Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an extension of F-1 student status that allows students (alumni) to work in the U.S. in order to gain practical experience in their major field of study. Any OPT employment must be directly related to the student's major field of study and commensurate with degree level. OPT must be recommended by the Immigration Services Office and approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) - an agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
In most cases, OPT is limited to a total of 12 months of full-time employment - available after each sucessively higher program of study. Until recently, F-1 students were eligible for a 17-month extension of their OPT bringing the total OPT benefit to a period of 29 months. The recent DHS rule published on March 11, 2016 has created an opportunity for some students to apply for an additional 24 months of OPT (i.e. STEM OPT) which brings the total eligible OPT time to 36 total months following a Bachelor's, Master's or Doctorate level degree. Eligibility depends on the field of study, the status of the OPT employer in the E-Verify system, and additional new criteria established by DHS with regards to the nature of the proposed STEM training.
Please note that once a student has completed his or her academic program at UMMS, he or she must have a valid OPT employment authorization document to continue their research at UMMS (i.e. at the postdoc level). Departments should inform the Immigration Services Office as soon as possible if they anticipate moving a GSBS student to a postdoc position upon completion of the PhD. The processing time for OPT applications varies but can often take 90 days depending on USCIS service center case loads.
The Immigration Services Office offers OPT workshops which are announced on our Programs & Announcements page as well as through our listserv. It is highly recommended that students attend an OPT workshop prior to applying for OPT. Ideally, the workshop should be attended 4-8 months prior to the anticipated completion date.
Students should review the following documents and contact the Immigration Services Office with any additional questions about OPT or to schedule an appointment to apply for OPT.
F-1 Optional Practical Training Overview
OPT Application Checklist
P.I. & GSBS Recommendation Form for F-1 OPT
OPT Acknowledgement Form*
*UMMS alumni on a period of approved OPT are still considered to be under UMMS visa sponsorship for the entire duration of the OPT, regardless of OPT employer. Students and alumni applying for OPT should carefully review the OPT Acknowledgement Form to understand how to maintain F-1 status while on OPT and to understand what information they must report to the UMMS Immigration Services Office while on OPT.