International Students’ Work Options – OPT Thy Yang, Director, IPS Marilyn Vogler, PhD Associate Director, IPS Spring 2010
OPT – Optional Practical Training • Generally OPT is post-completion – your work authorization begins AFTER you complete. • It can be pre-completion if necessary – you are working before your degree is completed. • CPT time exhausted • Employer requires it • 12-month original limit, pre- and post- combined • Extensions available for post-completion OPT but not for pre-completion OPT
Any employment after completion: • Requires authorization from or through International Programs & Services (IPS) • Authorization is formal – shows up on the student’s immigration papers (I-20) • Must be full-time (at least 21 hours/wk) • Applies to work on and off campus • Applies to consulting, self-employment, volunteer work, or regular employment with a company/university/etc.
Employment Authorization – Some Basics • Unauthorized work can get both the student and the employer in trouble. • “Authorized” means the work documents are in hand. • Working illegally could jeopardize your future status in the US.
How Do I Get Work Authorization? • Details vary, but in general … • Initiate a job hunt. • Gather necessary paperwork. • Make appointment with an IPS Advisor by calling IPS 487.2160. • Bring all application materialincluding photos, check AND photocopies to your appointment. • Wait for USCIS approval.
General Requirements – • Student must have been full-time student in US at least one full academic year. • Employment may be called “co-op,” “internship,” “full-time,” etc. • Must be related to student’s program.
How do I know if I’m “authorized”? • Sending off an OPT application does NOT mean you have employment authorization, but ... • Even before you’ve applied for OPT, you can apply for jobs in your area of study and tell the employer that you ARE eligible to work in the US, because …
This Presentation • Students must follow multiple sets of rules: Homeland Security, MTU, Career Center, Graduate School & Employer. • This presentation is about F-1 OPT employment. • I will address only Homeland Security / USCIS rules – not Career Center, Graduate School, or Employer rules.
More Basics … Student on OPT remain Michigan Tech students for the duration of OPT + 60 days. You must keep in touch with IPS: • Update address changes • Update employer / unemployment • Update visa status changes • IPS signs your I-20 for travel if necessary. • IPS transfers your SEVIS record for continued education.
Staying in Touch – MTU Email • Current practice is that your MTU email will remain active as long as you use/check it regularly. • Please check it at least weekly for IPS updates. • IFyou have graduated, you may have your MTU email forwarded to another address: https://emailinfo.mtu.edu/docs/public/forward/index.html
Where to find information … www.ips.mtu.edu
When to apply for OPT … If you’re sure you’re graduating in … Spring apply beginning early Feb Summer apply beginning late May Fall apply beginning late Sept BUT … do not apply unless you’re sure you’re going to graduate.
Roles in the Authorization Process • Student • Academic Advisor • Career Center • IPS Immigration Advisor
What the student needs to do: • Meet with academic advisor to determine your completion date. • Search for a job at the Career Center, the job fair, on-line, etc. • Remember, the job must be related to your current major, but … • You can apply for OPT without a job offer in hand.
Student’s tasks (continued) • Complete the required paperwork • Make an appointment to see an IPS Advisor
Academic Advisor’s Role • S/he can help you decide • Which job offer to take • How long you should work • Your advisor’s approval is not required for OPT, but many employers will request a letter of recommendation.
Career Center Role • Employment search assistance • Employability skills training • Resumes, cover letters, mock interviews, etc. • Help with required paperwork
Your IPS Advisor will … • Review all the documents & paperwork • Issue the appropriate I-20 with work authorization noted • Assist with preparation and mailing of the application packet • Helps track and follow-up on applications sent to USCIS • Assist with extensions as requested
EAD – Employment Authorization Document • Work authorization is granted by USCIS. • IPS assists with the application process. • It costs the student $340 to apply. • You may apply anytime within 90 days of your completion date. • You may apply up to 60 days after completion of your program (I-20 date). • USCIS in Phoenix, AZ, must RECEIVE your application by the 60th day. • Approval takes 2 to 3 months. • Having a job offer speeds up approval.
What does it mean to “complete” a degree? • You do not “complete” simply because you walk in graduation. • The program completion date on your I-20 is not “set in stone.” • Your I-20 completion date will be changed to reflect the date you and your advisor project. • We can shorten your program with no additional paperwork. • If you need more time, you will need to bring a program extension form with your OPT application.
What does it mean to “complete” a degree? • Undergrads and Master’s students in Plan D (coursework option) complete on the last day of the term in which they finish all requirements. • Grad students writing a report, project, thesis, or dissertation complete when they turn in all their paperwork to the Graduate School.
Grad students … • It’s okay if you miss the completion date on the I-20 by a little. The degree must, however, be completed before the OPT period expires!
