What is OPT?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) grants an eligible F-1 student the opportunity to work for twelve months (anywhere in the U.S.) in a field that is related to his/her degree program and commensurate with each degree level (Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D). Students interested in participating in OPT prior to graduating should apply for Pre-Completion OPT at least 90 days before they about to begin working. This type of OPT occurs before graduation. Students can apply for part-time OPT (20 hours or less per week) during academic semesters or full-time OPT (over 20 hours per week) during academic breaks, such as summer vacation.
Students will 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 before applying for this type of Optional Practical Training.
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. However, if you have engaged in 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT), you are not eligible for OPT.
What impact does this have on my future?
Students who apply for and are approved for Pre-Completion OPT will have less OPT time left to utilize after they complete their program. Regulations state that F-1 students are only eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT per educational level. Thus if you utilize Pre-Completion OPT, the approved duration of your training will be subtracted from the total 12 months. You should take this into consideration before applying for Pre-Completion OPT, because once your OPT is approved, it is deducted, regardless of whether you actually end up participating or not.
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, you will receive instruction 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 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 date has begun. Failure to abide by these regulations is considered a violation of your status. If you 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 will follow the same procedures for traveling as you did before OPT authorization. You must carry: a valid passport, visa, and I-20 (endorsed by your ISA within the last 12 months).
Once you are employed, you should report your employment information to your International Student Advisor through the ISD portal. the start date.