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Optional Practical Training

PLEASE NOTE - USCIS IS CURRENTLY TAKING 3 TO 5 MONTHS TO PROCESS OPT APPLICATIONS, PLAN YOUR APPLICATION ACCORDINGLY

Information and Procedures

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is intended to provide hands-on practical experience complementary to the academic program, 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii). Students on practical training are still considered to be F-1 students at the University of Nevada, Reno, even though they may be working elsewhere in the United States. A student does not need to have a specific job offer to make the application, but they do need a signature showing support from their academic advisor for the OPT. Students must have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before employment may legally begin.

Students may apply for full-time post-completion OPT after program completion or during the thesis/dissertation stage after completing all coursework (at least 20 hrs/week) after being a full-time student for at least 1 academic year. Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT per higher education level. Regulations allow students graduating from STEM fields to apply for up 12 months of OPT and then apply for a 24 month extension totaling 36 months of OPT; the extension may be used twice during their academic career. Non-stem majors have a total of 12 months full-time Optional Practical Training which can be utilized with flexibility. If training or employment will be longer than 12 months or 36 months for STEM majors, students should consider applying for a change of their status during the period of practical training.

 

Important Information
  • Students may apply no earlier than 90 days before program completion and up to 60 days after program completion.
  • Students do not need to have employment to apply for OPT.
  • OPT may start from the first date after program completion up to 60 days after program completion.
  • If you leave the U.S. during the 60-day grace period after program completion before applying for post-completion OPT and/or enter the U.S. under a different status, you will not be eligible to apply for post-completion OPT.
  • Students are eligible for full-time post-completion OPT (at least 20 hours per week) at the thesis/dissertation stage after completing all coursework and after completing their program.
    • The I-20 program end date will be shortened to the defense date or end of the semester for post-completion OPT.
    • If applying for post-completion OPT during the thesis/dissertation stage of the program, you must complete your thesis/dissertation before the 12-months of post-completion OPT ends.
  • F-1 status during OPT is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment from the start date on the EAD card during post-completion OPT.
  • Employment must be in the major indicated on the OPT request on the second page of your I-20.
  • Pre-completion OPT reduces time from post-completion OPT. Talk to an OISS advisor for more information.
  • Allow 90 days from the date your application is received by USCIS for processing.
  • Do not work until you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card and the EAD start date is effective.
  • Students are permitted 90 days of unemployment while on 12 month OPT. In order to show proof of your employment, OISS recommends you:
    • Keep a copy of your official job offer letter stating the position title and description, start and end (if known) dates of employment and number of hours worked per week, even if you are volunteering
    • Keep all your timesheets and/or paystubs if you will be getting paid
    • Maintain medical insurance coverage.
  • International students are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes for the first 5 years in the U.S. (including during OPT) but are required to pay all federal and state taxes.
  • Your OPT automatically ends on the SEVIS release date if you transfer to another U.S. institution or on the date you start a new education level at the University of Nevada, Reno (University).
  • If you do not use more than 90 days of unemployment, you will have a 60-day grace period after the OPT EAD card end date to be admitted and transferred to a new U.S. institution, be admitted to a new program at the University, leave the U.S., or submit a change of status application. Talk to an OISS advisor for more information.
Travel
To return to the U.S. during post-completion OPT, you’ll need the following documents:
  • OPT I-20 signed for travel (valid for 6 months) on the 2nd page;
  • Valid visa (it is possible to renew a visa after OPT approval but difficult with a pending application);
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months from the date you re-enter;
  • If your OPT has not been approved - Form I-797C (Receipt Notice);
    • If your OPT is approved while you are out of the country, you will need to have your EAD card and an employment letter or contract in order to return;
  • If your OPT has been approved - OPT EAD card and employment letter or contract;
  • Please note: re-entry after travel out of the country is never guaranteed. If your application is denied while you are out of the country, it may not be possible for you to return on the F-1 visa or to resume OPT.

How to Apply for OPT

NOTE: Due to a lengthy processing time at the USCIS, we advise that you apply for practical training up to 90 days before you need it. The earliest date that you may apply for post-completion Optional Practical Training is 90 days before program completion and the latest is 60 days after program completion; the application packet must be received by USCIS before the 60-day period is over. Students may not begin employment on OPT until they receive the EAD card and start date is effective.

For more information, application timeline, AND SAMPLE I-765, go to OPT Presentation (NOT accessible. email oiss@unr.edu for an accessible copy).


Step 1: Documents needed to apply for Optional Practical Training, you must bring the following to the OISS:
  • OPT application form with a recommendation completed by your academic advisor (advisor for your program of study) submitted electronically
    • If you are completing more than one major and are requesting OPT for each major, submit an application for each of your majors for a recommendation from each of your academic advisors
  • Completed Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) - Go to OPT Presentation for a sample I-765 to help you complete the I-765
  • *Money order, personal check, cashier's check, or credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions in U.S. currency for the filing fee payment of $41000 (four hundred and ten)
    • Make checks and money orders payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with "OPT filing fee" in the memo line
    • Sign the money order, personal check, or Form G-1450
  • Two identical passport photos (2" x 2") taken within 30 days of filing your application with your name and I-94 number written on the back of the photos in a small envelope
  • Copies of:
    • the bio page of your current passport (include extension page if applicable),
    • current visa, and
    • I-94
  • Copies of the 1st and 3rd pages (or 1st and 2nd pages for I-20s issued after July 2015) of any (including at other institutions) I-20s with employment authorization (CPT, SEH, OPT)
  • Copy of Form I-797 Approval Notice if you changed your status to F-1 within the U.S.
  • Front and back copy of any previous EAD card(s), if applicable
  • OPTIONAL: You may attach Form G-1145 (E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance) from to the first page of the application to request an e-Notification of the receipt of the application at the USCIS Lockbox facility. There is no filing fee for this service.
Step 2: After your academic advisor(s) submit(s) the recommendation(s), call the OISS to schedule an appointment with an OISS advisor and bring the applicable items in Step 1 above to the appointment.
  • The OISS advisor will review your application and request OPT in SEVIS if the application is approved.
  • You will receive a new I-20 with the OPT request on page 2.
  • The OISS advisor will arrange your packet for mailing.
Step 3: Make a copy of all the documents in the application packet before mailing.
 

TO REDUCE THE CHANCES OF YOUR OPT APPLICATION BEING DENIED BY USCIS, THE OPT APPLICATION PACKET MUST:

  • NOT BE RECEIVED BY USCIS MORE THAN 90 DAYS BEFORE YOUR PROGRAM END DATE

  • BE RECEIVED BY USCIS WITHIN:

    • 30 DAYS OF THE I-20 ISSUE DATE LISTED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE FIRST PAGE OF YOUR I-20

    • 60 DAYS OF YOUR PROGRAM COMPLETION


Note:

  • You are eligible to remain in the U.S. while your OPT application is pending, even if it is after your 60-day grace period.
  • In 2 to 4 weeks you will get your Form I-797C, Notice of Action (Receipt Notice) with a Receipt Number and Received Date confirming that USCIS has received your OPT application. This does not indicate OPT approval.
    • If you included Form G-1145 with your application packet, you will get an email and/or text message notification with your receipt number within 24 hours of USCIS accepting your application – you will still get a receipt notice in the mail.
  • Go to Check Case Status on the USCIS website to check the status of your application.
    • You may sign up for an account to receive email updates on your case.
    • After your Receipt Notice is mailed, the status message will remain the same unless USCIS requests more evidence/information or makes a decision on your application.
  • You should receive your EAD card within 90 days of the received date on the Receipt Notice if your application is approved.
    • Please bring your EAD card to OISS for us to make a copy for your records or you may email us a copy of the front and back of the card.
 
IF YOU RECEIVE A REQUEST FOR EVIDENCE (RFE) OR REQUEST FOR INFORMATION (RFI) FROM USCIS, CONTACT AN OISS ADVISOR BEFORE RESPONDING

Reporting Requirements

  • If you are employed on campus, you must take your original I-20 to Human Resources (Artemesia Building) if the end date has changed so they may make a copy of your I-20 to update your employment documents.
    • You should also notify your employing department of the date change.
    • Note: you may not work after the I-20 end date without effective post-completion OPT approval.
  • You are required to report your OPT employment, telephone number, and mailing and/or physical address(es) updates within 10 days of the change. You may use the SEVP Portal to update these changes.
    • On your approved OPT start date, you will receive an email from do-not-reply.sevp@ice.dhs.gov (make sure OISS has your current email address) with instructions and a link to create your SEVP portal account.
      • Note: the link to create your account will expire within 14 days of the date the email is sent; create your account even if you do not have anything to update.
      • If you do not see the email in your inbox, check your spam or junk mail folder. If you still do not see it, contact OISS at oiss@unr.edu to request an account reset.
      • Any updates made using the SEVP Portal will go directly to SEVIS.
    • Email OISS at oiss@unr.edu to notify us that you have updated your employment information.
      • You do not need to submit your offer letter to OISS if you use the SEVP Portal.
    • If you need to change your email address, use the Change of Address Form.
  • Note: you have 90 days of unemployment on OPT from the start date listed on your EAD card. If you do not report full-time employment (at least 20 hours per week), the unemployment time will be counted.
    • Employment may be paid, unpaid, internship, volunteer, or self-employment within your major as indicated on the second page of your I-20.
      • Total work hours should be at least 20 hours per week to maintain your F-1 status.
      • If the weekly hours are variable, the average at the end of one month should be at least 20 hours per week.
  • The SEVP Portal will allow you to:
    • View details about your post-completion OPT.
    • Report changes to your mailing and/or physical address(es) and telephone number.
    • View and update data on all your employers in one place. Any data updates you make in the portal will be sent directly to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and OISS will have access to it.
  • Go to  SEVP Portal Help for more detailed information.
  • OPTIONAL: If you want a new I-20 with your OPT employer information, complete the Student I-20/DS-2019 Request Form and select “SEVP Portal Employer Update” for the request reason. This is optional, you are not required to get a new I-20.