Applying for OPT … Do I wait for a job offer? • You don’t have to have a job offer in hand to apply for OPT. • You will have to pick a start date for your employment authorization. • Your application will be expedited if you include a copy of an offer letter. • On the company’s letterhead • Offers your name a job • Start date reasonably close to actual start date requested
Random Bits of Information about Practical Training • You earn 12 months of OPT per degree level. • After an Associate Degree • After a Bachelor’s • After a Master’s • After a PhD • You can earn as many as 4 years of OPT, but you cannot accumulate years to use all at once. • You get only ONE 17-month extension.
More random bits… • 365+ days of full-time CPT will make you absolutely ineligible for OPT. • Part-time CPT does not add up to any “equivalent” number of full-time days. • It’s the student’s responsibility to calculate days (but there’s a tool on the IPS web to help).
While you are waiting for your EAD card … You are still an F-1 student. • You can’t work on campus after you complete your degree. • So you must have enough money for your living expenses while you are waiting. • You cannot start a new degree.
While you’re waiting … • You may not start working until you receive your card. Check the date on your card when it arrives. • You may not start working until the start date listed on the EAD card.
OPT and Travel • Traveling and OPT present some unique problems. • First, getting your F-1 visa renewed while on OPT is next to impossible.
OPT and Travel • Do not re-enter the US as a Tourist (B1/B2 status) or any other visa status, or you will lose the chance to use your OPT. • You must enter as an F-1 Student.
OPT and Travel If your visa is still valid, you may travel outside the US, but … If you travel after graduation, you MUST have all the usual F-1 travel documents plus … • An EAD card or • The USCIS receipt for your OPT application and • Proof of employment
You can travel without a job offer letter, but it’s tricky! • If you travel without a job offer letter, you must return to the country BEFORE your EAD card is issued. The time it takes is unpredictable at best! • If you have an EAD card but no job, DO NOT TRAVEL.
OPT and Travel – after you start working You may travel after you start working. • Your employer should provide a travel letter saying clearly that • You are an F-1 student on OPT • You are returning to resume employment with the employer • You may even be able to get an expired visa renewed if your employer requires travel and will write a letter saying so.
OPT and Further Study You may choose to apply for additional study following your period of OPT. • You may apply for another degree at the same school or at another school. • You should request that IPS transfer your SEVIS record if it’s a new school. • But “Authorization to engage in OPT employment is automatically terminated when the student transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level.” (NAFSA)
OPT and Further Study Your OPT will be cancelled: • On the “transfer release date” on which your SEVIS record is transferred to a new school OR • When you have been accepted into AND register for courses toward another degree at the same institution (MTU).
OPT and Further Study • You CAN register for classes as a “guest student” or “non-degree” student • Even if those courses will eventually count toward a higher degree or a degree in a different program • as long as a new I-20 isn’t required. • You CAN register for workshop-type classes (like a short-course in how to take the GRE) • But, If the school insists you have to have a new I-20, do not take classes there.
I received my EAD card! • Email your IPS Advisor with the date that the card arrived • Scan/email a copy to the IPS office • Remember to report/update employment via the web, even if you had a job when you applied for your EAD.
Extensions … • “Gap” extensions for those with an H1-B petition filed • STEM extensions • Science, Technology, Engineering, Math fields • Employer registered with E-Verify
“Gap” extensions • If your employer has filed an H1-B petition BEFORE your OPT expires • Extension is “automatic” • Requires you to request an extension I-20 from IPS • Extension is good until H-1B is effective / denied
17-Month STEM Extension • Science, Technology, Engineering, Math fields • Chemical Engineering had been left out, but is now included • Employer registered with E-Verify • Requires filing I-765 • Requires filing BEFORE your OPT expires • Service center must receive application BEFORE your OPT expires
17-Month STEM Extension • Filed like original OPT • Additional info required on I-765 • Degree CIP Code • Employer’s name on I-765 • Copy of transcript / diploma showing degree • Employers seem to be handling these • I like to check I-765 • I must provide an I-20 • Request form on IPS website • You may keep working before approval IF the application is filed by deadline
17-Month STEM Extension • You MUST stay in touch with IPS and report any changes of address / employment / visa status. • You MUST confirm employment every 6 months even if there are no changes. • Final rules are not out – though it’s been almost 2 years … • Things may change … again • No word out on renewal of visa while on extension
After OPT OPT → 60 days to begin H-1B, get a new I-20 for another academic program, leave the US (New academic program must begin within 5 months of end date of OPT) H1-B → 10 days to leave or transfer to new employer Some students apply for and get a “green card,” permanent residency.
Beyond the OPT → H1-B • Students do not have to have been on CPT or OPT. • Employers sponsor and file for the H1-B. • Application period opens April 1 for the following October 1 FY. That is, a student sponsored for an H1-B on April 1, 2008, could begin employment (if it’s approved) on October 1 2008.
Beyond the OPT → H1-B ??? • There are quotas! • The quotas for undergrads are filled quickly. • There is a supplemental quota for persons with graduate degrees from US universities. • Even at that, there are more applicants than visas.