University of Dallas International Week

Optional Practical Training

Immigration regulations allow F-1 students to apply for 12 months of work authorization (Optional Practical Training) to gain practical experience related to the student's field of study. Twelve months of Optional Practical Training can be authorized at each academic level, i.e. 12 months at the bachelors' level, 12 months at the master's level, 12 months at the doctoral level.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is work authorization granted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Processing takes 60 - 90 days. DHS issues an Employment Authorization Card for the exact period of time for which you apply. Once authorized, that period of OPT is used up whether you actually have a job or not.

Minimum Eligibility Requirements

  1. currently residing in the US and currently in legal F-1 status
  2. have been in legal F-1 status at least one full academic year immediately prior to the application
  3. have a passport valid at least 6 months into the future

Pre-Completion and Post-Completion OPT - Specific Requirements

Pre-Completion: Use some or all of your 12 months allowance while still enrolled in school. For processing, application must be made 90 days before you expect to begin working

NOTE: Each application to use a specific portion of OPT costs the $380 application fee

Post-Completion: If you have not previously used any of your OPT, you can apply for 12 months of work authorization. This is the most common use of OPT. The 12 months must be used within 14 months of ending your program.

When to apply - Post Completion OPT

Application can be made beginning 90 days before the end of your program (the last day of the term, not the graduation ceremony) until 60 days after the end of a program. If you apply early, you can choose the start date of your OPT. However, because of the processing time (up to 90 days), if you put off your application you will not be able to choose your start date AND you may lose some of your OPT because you have only a 14-month window in which to have your 12 months of OPT.

Application Procedure

Call or email the international student office for an appointment - 972-721-5059 or iso@udallas.edu

Before coming to your appointment, decide what date you want your OPT to begin.

If the application is for Pre-Completion, select both beginning and ending dates. If for Post-Completion, the beginning date can be the day after the last day of your last term or it can be up to 60 days later.

NOTE You are not permitted to work before the effective date of your OPT. If you choose a late start date and get an offer of employment to begin before that date, you will not be able to begin work. There is NOTHING that the International office can do to provide any interim employment authorization. To avoid disappointment, when applying for OPT jobs, please place an "AVAILABLE TO BEGIN" date on your resume.

Bring the following items:

  1. All previous I-20's, all programs, even those you may have attended at other schools (Do the best you can)
  2. Passport and I-94
  3. Two passport quality color photographs taken within the last 30 days. For your convenience, pictures can be made at the UD Postal and Print Shop on the lower level of Haggar.
  4. Personal check or money order for $380.00 payable to the Department of Homeland Security
  5. Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization The form is available in the International Office or you can complete it on-line, print it out and bring it with you. Click here to access and complete the on-line form. Completing the form online insures that all information will be readable - VERY IMPORTANT.

What happens at the appointment?

  1. The OPT dates you want will be entered in SEVIS
  2. A new I-20 will be printed showing those dates on the last page
  3. The ISO will all necessary copies of your documents, assemble the application and mail it to USCIS for you.

What happens after the appointment?

  1. You will get a receipt from USCIS within 3 weeks
  2. You will be able to track the progress of your application on a USCIS website
  3. An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be mailed to you

Status, Obligations & Constraints While On OPT (Post-Completion)

Status: While you are on OPT, you are still an F-1 student under the jurisdiction of the International Office. As such the following still applies:

  1. You must report all address changes by email to the International Advisor - rjohnson2@udallas.edu
  2. You must get travel signatures on your I-20 before leaving the US if you intend to return (see special section later about travel during OPT)
  3. You must keep your passport valid
  4. See below for Employment Reporting Obligations

Employment Obligations: While on OPT, you MUST be employed to be considered to be in legal status. Being unemployed for more than 90 days is a violation of status. (See later section on what types of employment qualify as legal employment.)

Reporting Obligations: Your are required to report your employer's name, your work site address (not the corporate headquarters), employment dates and all changes in employment (end date, new start date) to the International Office. The preferred method of reporting is by email to the International Advisor - rjohnson2@udallas.edu 

The International Office is responsible for updating SEVIS with employment information provided by you. However, ISO is not responsible for determining if you have violated your status and subsequently terminating your record. DHS will determine if a student has violated his or her status by exceeding the permissible unemployment time.

How will DHS enforce this provision?

Students may possibly be denied future immigration benefits that rely on the student's valid F-1 status if DHS determines that the student exceeded the limitations on unemployment.

Additionally, ICE/SEVP may examine SEVIS data and terminate a student's record if the record fails to show the student maintained the proper period of employment. In such cases, the student will be given an opportunity to show that he or she complied with all OPT requirements, including maintaining employment.

Types of employment that qualify as legal employment:

All OPT employment, including post-completion OPT, must be in a job that is related to your degree program. This employment may include:

  1. Paid employment: Students may work part-time (at least 20 hours per week when on post-completion OPT) or full-time.
  2. Multiple employers: Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student's degree program and for pre-completion OPT cannot exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours.
  3. Short-term multiple employers: Performing artists, such as musicians, actors and other performing artists may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing a list of all gigs.
  4. Work for hire: This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than in an employer/employee relationship. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
  5. Self-employed business owner: Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must work full-time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student's degree program.
  6. Employment through an agency: Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
  7. Unpaid employment: Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate any labor laws. 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.

Employment Records:

SEVP recommends that students maintain evidence -- for each job, regardless of type -- of the position held, proof of the duration of that position, the job title, contact information for the student's supervior or manager, and a description of the work.

Going to School During OPT:

Because your purpose during OPT is to be employed, enrolling in classes is restricted. You cannot enroll full-time in any program during OPT. You are permitted to enroll part-time in classes related to the field of study just completed as long as that enrollment does not interfere with your employment.

Traveling Outside the US During OPT:

After you complete your studies, your right to exit and return to the US is much more restricted. Even though you may have applied for or received your OPT authorization, readmission is not guaranteed.

In addition to getting a travel signature on your I-20 in the usual manner, take note of the following constraints:

1) Travel abroad before your OPT begins: Generally speaking, you can exit the US and return BEFORE the date your OPT begins under the following circumstances:

Your passport is valid
Your F-1 visa is valid*
You have a travel signature on your I-20
You carry your receipt from USCIS or your work permit (the EAD) with you. If you have been offered a job in the US, carry the offer letter with you.

*If your F-1 visa has expired, you would have to apply for a new F-1 visa while out of the US. This is very risky as your purpose in getting the visa is no longer to attend school, but rather to work.

2) Travel abroad during OPT: After your OPT has begun, you are permitted to exit and return to the US after a temporary absence ONLY

    1. TO BEGIN A JOB THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN OFFERED TO YOU. You must have an offer letter with you; or
    2. TO CONTINUE WORKING IN A JOB YOU ALREADY HAVE. You must carry an employment letter - a letter from the HR department or your supervisor on company letterhead stating that you are working there and that you will resume employment following this brief trip outside the country. Your original offer letter IS NOT sufficient. A proof of employment letter must be current and be related to a specific trip abroad.

Life After OPT Ends

After OPT you can remain in the US for no more than 60 days. No employment is permitted during these 60 days. If you want to become a full-time student again, you will have to get a new I-20 for the new program within those 60 days. You must begin the new program within 5 months of the OPT expiration date.

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