OPT and CPT
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What are OPT and CPT?
OPT stands for Optional Practical Training, this allows F1 students to work on a full time basis for one year after they have completed their studies, in a field related to their major. CPT stands for Curricular Practical Training and allows F1 Students to work for up to 20 hours a week in a field related to their major, while engaging in studies.
- Information about Employment Eligibility
- Information about OPT
- Information about CPT
- Transferring while on OPT
- Information about STEM and the 24 month OPT STEM extension
If you file for OPT later than a month before the last final it may reduce the amount of time that you are allowed to work in the United States. To apply for OPT you must have first filed a Degree Audit Application Form (DAAF) with the Registrar Office.
Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)
As an F-1 student, you are entitled to up to 12 months of employment in your field. This post-completion employment authorization is called by regulation “Optional Practical Training,” OPT. If you have received 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training , also known as CPT, while studying for your degree, you are not eligible for post-completion practical training. Time spent in pre-completion practical training also is deducted from the 12-month maximum.
You get 12 months practical training for each higher degree you obtain. That includes separate 12-month periods for Associate, Bachelors, Masters and other higher level graduate degrees.
You must complete your 12 months of post-completion OPT within a 14-month period following the completion of your studies. Once your OPT expires, you have 60 days to either continue with your F-1 status by enrolling in another F-1 program, say a second degree, postgraduate degree or leave the country. You can not be waiting for your H1-B to come through during your 60 day grace period.
Duration of OPT
The starting date for the OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be the date requested by the student or the date OPT is approved at the USCIS Service Center, whichever is later. There is an exception: the authorization period for the 17-month STEM extension. This is an extension based on OPT begins the day after the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT employment authorization, and ends 17 months later, regardless of the date the extension is approved.
Explanation of the H1-B "Cap-Gap"
Under the new rule:
A student on OPT who is a beneficiary of a timely filed H1-B petition that requests an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year will have his or her duration of status or D/S and OPT employment authorization extended to that date.
Should the pending H1-B petition ultimately be denied, the student will have a sixty day grace period from the notification date of the denial to depart the United States, obtain admission to a new SEVIS approved school, or to file an application for a change of status.
Procedure for Optional Practical Training (OPT)
To get either pre or post-graduate Optional Practical Training, you file an application for employment authorization with the UCSIS using the form I-765. You may not begin employment until the USCIS approves your application, beginning employment on the day indicated on your Employment Authorization Document. You may apply 90 days before your last final examination date. (that is 90 days before the end of your first academic year for pre-completion OPT, 90 days before your completion date or 60 days after completion for post-graduation or OPT). With your USCIS form I-765, you must submit a copy of the I-20 endorsed for employment on page 3 of your I-20 and initialed by your International Student Advisor.
To Learn more about OPT please read through our Guide here. This guide is available in hard copy at the International Students Office. The Employment Authorization Form (I-765) can be found here: When you have read through our guide and if you feel that you are ready to apply for OPT, please make sure you have already filed a degree audit with the Registrars' Office. We can not process OPT authorization if you have not applied to graduate. After reading our guide at the link above please check our office hours and make an appointment with us by emailing, Iris Aroyewun-Birchwood at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading "OPT Application", include your name and a time you would like to come in. When you come to your appointment remember to bring your paper work and copies of the following:
- Your valid Passport with the biographical information, passport expiration date attached Form I-94 (photocopy ofthe front and back of the form)
- All your I-20s (photocopy)
- $380.00 money order or personal check made payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"
- 2 photos ( Passport style )
- Completed Form I-765 (Can be found online at the link above, or in hardcopy at the International Students office E1109) and form G1145(at http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/g-1145.pdf
- ALL previous I-20s, not just the Hunter College ones.
- 2 letters; One letter from your Departmental Chair or Academic Advisor which states your expected date of Completion of Studies and another letter from the Graduation Audit in OASIS (217 North).
NOTE: The 2 letters are not to be mailed out. They are for OFFICE PURPOSES ONLY.
Please be advised we need copies of the above documents not the originals (EXCEPT for pictures and the check). These documents will be sent through the mail, if they get lost and you have sent the originals, you will lose all your I-20's which may create problems in the future when entering or leaving the United States.
Unemployment Limitation While on Post Completion OPT
International students in F-1 statusmay be unemployed up to only 90 days within the 12 months period of OPT. You must notify staff of the International Students Office of your employment including the name of your employer as well as the address and how the employment is related to your major area of study or your discipline.
Filing Deadlines for Initial OPT Applications
Students will be able to file the OPT application up to 90 days before the degree completion date, and up to 60 days after the degree completion date. However, the application for OPT must be submitted to the USCIS Processing Center within 30 days of the date the school enters the recommendation for OPT into the SEVIS record.
Reporting Requirements for Students and Employers While on OPT
All students on OPT must report to the ISO of the school which processed their OPT request:
Any change in their name or address
- The name and address of their employer
- Any change to the name and address of the employer
- Any interruption of such employment
In addition, students with an approved STEM 24 month extension must report to the ISO of the school which processed their OPT within ten days:
- Any change in name or residential/mailing address
- The name and address of their employer
- Any change to the name and address of the employer
- Any interruption of such employment
Students with an approved 24 month extension must also make a validation report to the International Student Office which processed their OPT every six months starting on the date the extension begins and ending when the OPT ends. The validation is a confirmation that the student’s name and address, employer name and address, and /or loss of employment is current and accurate.
The employer of a student with an approved 24-month OPT extension must agree to report the termination or departure of the student to the International Student Office of the school which processed the student's initial OPT application through “any other means or process identified by the Department of Homeland Security.”
Post-Completion OPT is Now Dependent on Employment
Students on post-completion OPT may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment under the initial 12-month period of OPT. Students granted a 24-month OPT extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 120 days of unemployment during the total 36-month OPT period.
If you are transferring to Hunter College but are currently on OPT, DO NOT request that your I-20 be released to Hunter. That is, DO NOT ask your previous school to transfer or release your I-20 status to Hunter. This would cause your OPT status to end, and you would not be able to continue being legally employed at your current job. You should only ask your previous school to release the I-20 to Hunter if you do not wish to continue working.
After your OPT has expired, you have 60 days to transfer the I-20 to Hunter College. Therefore, even though you should not transfer the I-20 to Hunter College when you initially transfer in, you should do it once the OPT has expired. Remember, you have 60 days after the OPT has expired to complete this process.
What Happens Next?
There are some excellent web resources available on the new OPT rule:
Department of Homeland Security Announcement
US Citizenship and Immigration Services Q and A
NAFSA: Association of International Educators Resource on the Interim Final Rule
Text of Interim Final Rule
http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-7427.htm (text format, 27 pages)
http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-7427.pdf (pdf file, 13 pages)
Thanks to NAFSA: Association of International Educators for providing timely information on the new OPT regulations and Ellen H. Badger, Director, International Student and Scholar Services, Division of Student Affairs, Binghamton University which was used for this article.
F-1 students may work off campus in a field related to their field of study up to 20 hours a week while school is in session, full-time during vacations and recess periods. Time spent in pre-completion practical training will be deducted from the twelve months full-time employment available for post-completion practical training. For example, if a student works 20 hours per week for six months, he or she would have three months deducted from the 12 months allowed for post-completion practical training.
Off-Campus Employment and Internships
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services calls co-op (cooperative) training programs and internships, “curricular practical training.” F-1 students qualify for curricular practical training only to participate in a work-study program that is part of a degree requirement or regular course of study. The student must have been enrolled at the school for at least nine months, except for graduate students who may begin employment immediately if required by their program.
To begin curricular practical training, the student must first get permission from his/her International Student Advisor. In order to obtain this type of employment authorization, the student will need to provide two letters to the International Students Office, one from the prospective employer or paid internship, stating the work responsibilities, dates and location on the company's letterhead and another letter from the student's program director or undergraduate student advisor, stating the work is related to the student's major area of study. Please note that curricular Practical Training is valid only during the beginning and ending dates of the student's SEVIS I-20. Also student's are responsible to keep count of how many total months they engage in Curricular Practical Training. They must not exceed eleven months of Curricular Practical training because time may be deducted or not granted at all from Post Completion Optional Practical Training a topic discussed later on in this employment section.
The student DOES NOT need the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services issued Employment Authorization Document.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics and if you are pursuing a degree in one of these fields you may be eligible for a 24 month extension of OPT. F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees included on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, are employed by employers enrolled in E-Verify, and who have received an initial grant of post-completion OPT related to such a degree, may apply for a 24-month extension.
You are eligible to apply for a 24 month extension beyond the initial 12 months of OPT, if you meet all the following conditions:
- The student must have a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree included in the STEM Designated Degree Program List.
- The student must currently be in an approved post-completion OPT period based on a designated STEM degree.
- The student’s employer must be enrolled in E-Verify.
- The student must apply on time
- Click here for more info on the 24-month OPT extension
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics) Frequently Asked Questions
If I have a dual major, can I qualify for the STEM extension based on one of the degree programs?
Yes, if one of the degrees is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List and any job worked while on the extension is related to your STEM degree.
Can I qualify for the STEM extension based on my minor?
No.Only based on your major ( undergraduates) or discipline ( Graduate Level ).
If I previously earned a degree in a STEM field and now earned a non-STEM degree, can I apply for the extension?
No. The STEM extension must be based on the same degree as the post-completion OPT.
When does my STEM extension OPT start?
If you have properly filed for a STEM extension, the period of extension starts the day after the expiration of your original OPT period.
Can I work with an expired EAD while my STEM extension is pending?
Yes. Your work authorization is automatically extended for up to 180 day while the STEM extension application is pending.
Can I change employers while the STEM extension is pending?
Yes. However, if the STEM extension period has started, the employer must also be an E-Verify employer. The job change must be reported to the International Students Office.
Can I travel outside the U.S. if my original EAD expires and my STEM extension is still pending?
No. You must wait to receive your new EAD prior to traveling.
What Is E-Verify?
E-Verify was formerly known as the Basic Pilot/Employment Eligibility Verification Program. E-Verify is an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration.
E-Verify allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees. E-Verify is free and voluntary. However, there are concerns whether employers will want to join E-Verify. Currently, less than one percent of all US employers are enrolled in E-Verify. If an employer joins, the employer will have to verify ALL new employees, including US citizens, in E-Verify.
There have been reports of significant discrepancies in the databases currently being used that result in verification errors, indicating that a worker is ineligible for employment when that is not accurate. Participating employers must permit visits by Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to review their employment records and interview employees.
Remember that a F-1 student seeking to extend his or her OPT by 17 months can only do so if at the time of filing, the student is employed by, or has a job offer with, an E-Verify participating employer.
There is not enough information known at this writing to determine if the E-Verify requirement will have a negative impact on employer participation, and thus prevent many students on OPT in STEM fields from seeking the 17-month extension.
For more information on E-Verify, visit:
F-1: Academic Students
Students demonstrating employment eligibility as F1 students must currently maintain Hunter College/ The City University of New York F-1 status. The student is eligible for on campus employment for a maximum of 20 hours per week during the academic year and over 20 hours per week during annual vacation (i.e. when classes are not in session).
To satisfy I-9 requirements - The student satisfies I-9 by providing the department with the following original documents (the documents below are all required to satisfy List A: Doc #4):
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
An F-1 student with a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) either from Hunter College/ The City University of New York or another university is eligible for full or part time employment if it’s a non-clerical job and it is related to the F-1’s studies.
To satisfy I-9 requirements-(the document below will satisfy List A-doc#4):
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
An F-1 student with an I-20 from Hunter College/ The City University of New York or another university is eligible for full (or part) time employment if the I-20 indicates CPT at Hunter College/ The City University of New York. The dates of employment and full/part time, and approved employment site are also noted on the back of the I-20 form. There is no EAD issued for CPT.
To satisfy I-9 requirements- (the documents below are all required to satisfy List A: Doc #4):
J-1 Exchange Visitors- Students with a DS-2019 issued by Hunter College/ The City University of New York
Types of employment:
To satisfy I-9 requirements (students only)- The employee satisfies I-9 by providing the department with the following original documents (the documents below are all required to satisfy List A: Doc #4):
J-1-Exchange Visitors-Faculty, Researcher, Short Term Scholar with a DS-2019 issued by Hunter College/ The City University of New York
To satisfy I-9 requirements – The employee satisfies I-9 by providing the department with the following original documents (the documents below are all required to satisfy List A: Doc #4):
J-1-Exchange Visitors- Students, Faculty, Researcher, Short Term Scholar with a DS-2019 issued by another institution
|Click here for a list of Acceptable Documents (PDF)