OPT Regulations ( effective April 8, 2008 )

On April 8, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security published regulations that changed many aspects of Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 students. The regulations are effective as of the publication date, and apply to all students in F-1 status.

ExpandApplying for OPT

  • For post-completion OPT, a student may file an I-765 with US CIS as early as 90 days before your program end date and as late as 60 days after your program end date (grace period).
  • For pre-completion OPT, a student may file an I-765 with US CIS up to 120 days before the proposed OPT start date if s/he has completed a full academic year.
  • Any requested period for pre-completion OPT must end prior to or no later than the program completion date for the student’s degree.
  • Though you can now apply within your 60 day grace period, if you apply late into the grace period, you may lose OPT time as the end date for the OPT work authorization CANNOT be beyond 14-months from your program end date.
  • It is now a regulation that your I-20 with the IS recommendation for OPT must be received by US CIS within 30 days of issue. If you decide NOT to mail your OPT, you must inform the IS immediately!
  • The I-765 form has been updated. This updated form is available on the IS Web site with the OPT recommendation application.

ExpandWhile on OPT

  • Students on post-completion OPT may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment under the initial 12-month period of OPT. Students granted a 17-month extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 120 days of unemployment during the total 29 (12 +17) month period. SEVP confirmed that the unemployment provisions of the regulation do not apply to any periods of unemployment before the effective date April 8, 2008. The 90 day "clock" starts on April 8, 2008.
  • Students may work as unpaid volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate any labor laws. Students must volunteer or be unpaid interns in a position relating to their OPT field of study and appropriate for their degree level. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. These students must be able to provide evidence from the employer that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.
  • Time spent outside the US while on OPT would still count towards unemployment days unless the student is officially employed during that time. If you are leaving the US for the purpose of ending OPT and having the 90 day “clock” stop, inform IS immediately when you depart the US.
  • The allowed 60-day grace period following the end of OPT employment authorization has now been officially documented as a regulation.
  • All students on OPT are required to report to the IS:
    • any change concerning legal name, residential or mailing address, employer name, or employer address
    • any interruption of employment, and
    • any volunteer employment (employer name and address)

ExpandElimination of the H1-B “Cap Gap”

  • A student on OPT who has filed for an H1-B with a start date of October 1st of the following fiscal year will have his/her duration of status and OPT employment authorization extended to that date. The extension for “cap gap” status and work authorization officially commences on the date of filing the H-1B (date received by US CIS), not the receipt date.
  • Please see document, ‘Information on H-1B cap-gap extension and how to make request through IS’, for further information regarding this process.

If you wish to read the actual ruling, please visit, http://www.nafsa.org/uploadedFiles/opt_policy_guidance_042010.pdf

Any questions regarding this information and about OPT may be directed to: isoemp@lsu.edu