

  • Update your phone number and your US mailing/local/physical addresses.
  • Update your CURRENT employer information: name, address, dates, supervisor, etc. You will update this information in the Portal and then you must send a copy of the updated I-983 to isaoadvisor@umkc.edu with the subject line: STEM – Edited info in Portal
  • Monitor and view your current and past employers.
  • You are still required to submit your 6-month reports and I-983 self-evaluations directly to ISAO by email at isaoadvisor@umkc.edu. This cannot be done in the SEVP Portal at this time.

 

Other Important Employment Information

 

Reporting Requirements for ALL OPT & STEM students

While you are on OPT or STEM OPT, you are required to report the following information via the the SEVP Portal, Pathway, and through forms. You are required to report any changes to this information WITHIN 10 DAYS of the change:

  • Report any change in mailing/residential address, phone number, email address
  • Report any change in your legal name
  • Report any change to your visa type/immigration status
  • Confirm your information with ISAO every 6 months: OPT/STEM Report Participation Form
  • Send a copy of your updated I-983 form when you complete your annual self-evaluations (24-month STEM only)
  • Report if there are any changes of deviations to an existing I-983 form (24-month STEM only)
  • Employed on 12-MONTH OPT: Report any changes to your employment (address, supervisor, supervisor contact information, job title, etc.). This should be done directly in your SEVP Portal
  • Employed on 24-MONTH STEM OPT: Report any changes to your employment or I-983 form (address, supervisor, supervisor contact information, job title, etc.). You can edit your current STEM employer information through the SEVP Portal but if you need to delete or add a new employer, please see the above information. CONFUSED? LOOK AT THIS
Filling out your I-9 with your employer

VERY IMPORTANT: Please be careful when filling out your I-9 as stating incorrect information would be considered fraud and could result in the denial of benefits or change of status in the future. If you are unsure about how to answer a question, consult your employer’s human resources (HR) office for clarification.

What do I do about health insurance?

You will no longer be automatically enrolled in UMKC’s medical insurance. Insurance will be your responsibility. Be sure to ask your employer about health insurance for you and your family.

If you employer does NOT offer health insurance, you may purchase your own insurance through Aetna or any other company you choose. If you would like to stay with Aetna while on OPT, click on “Enroll: OPT Students and Dependents” here: UMKC’s Aetna Website

UNEMPLOYMENT: Things To Know

Are you getting close to having a cumulative total of 90 days of unemployment while on Post-Completion OPT? or 150 days of unemployment between both your Post-Completion OPT and STEM OPT? If so, here are a few things you should know:

  • AT THIS TIME, we are not terminating records when students reach their unemployment limit. HOWEVER, at some point in the (possibly near) future, SEVIS could turn on the auto-terminate function. Once it is on, any student who is at or over their unemployment limit will have a terminated SEVIS status and will have started accruing days of unlawful presence.
  • If you are at your unemployment limit, it may affect any future OPT, STEM, H1B or other visa applications.
  • Check your SEVP Portal to ensure that all of your employment is correctly reflected. Ensure you are keeping all records of employment (pay stubs, offer letters, tax forms, etc.).
H-1B Cap Gap Information

 

Additional resources: