Frequently asked questions about OPT visa
Pursuing your desired course in the US is a great achievement, but it is important to gain knowledge and experience related to the course selected. To gain experience, you need to have an OPT visa and to obtain an OPT visa you need to follow the application process and submit the desired documents in time. In this guide, we will clear some of your doubts regarding OPT and answer all the possible questions that you might have in your mind.
What is OPT?
Optional Practical Training or OPT is a training program for non-immigrant students pursuing education in the U.S. It provides hands-on experience and helps to gain practical knowledge related to the field of study. This training program provides an opportunity to work in the U.S for a certain period with your F1 visa.
What are the basic requirements to obtain an OPT visa?
The basic requirement to obtain OPT is to enrol in an academic program in the US. It is not essential to have a job offer to apply for OPT. But, there are certain prerequisites to be eligible to apply for OPT. For details refer to the article ‘OPT visa: Eligibility and Application process’… (link)
What are the different kinds of OPT options available?
The different kinds of OPT options available are-
- Pre-completion OPT
- Post-completion OPT
- STEM OPT (Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics)
What is the right time to apply for OPT?
- For pre-completion OPT you may apply up to 90 days before you complete your degree, but no later than 60 days after you complete your degree.
- For post-completion OPT you may apply 90 days before the completion date of your program and no later than 60 days after completing your degree. It is to be noted that it takes around 3 months for USCIS to verify and process your application.
How does pre-completion OPT affect post-completion OPT?
The total time allotted for OPT is 12 months. The duration taken up in pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 month period in case you opt for post-completion OPT. In short, if you have completed 5 months of pre-completion OPT and decide to apply for post-completion OPT, then you will only be eligible to continue for 7 more months. (12 months – 5 months)
Is OPT extension possible?
Yes, the time period for OPT can be extended to 24 months in the case of STEM OPT. It implies that you can work for a total of 36 months under STEM OPT.
What is the eligibility to apply for a 24 month OPT extension?
- Working under a verified employer.
- Employment must be related to the course completed.
- The degree completed must be designated as STEM.
- 150 days of the unemployment period should not be exceeded.
What is the perfect time to apply for a 24 month STEM OPT visa extension?
You can apply for the STEM OPT visa extension up to 90 days before the ongoing OPT period ends or up to 60 days after the recommendation has been entered into the SEVIS record by your DSO.
What are the additional requirements while working under a 24 month OPT extension?
In case there is a change of address or employment, it is important to update the information with your respective DSO within 10 days. Additionally, after every six months, you need to verify the details in the SEVP database. Also, you need to submit a self-evaluation form to your DSO.
For application to be filled after 6 months-
For the annual self-evaluation form to be submitted to DSO-
How many work hours per week are allowed?
You are allowed to work for a minimum of 20 hours per week. There is no particular limit to the maximum number of work hours that must be completed.
Is it important to have an employment offer to apply for OPT?
No, it is not important to have an employment offer to apply for OPT. But it is important to have employment during your OPT period. According to the new regulations, you are only allowed 90 days of unemployment for 12 months OPT and 150 days for 24 months OPT.
What is EAD?
Employment Authorization Document or EAD is the certified document provided by USCIS after successful verification of documents and completion of the application process. Without EAD, you cannot start your employment. It would lead to a violation of your F1 visa. EAD is proof that you are now eligible to work in the US.
What happens when total unemployment days are completed?
In such cases, the visa status expires and you must head back to your country.
Will a student be allowed to take up OPT again for some other program, in case the student decides to pursue higher studies?
Yes, if you are enrolled in a higher studies program, you can take up OPT concerned with that course. But, it is to be noted, that such an instance is only possible if you decide to go for higher studies and not for any program at the same level. For example, if you completed your bachelor’s degree with OPT, then you will be eligible for OPT only if you take up any graduation course.
For how long can one stay in the U.S after completion of the OPT?
A grace period of 60 days is given to all non-immigrant students with the condition that the f1 visa status has not been violated.
After applying for OPT, can students travel outside the US?
You can travel after successfully submitting your OPT application with USCIS. But, it is often not advised. In case the application is rejected, your F1 visa status will no longer be active. If your application is accepted, you would have to arrange for your EAD card in order to re-enter the US.
Hope this guide answers all the questions that you have in mind.