If I am considering applying for OPT what do I need to do?
Students considering applying for OPT are required to attend an OPT workshop in their last semester. There, students will learn about important deadlines, required documents and steps that are to be followed. Workshop dates are generally posted on the IESC website by the add/drop deadline of the semester. Students may call IESC to register for a workshop (818) 677-3053.
What is the process to apply for OPT?
- OPT Request Form (form available at http://www.csun.edu/sites/default/files/opt-form.pdf or at IESC)
- Completed form I-765. Please download the form at www.uscis.gov
- This is an online fillable form. Please type your information and print out the form.
- Write "OPT" to the left of the "Permission to accept employment" box.
- Use the eligibility code (c) (3) (B) for item #16
- Item #17: Please leave this field blank
- Signature: Make sure your signature does not touch the text above or touch the signature line.
- Answer all questions fully and accurately. State that an item is not applicable with "N/A." If the answer is none, write "None."
- COPY of the Front AND Back of your most recent I-94 Departure Record Card (print out of the automated I-94 card https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/request.html)
- COPY of your Passport Page(s)- must show your name, photograph, date of birth, passport expiration and/or renewal date(s). (No additional pages required.)
- Copy of all previously issued OPT/CPT I-20s if you had Optional or Curricular Practical Training authorized previously. The student should ask previous schools for copies of I-20 if he/she does not have the originals.
- Copy of any previously issued EAD(s) front and back
Please allow three weeks to review your request and recommend your OPT.
Please call (818) 677-3053 to ask if the I-20 is ready for Step 2.
STEP 2: The student will return to IESC to pick up the OPT I-20 and supporting documents and bring the following for review prior to mailing packet to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox:
- Two U.S. Passport-Style photographs with small envelope.
- Photos must meet U.S specifications (not taken in home country).
- The student must write his/her name and I-94 number on back edge of each photo lightly in pen or pencil.
- Check for $410 payable to " U.S. Department of Homeland Security"
- Write "For OPT" on the memo line.
- Completed Form G-1145: When filing Form I-765 at one of the USCIS Lockbox facilities, you may elect to receive an email and/or text message notifying you that your application has been accepted. You can complete the Form G-1145 and attach it to the first page of your application. The form is available at www.uscis.gov
At STEP 2, the Foreign Student Advisor will put together the OPT application packet and will immediately hand over the new I-20 with the OPT recommendation to the student. A copy will be provided for the application packet. The student is required to mail the OPT Application Packet to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox based on the address they provide on the I-765.
Important: IESC does not require ANY fees for the services it provides to international students. No fees, under any circumstances, shall be submitted to IESC. If a student is submitting an application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a check payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" will accompany the student's application. Advisors' responsibilities are limited to reviewing the check for accuracy and returning to the student who will mail the application directly to USCIS.
If I am a graduate student, how do I prove that I have filed for graduation?
Graduate students should file for graduation at Admissions and Records. When you come for step 1, the FSA assisting you will verify your graduation date in SOLAR.
Where do I get the I-765 form?
This form can be downloaded from www.uscis.gov. Please submit a completed typed form at STEP 1 along with the other supporting documents to the IESC.
Do I need a job offer in order to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
No. A job offer is NOT required in order for you to apply or be granted OPT. Remember that effective April 08, 2008, students may not be unemployed for more than a total of 90 days while on post-completion OPT.
Can I request a starting date for my EAD?
Students may request an OPT start date as early as the day after their graduation date, but no later than 60 days from their graduation date. When requesting a later start date, the end date will be adjusted accordingly. Students have the option to request less than 12 months of OPT. Employment authorization will begin on the date requested or the date the employment authorization is adjudicated, whichever is later. The EAD will reflect the period of validity (start and end dates) for OPT.
What is the preferred method of payment for OPT?
The best method is by personal check. Remember that checks must be payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security." Once the check is cashed, a WAC number is stamped on the back of the check. This is your receipt number. In case you do not receive a I-797 Notice of Action or receipt within 3 weeks of mailing your application to the California Service Center, you can use this number to track your case. You can contact your financial institution for a copy of the cashed check, or you may be able to access your account online.
Can I purchase health insurance through my employer?
Since you are still under F-1 status while on OPT, you must abide by all F-1 regulations; It is recommended to maintain valid health, plus repatriation, and evacuation coverage throughout your OPT period. You can choose to use the health insurance provided by an employer. Most U.S. insurance policies will not cover you for the repatriation and evacuation portion. You may purchase the repatriation and evacuation coverage separately through the website https://jcbins.com/.
Can I use the campus health center while I am on OPT?
No. Students who have graduated are no longer eligible to utilize the Student Health Center. You will have to utilize your health insurance policy to pay for medical services.
Can I still purchase campus insurance even though I am no longer a student?
Yes. You may purchase health insurance coverage through https://jcbins.com/ as you have done as a student only this time, you will be given the option to state that your are on OPT. You will be required to submit a copy of your EAD when purchasing insurance coverage.
What is the application deadline for OPT?
USCIS must receive the OPT application preferably 90 days prior to the student's graduation date or no later than 60 days after the graduation date. However, the OPT application must be submitted to and received by USCIS within 30 days of the date on which the Foreign Student Advisor issues a new I-20 recommending OPT. Please note: IESC takes 3 weeks to process all documents. Please plan ahead to ensure that all deadlines are met.
How do I mail my OPT Application Packet?
Specific mailing instructions will be provided by your FSA at the OPT workshop. You will mail your completed OPT packet to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox based on the address you provide on the I-765 by Certified Mail, Express Mail or Courier Service. Please refer to the I-765 instructions at www.uscis.gov for the mailing address.
How long will it take to receive my Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from immigration?
The California Service Center generally takes 90 to 120 days to process the EAD. If students wish to work soon after graduation they should mail OPT applications at least 90 days prior to their graduation date.
What is an EAD?
The Employment Authorization Document or EAD is a card that is mailed to you by USCIS as proof of your eligibility to work in the U.S. while on OPT. Please make sure you provide the IESC with a copy of the front and back of your EAD no later than 10 days after you have received it.
What is my immigration status before I get my EAD?
You will remain in F-1 status while you are waiting for your EAD and throughout your OPT period. For more information, please refer to the "During OPT" section on the OPT Information Guide.
Do I have to leave the country before I receive my EAD card?
No. You are not required to leave the country while you have a pending OPT application. You may stay in the U.S. and maintain legal status without engaging in any employment or enrolling in classes that lead to another degree.
Can I work while my OPT is pending?
No. You cannot work until you receive your EAD. Your OPT start and end dates will be shown on your card.
While I am applying for OPT can I change my address?
-If you have submitted your application but have not yet received your receipt contact USCIS Customer Service via phone (Check www.uscis.gov for the phone number).
-If you have received your receipt you may report your change of address from the USCIS website: www.uscis.gov. It is advisable to wait till you receive your EAD before you change your address. This will minimize delays or problems with lost mail.
Is it risky to travel on a pending OPT application?
Re-entry into the US is never guaranteed. If you do travel, you must obtain a travel signature from IESC, and take all necessary documents with you: Passport, valid F-1 visa, I-20, and I-797 Notice of Action. Remember that travel signature for students on OPT are valid for 6 months only. If your F-1 visa has expired, you will have to re-apply for one prior to re-entering the U.S.
What should I do if I do not receive my EAD 90 days after submitting my application?
The California Service Center generally takes between 90 and 120 days to process and approve your case. If you do not receive your EAD after this period of time refer to the following web site www.uscis.gov, or you may call the USCIS Customer Service phone number. Please have your receipt (WAC) number ready for easy reference when communicating with USCIS.
Is OPT a "working visa"?
No. During OPT students will remain in F-1 status. OPT is a benefit of a student's F-1 status. It is NOT a visa.
Can I work for more than one employer?
Yes. Under the OPT program, you are eligible to work for more than one employer.
Does immigration check where I work?
Yes, immigration now tracks your employment history.
- You must not be unemployed for more than 90 days from the start date of the EAD.
- You may report a volunteer position of at least 20 hours per week if you have been unable to obtain paid employment.
You are required to report your employer/s' name and address to IESC at http://studentvoice.com/csun/optemployerreporting15. IESC will then report this information to USCIS via SEVIS.
Can I work in any field I want once I get my EAD card?
OPT is intended to allow you to apply the theoretical knowledge attained in school to the real world. Therefore, you must find a job that is directly related to your major.
Do I have to only work in California?
You are free to work anywhere in the U.S. while you are on approved OPT.
Can I start working once I receive my EAD?
Once you receive your card you should check the beginning and end dates on your card and begin and stop working according to those dates.
What happens if I am denied OPT?
USCIS generally does not deny OPT applications if you meet all eligibility criteria and the application is received prior to the deadline. If your application is rejected, please contact your FSA for options.
Can I apply to other schools for another program while I am on OPT?
Yes. You may apply to another school while you are on OPT. Once you have been admitted to a school and you have decided to attend that school, an I-20 must be issued for the new program. In order to do this, you must formally submit a written request for IESC to transfer your SEVIS record to the new school. A copy of the Transfer Release Form is available online at http://www.csun.edu/international/current-students-forms. Please complete the form and submit it to IESC for processing. IESC requires an acceptance letter from the school of choice.
Note: IESC will need a copy of your EAD before processing any requests.
IMPORTANT: If you decide to begin another program before your OPT end date, you will forfeit the remaining period of your OPT.
Can I start a new degree program while still on OPT?
If you want to start a new degree program, you must request IESC to transfer your SEVIS record to the new school. If you apply for a new degree program at CSUN, a new I-20 will be issued for the semester in which you will start the new program. In both cases, the issuance of the new I-20 will effectively cancel your OPT.
Do I need to do anything if I decide to go home permanently before my OPT expires?
Yes. Please make a copy of your airline ticket along with a written statement of your decision and submit those to IESC. Your FSA will then be able to make the appropriate notation on your SEVIS record.
If I do not apply for OPT and complete my studies, how long do I have to legally remain in the U.S.?
You may remain in the U.S. for 60 days from the actual date of completion of studies. This may be earlier than the originally projected date of completion noted in section #5 of your I-20.
When is my "Graduation date"?
Your official "graduation date" is the last day of your final semester or the semester in which you complete your final graduation requirement. Participation in Commencement does not mean you have graduated if you have not fulfilled all graduation requirements.
If I find out that I failed to graduate after having received my EAD, can I continue to work?
Undergraduate Students who are authorized for OPT, but fail to meet graduation requirements are permitted to work part time only until they complete all graduation requirements. The student can work full time after all graduation requirements have been completed. (Exception: Undergraduate students can work full time during summer and winter breaks while completing graduation requirements.). Graduate Students who are authorized for OPT, but then fail to meet graduation requirements are permitted to work full time while they complete all graduation requirements.
Can I enroll in classes while I am on OPT?
F-1 students are not permitted to enroll in classes leading to a degree objective while they are on OPT. The only exception is for students who may have applied for OPT and then failed to graduate. Consult with your FSA regarding this issue if applicable.