Minnesota Optical Practical Training (OPT) Attorney

OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING (OPT)

International students who are in the midst of completing either their associate, bachelors, or post-graduate degrees, or are in the midst of completing a structured diploma or certification program, that are currently in F-1 status are eligible to be employed within the United States for a one year period. This is called Optional Practical Training, (OPT). Many assume that the one year period for Optional Practical Training can only be granted once, however this is not the case. If you were to continue your studies following your Optional Practical Training, through a structured program, such as those described above, you could be again granted the one year period following completion of that additional program.

According to U.S Citizenship, and Immigration Services, “practical training is available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis in a Service-approved college, university, conservatory, or seminary for at least nine consecutive months. Students in English language programs are ineligible…”

In order to apply, you must go through your Designated School Official (DSO) at your school.  Your DSO will require that you submit the top part of form I-538, as well as form I-20 ID. At that point your DSO will have to make sure that your purposed employment directly corresponds to your field of study. If this is the case, your DSO will endorse your I-20 ID. You must apply within the last 90 days of your program, or within the 60 days immediately following its completion. According to the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services, students may only be granted this one year period “after all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent) if the student is in a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree program.” It is because of this reason, and the fact that form I-766 will only allow up to 12 months of employment, and that practical training is only accepted up to 14 months after graduation, that it is recommended that those interested apply early on in the 90 days prior to completing their program.

Once your DSO has endorsed your I-20 ID, that and form I-538, as well as an Application for Employment Authorization, (form I-765), photographs, the fee, and a signature card will be submitted to the Regional INS Service Center that has jurisdiction over the post-secondary institution in which you attend. Employment can only begin once INS has issued you an Employment Authorization Document (form I-766).

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there any way that I can take part in practical training before I have completed my program? There are additional options for practical training, however, it is important to note that full-time practical training is only available once your program has been completed, and that practical training is only available for up to 12 months. If you are a part of specific STEM post-graduate programs, you can request that your employer enroll in the E-Verify program to possibly have these 12 months extended to 17.

In addition, there are other options for international students to work while attending school, these options including on-campus employment, work-study programs, and the “curricular” practical training program. It is extremely important to note that, if you are considering taking part in the “curricular” program for a full year that you might not qualify for the Optional Practical Training program following graduation; however, if you take part in the “curricular” program for less than 12 full months you could still be eligible following graduation.

Am I allowed to travel on Optional Practical Training?
In order to travel on Optional Practical Training you need to make sure that you have these documents prior to leaving:
-An up to date and valid passport
-An Endorsed OPT I-10 for travel, that has been signed within the last 6 months.
-A valid F-1 Visa Stamp (unless you are a Bermudian or Canadian citizen)

Once your Optional Practical Training has been completed you will need to have:
-Proof of current employment (through an employment verification letter, or offer of employment)
-An up-to-date and valid passport
-Employment Authorization Document Card
– An Endorsed OPT I-10 for travel, that has been signed within the last 6 months.
-A valid F-1 visa stamp (unless you are a Bermudian or Canadian citizen)

Please note: If you do not have ANY of these documents, you must see your DSO prior to travelling.

What are the different Types of Optional Practical Training?
-Optional Practical Training may be done on a part-time basis
-A student may apply for either full or part-time status during the summer break, as long as they are planning on registering the next semester.
-A student may apply for full-time status within 90 days leading up to the completion of their program, or within 60 days following its completion.

When does the Employment Authorization take effect?
The Employment authorization will either begin immediately when the decision is made, or on a requested date.

Am I able to travel during my Optional Practical Training if my F-1 Visa has expired?
Yes, however, you will need to apply for an updated F-1 visa stamp.

Am I allowed to travel while waiting to hear if my application has been accepted?
This all depends on dates. If you are traveling prior to the degree completion date on your I-20, then yes, however if you are travelling after that, then no.

What happens if I am still unemployed after 90 days?
After 90 days of unemployment you are no long considered to be in status. This means that each day that you are unemployed will go towards that 90 day limit. If you find yourself approaching the 90 day mark, you are best to either:
-speak to an immigration attorney
-leave the United States
-Change schools
-Increase your education level

We welcome your call today at 952-361-5556 (or fill out the free case evaluation form below) to help you through the legal issues of your Optical Practical Training (OPT) case.

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