What is OPT?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) grants eligible F-1 students the opportunity to work for twelve months (anywhere in the U.S.) in a field that is related to their degree program and commensurate with each degree level (Bachelor’s, Master’s and Ph.D.).
Students remain in F-1 status at the University of Houston-Clear Lake even though they may be working elsewhere in the U.S. Students with only their thesis option left should consult with an International Student Advisor to determine if post completion OPT is the best option.
How do I know if I am eligible?
Eligibility depends on whether you have maintained your F-1 status throughout your studies in the U.S. You also must have applied for graduation with UHCL. However, if you have engaged in 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT), you are not eligible for OPT.
When should I apply for OPT?
As an F-1 student, you should apply for OPT at least 90 days before the desired start date of employment. This should allow enough time for OIAP and USCIS to review and make a decision on your application. In order to apply for OPT, students are required to attend a OPT Information Session within the year of the OPT application.
What should I do once I have my new I-20 recommending OPT?
Once your International Student Advisor has recommended OPT on the second page of your I-20, your will receive instructions on what to do next.
USCIS Processing Time
Please allow a minimum of 90 days to receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD.) This countdown starts from the date Immigration receives the OPT application. Once the USCIS receives the application, they will issue a receipt with a tracking number. You can use this number to track the status of your application.
You are not permitted to begin work until you have received this card and the start date has begun. Failure to abide by these regulations is considered a violation of status. If do not receive your card in a timely manner, you should contact an International Student Advisor for assistance.
If you decide to travel after you have received your card, you must carry: a valid passport, visa, I-20 (endorsed by your ISA within the last 6 months), EAD card, and an employment verification letter from your employer. Please note that these items do not guarantee re-entry.
You can utilize up to 90 days of unemployment throughout the authorized duration of your Post-completion OPT. If you accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment, you will not be in compliance with the terms of your F-1 status. Contact your International Student Advisor to discuss possible options when approaching 90 days of unemployment.
Possibility of Extension
In some instances, students are able to extend their Post-completion OPT. To qualify for a possible OPT Extension, you must have received a degree in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics) field from an accredited U.S. university, and your employer must participate in E-Verify.
You MUST report any changes related to the following:
- Employment—including employment dates, addresses, and names of employers.
- Name change and/or visa status approval—such as H1B, Permanent Residency, etc.
- Departure date, especially if you do not plan to return to the U.S.
- Changes to a personal address must be reported within 10 days