Optional Practical Training (OPT)
UMMS Graduate Students in F-1 status are eligible for training directly related to their major area of study. This benefit is known as Optional Practical Training (OPT). While there are several times during a degree program that a student may be eligible to request this benefit, “post-completion” OPT is the most common for UMMS graduate students and is thus addressed below.
You do not need to have a job offer to apply for the OPT benefit. Applications for OPT can be filed up to 90 days before and 60 days after the degree completion date, provided that they are filed within 30 days of obtaining the OPT validation in your SEVIS record (please refer to OPT application instructions for more information).
OPT is a benefit of your F-1 status which is issued at the discretion of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If USCIS determines that you have somehow violated the terms of your F-1 status (see information about maintaining your visa status), your application can be denied. Immigration Services will review whether or not you meet the OPT eligibility requirements to the best of their knowledge, but USCIS makes the final determination.
In most cases, OPT is limited to a total of 12 months of full-time employment. Some F-1 students may be eligible for a 17 month extension of their OPT, bringing their total OPT benefit to a period of 29 months. This is dependent both on the field of study and the status of the current employer in the E-Verify system OR for H-1B “cap-gap” issues.
You may not begin working until you have your OPT Employment Authorization Document nor can you begin work before the authorized start date indicated on the document (some exceptions apply for the extensions beyond 12 months). The processing time for OPT applications is 60 - 90 days or longer at certain times of the year, so be sure to plan accordingly.
During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is determined by employment. You will be required to report information about your employer and/or any change in your employer to Immigration Services throughout the period of authorized employment. We also recommend that you keep your own records of employment while you are on your OPT.
Lastly, you are still considered to be under UMMS visa sponsorship for the full OPT period, regardless of your employer. Therefore, you are responsible for notifying Immigration Services of any change in address or change of employer within 10 days of the change throughout the authorized period of OPT. Please see Responsibilities of F-1 Student on Optional Practical Training for more specific information.
OPT application instructions - Responsibilities of F-1 student on OPT - Information about the 17 month OPT extension - 17 month OPT extension application instructions - Limits on employment / unemployment during OPT - H-1b "cap-gap" extension - Traveling on OPT
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