Optional Practical Training (OPT) Basics
- Collect all forms required for the application as detailed on the “Checklist for OPT application.” Call the Office of International Education at 363-2659 to make an appointment. At the appointment, the advisor will review your application materials, issue you a new I-20 for OPT purposes, and forward your application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in Lincoln, Nebraska.
- Approximately 2-3 weeks after USCIS receives your application, a Receipt Notice will be mailed to OIE. There is a tracking number on the notice that you can use to track the progress of your OPT application online at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis When you are logged into the website, use the “Case Status and Processing Dates” on the menu. This takes you to the page where you can enter your receipt number to check on the status of your case.
- Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card should arrive at OIE in approximately 3-4 months after USCIS receives your application. You may begin working once you receive the EAD card. The dates of your OPT are printed on the EAD card. These are the dates you chose on your OPT application.
- USCIS must receive your application before graduation.
- You should apply for OPT 3-4 months before you expect to graduate.
- Your OPT start date must fall within 60 days after the last day of final exams. For example: If you graduate in the spring of 2008, the last exam day is May 6. You can select a start date between May 6, 2008 to July 5, 2008.
Employment while on OPT:
- You must wait until you have the EAD card and reach the “start date” to begin work. Between the time you graduate and the start date on the card, you cannot work. This includes on-campus employment.
- Work must be in your field of study.
- You may work for as many hours and as many employers as you want. Your employer does not need to sponsor you because you already have work authorization. If your employer does not understand OPT, they may contact OIE. Inform the International Student Advisor that your employer plans to contact the office.
- You will fill out an I-9 for your employer when you begin work. Show the employer your EAD, passport, I-20, and I-94 card. Use the end date on the card for the expiration date of your employment authorization.
- You are not authorized to work past the end date printed on your EAD. In order to work past that date, you must obtain a different type of employment authorization, (i.e. H-1B). Ask your employer for details.
Hints for filling out the CIS form I-765
Item #3 We advise that you use our address: c/o International Education, 7100 College Street, Beloit, WI 53511
Item #9 Use your U.S. Social Security Number.
Item #10 This is the 11 digit number on your most recent I-94 card.
Item #11 This only includes employment for which you received a card directly from immigration. This does not include CPT or on-campus employment.
Item #14 USCIS wants to know what your status was the last time you entered the U.S. For most students applying for OPT it is “F-1 Student.”
Item #15 This must be “F-1 Student.”
Frequently Asked Questions
When I am on OPT what is my status?
OPT is part of F-1 status. Even though you are no longer a student, you are still in F-1 status.
Do I need to have health insurance while on OPT?
No. However, we do recommend that you extend your Beloit College insurance coverage for up to 6 months after your current policy expires. If you graduate between January 1 and August 14, your policy expires August 14; if you graduate between August 15 and December 31, your policy expires December 31. To extend your policy, notify the Student Health Plan Coordinator in Porter Hall at least two weeks prior to the expiration of your policy.
Can I travel while on OPT or before my OPT begins?
Yes, but you need to have all necessary documents with you: valid passport, valid visa, your OPT I-20 with a valid travel signature signed within the last six months, your EAD card, and a job offer letter. Keep in mind that it is very difficult to apply for an F-1 visa in your home country while on OPT. So, if your visa is expired, or will soon expire, keep this in mind. Remember any time you leave the U.S. there is never a guarantee that the immigration official at the port of entry will allow you to reenter. Speak to the International Student Advisor if you have questions.
Do I have to pay taxes while working on OPT?
Yes. You must pay state and federal income taxes. Taxes are due on April 15 each year. Most large cities will have tax assistance services to help you with this process. VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) is an example of such assistance. When dealing with a tax service center, make sure that the tax consultant confirms if you are classified as a resident or non-resident for tax filing purposes, which is different from immigration status. NOTE: If you have been in the U.S. for less than 5 years, you may be exempt from Social Security taxes. Look at the IRS homepage (www.irs.gov), page for more information on filling out tax forms.
Do I need a new social security card?
You only need a new social security card if your current one says, “NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT,” In order to obtain a card that says, “VALID FOR work WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION,” go to any Social Security office with your passport, I-94 card, OPT 1-20, job offer letter, and EAD (OPT card).
Can I take classes while on OPT?
You may take one or two classes for credit as a non-degree student. If you begin studying at another educational level, that is, you enroll in a degree program, your OPT authorization is automatically terminated.
SEVIS (Student Exchange and Visitor Information System)
While you are on OPT, OIE is responsible for your SEVIS record; therefore remember to: 1) continue to update your local address by emailing changes to Josie Inaldo (firstname.lastname@example.org) within 10 days of any move (new apartment, house, city, etc.) and 2) notify Josie via email if you change status or begin a new degree program at any U.S. academic institution. If you begin a new degree program and are issued a new I-20 from Beloit College or any other academic institution, your OPT authorization is terminated.
What if USCIS takes a really long time to process my application?
If more than 90 days pass from the Receipt Notice date that you receive 2-3 weeks after submitting your initial application, you may apply for an “interim EAD card” from a USCIS office. OIE will help you with the application. The interim EAD is valid for work and is generally issued the day you apply for it. The interim EAD should be issued with the same work start date as you requested on your original OPT application or the current date, whichever is later. If not, ask USCIS to correct the date.
If my employer wants to sponsor me for an H-1B, when should I start the process?
Start as soon as possible. The number of available visas has been reduced considerably. A good resource for information on the H-1B is http://uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis