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Optional Practical Training

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 Content: OPT Eligibility & Notes | OPT Application Process |Mail To | Important Reminders while on OPT | H-1B Cap-Gap Extension

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit for those in F-1 status that allows you to work off-campus in a job related to your field of study. This training must be requested in SEVIS by Clarkson University and approved by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). This is an application with an associated fee.

OPT Eligibility & Notes:
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- You must be in lawful F-1 status and have been enrolled as a full-time student for at least (1) academic year
- Have a valid passport with at least 6-months validity – and -
- Have less than 12-months of full-time CPT
- You are given the benefit of OPT for a total of 12 months per higher educational level. This does not ‘accumulate’ or ‘carry-over’ to higher educational levels
- You do not need a job to apply for OPT
- You cannot expedite this application
- You cannot begin working until USCIS approves the OPT and only during the validity period detailed on your ‘Employment Authorization Document’ (EAD)
- OPT is categorized into (3) types –

- Pre-Completion (c – 3 – a) – training completed prior to the completion of your program

Note – you can apply up to 90 days prior to when you want OPT to begin

- Post-Completion (c – 3 – b) – training completed after the completion of all course requirements excluding thesis or equivalent

- Students who have completed all coursework necessary for your degree with the exception of the thesis or equivalent for their program can submit an application for ‘post-completion’ OPT and be enrolled/completing thesis or projects

Note – you can apply up to 90 days prior to your ‘OPT completion’ date but no later than 60-days after your I-20 program end date.

- STEM Extension (c – 3 – c) – students with a science – technology – engineering – or – mathematics degrees may be eligible for an additional 24-months of OPT

Note – you can apply up to 90 days prior to your post-completion OPT end date – but – this application must be received by the end of your post-completion OPT end date or you will lose this benefit.

OPT Application Process
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Step 1 – review your completion plans (or training experience if pre-completion) with your academic adviser and view the ‘ISSS_OPT Information Session’ presenation. This presentation is now 'Live' in Moodle

  1. Log into Moodle
  2. Search 'ISSS_OPT Infomration Session'
  3. Click 'Enroll'
  4. View presentation

Step 2 – prepare the following documents before scheduling an ‘OPT Advising’ appointment with ISSS 

OPT Request Form (for advising purposes only)
Form I-765 – this is the application used by USCIS

Note – you are strongly encouraged to use the ISSS address on your application. This will ensure your EAD card is not lost while you transition to your new address. This mail will not forward and will cause significant delays if you move prior to receiving your approval.

- OPT Fee – check or money order made payable to USCIS for $410

- Two (2) U.S. passport style photos taken within the last 30-days (this is very important – failure to provide correct and current photos could result in significant delays to your application)

Please be sure these photos are according to U.S. passport photo requirements

- Copies of your passport – visa – I94

- Documentation of previous employment

- Copy of any previously issued EAD cards you have received from USCIS – and/or –
- Copies of all I-20s endorsed for curricular practical training (CPT)

During your appointment with ISSS – your application will be reviewed and we will discuss your requested start date for OPT. Once this is finalized – ISSS will request your OPT recommendation in SEVIS and provide you with an updated I-20 endorsing the OPT recommendation on page 2. A copy of this I-20 will be provided to you and you will keep the original with all previously issued I-20s

In addition – we will compile your application in the ‘preferred order’ for step 3.

Step 3 – Mail application to USCIS within 30-days of ISSS recommendation, failure to mail this within 30-days will result in denial of your application and you will lose the OPT benefit.

- Application to USCIS will include:
OptionalG-1145 – e-Notification from USCIS by e-mail or text message confirming receipt of your application to USCIS before your official receipt notice is received
- Check or money order for $410 made payable to USCIS
- Two (2) U.S. passport size photos taken within the last 30-days
- Form I-765 – typed and signed
- Copy of new I-20 (pages 1 & 2) signed by ISSS adviser (do not send the original)
- Copy of SEVIS 'Employment Information Page' - obtained from ISSS
- Copy of current I-94 (electronic or paper)
- Copy of passport & visa
- Copy of documents of previous employment, examples include

- Copy of previously issued EAD card(s) from USCIS
- Copy of previously issued I20s endorsed for curricular practical training (CPT)

Mail to  – USCIS Dallas Lockbox (Mail to USCIS Dallas Lockbox only if your return address is; Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, or West Virginia – see instructions if applying outside this area)

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries:

USCIS

PO Box 660867

Dallas, TX 75266

For Express Mail and courier deliveries:

USCIS

Attn: AOS

2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business

Suite 400

Lewisville, TX 75067

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Step 4 – Receive your EAD card

Approximately 7-10 days after your application is received to USCIS, ISSS will receive your official receipt notice and email this to you. Your receipt will have a ‘receipt number’ that you may use to track the status of your application through the USCIS.

USCIS will decide on your application within 120 days or within current processing times. If approved, ISSS will receive your EAD card and email you to confirm the address you wish to have this sent and/or shipping method.

Important Reminders while on OPT:
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- During OPT you continue to be a CU F-1 student and you must continue to report any changes to your contact information – address – and – employment status within 10 days using the ‘OPT Update’ form. This can be emailed to cuisso@clarkson.edu
- Employment may not begin until your EAD card has been received and only during the validity period noted on your EAD card
- Engage in work directly related to your major course of study
- You may travel while on OPT – please be sure you have a valid travel signature on your I-20, signed within the last 6-months
- OPT will terminate if you plan to transfer to a new program – contact ISSS to understand the best date to begin study at another school or educational level based on your current employment status
Do not be unemployed more than 90 days – review OPT Info Session slides on what is considered ‘employment’ for OPT purposes
- Notify ISSS of any changes to your immigration status or departure from the U.S. to end F-1 status. Updates will be required to your SEVIS record to ensure proper status completion and ensure any unemployment counts end.

H-1B cap-gap Extension
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For any F-1 student on post-completion OPT and who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B with an October 1 start date will have their F-1 status and work authorization automatically extended. This extension is valid until the H-1B petition is rejected – withdrawn – or – approved to Oct 1. Your employer must see this extension on your I-20. Please submit to ISSS an ‘OPT Update Form’ with a copy of your H-1B receipt or approval notice.  ISSS will update your SEVIS record – print an updated I-20 – and – mail you the document.