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Frequently Asked “Post Completion OPT” Questions

Below are the answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding the 12-month Post Completion Practical Training permit.

Q: I am considering my options for Post Completion Practical Training; what is my first step in the process?

 A: You should make an appointment with your International Student Advisor at least one semester prior to graduation to discuss your eligibility for OPT and your future long-terms employment plans 

Q: When should I file an OPT application?

A: You should consider making your appointment to apply for OPT at least three-four months in advance of your last day of class prior to graduation. You will be given a package of documents and instructions on how to proceed with your application at that time. OPT applications may be filed with the USCS 90 days prior to the completion of your program of studies, but no later than 60 days following your completion of studies. Applications received by USCIS past the 60-day deadline will be denied

Q: How long will the process take?

A: Typically it will take USCIS Vermont Service Center up to 3 months to process your OPT Application

Q: Where will I send my OPT application?

A: Once completed and approved by the International Student Advisor, your application package will be forwarded to the USCIS Dallas, Texas “Lockbox” where your check or money order will be pulled.  Your application will then be forwarded to the USCIS Vermont Service Center for further adjudication of your request.  Your OPT package should be sent by mail that can be “tracked” so you will know it has been delivered and not lost in the mail

Q: Can I be denied my OPT request?

A: It is highly unusual for an initial 12-month OPT request to be denied by the USCIS.  However there are circumstance that a denial might be given, e.g. you previously were found to be in violation of your F-1 status, or, you submitted your OPT request beyond the “deadline” for applying for OPT (60 days following the completion of your program of study)

Q: What will my visa status be while on OPT?

A: F-1 students will remain in the same visa class.  OPT is a benefit under the F-1 visa.  As such, you are still required to maintain F-1 student status.

Q: What kind of employment am I eligible for?

A: Your OPT is limited to your field of study.  For instance, if your degree is a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, you cannot be employed as a “pizza” delivery driver. Students who begin employment that has not been approved by the International Center or the USCIS will be considered “out of student status” with the possible loss of your student visa eligibility

Q: How long will my OPT last?

A: Post Completion OPT will last for a maximum of 12 months.  Typically there is no extensions to that time unless you are a STEM student, in which case you may be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT, so long as you have been employed under your initial 12-month OPT

Q: I want to visit my family home for a vacation following graduation?

A:  You may not leave the US for a trip outside the country unless you have the EAD employment card in your hand, your I-20 has been signed for travel, and you are in possession of a letter from an employer stating that you are employed or when that employment will begin.  Should you leave the U.S. without these documents, you may not be allowed back to resume your OPT

Q: When can I start my OPT?

A: You may begin your OPT employment on the “start” date specified on your Employment Authorization Document.  You may not begin earlier than that date.  The International Center strongly suggests that you do not begin employment prior to your EAD start date as a “shadow employee” or “trainee”

Q:  How soon must I begin employment once I have been approved for OPT?

A: Students must be employed, in their field of study, within 90 days of the start date of your OPT.  In addition, students may not accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment during the duration of the 12 month period of OPT (students who accrue 91 days or more of unemployment will be ineligible for the 24-month STEM extension)

Q: If I go home after I have begun employment for a vacation, does that time count against the 90-day window?

A: Yes.  For example, if you return home for a vacation for 30 days, then you will be considered to have been unemployed for those 30 days.; you will only have 60 days left to be unemployed or risk losing your OPT or forfeiting your STEM extension

Q: What are my responsibilities with regard to reporting requirements?

A:  As a student on OPT, you still hold an  F-1 student visa and are still considered to be a student at the University of Hartford by the USCIS. As such, you are required to report the following information to the International Center within 10 days of the occurrence (failure to do so could put you in jeopardy of losing your OPT).  This information will be continuously updated through the SEVIS system

  1. Receipt of your OPT card - please scan a copy to the Center

  2. Any change to your name, address, telephone number, or primary email address

  3. You have been offered employment: Please have your employer complete our "Employer Form" and attach a complete job description which includes all duties and responsibilities and forward to the Center

  4. You cease employment - notify the Center

  5. You change employers:  Please have your employer complete the "Employer Form"

  6. You have multiple employers

  7. Notify the Center that you are still employed on the 6th month anniversary of the start of you OPT

  8. You leave the U.S. for a vacation abroad: you must carry your EAD document, a letter stating that you are employed and a current travel signature on page 2 of your I-20

  9. You decide to cease employment and return home before your OPT expires

  10. You decide to pursue another degree and wish to stop your OPT

  11. You change your status from OPT to H-1B, Permanent Residency or other visa class

  12. You intend to apply for the STEM program extension

Q: How often must I report my employment status?

A: You are required to inform the International Center within 10 days of beginning your initial employment.  In addition, you must report your continued employment prior to the 6th month anniversary of the start of your OPT employment date as specified on your EAD document

Q: Do I have to be a full-time employee or may I be a part-time time employee?

A: USCIS requires, that at a minimum, you be a part-time employee working at least 20 hours per week or more

Q: Can I take academic courses or enroll in another degree program while on OPT?

A: While on OPT, you may be enrolled in another program of study. However, you may not be enrolled as a full-time student – part-time enrollment is acceptable.  If you begin a new program of study and enroll as a full-time student you will void your OPT

Q: What do I do if I wish to return home and terminate my OPT or I have been approved for a Change of “status” in the US?

A: If you wish to terminate your OPT or you have Changed your legal status in the U.S., please contact the International Center so we may report the change to the USCIS

Any questions regarding Post Completion OPT or your status as a continuing student maybe referred to the International Center  (updated 4/4/16)