HOW TO APPLY FOR OPT
Before you apply for OPT, you should choose your start date as follows:
- Post -completion
Your start date should be within 60 days of the date of completion of your degree program
- Pre -completion
The start date should be selected early basing in mind that your application will take 6 to 8 weeks to be approved. OPT is applied by filing for an EAD document with the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). You should file for EAD 90 days before the end date of completion of your program and not more than 60 days after you have completed your studies. This should be done before the expiry date of your current EAD card, if at all you have any. You should follow the following steps when applying for EAD:
- Meet your academic advisor to have them recommend you for practical training.
- Get a recommendation letter from your DSO (designated school official) which will enable you to pursue OPT. The DSO will verify that form I-983 is complete and he/she will keep the document in your student record book. The following documents are kept in the record book:
- A copy of each employer’s letter that describes the type of work you will do and the number of hours you are supposed to work per week.
- A copy of a letter to SSA (social security administration) which certifies that you may work on-campus.
The DSO will then provide you with a new form I-20. This form is a proof that you are recommended for the training. You should mail a complete application for work authorization form I-765 with the USCIS. The following documents are required:
- 2 passport photos. The photos should have a white background and should show your full face with all ears visible.
- A copy of form I-94
- A copy of your most recent entry stamp the one that matches I-94 form
- A copy of your F-1 visa
- Copies of transcripts from all schools attended in the United States
- A copy of any previous EAD card if applicable
- A complete OPT request form
- A copy of completed I-765 form
- Application fee
- A copy of completed G-1145 form E-1145-E( this is optional ) the form allows a student to receive email notification concerning the status of the application
For a STEM extension, the following additional documents are also requires
- A copy of a student’s diploma
- 2-3 weeks of paystubs
- A letter from a student’s employer regarding their employment status i.e. title and length of the employment. You should also pay for a filing fee.
- Before submitting your application to USCIS, it should first pass through the ISS (International Student Services Office), where it will be reviewed and checked for any missing details. They will then issue you with an updated form I-20 with recommendations at the back page. You should be able to report any changes in name, telephone number, email address and the employment start and end dates within 10 days. These changes are done using the OPT updated form. You will be notified to collect your updated application with a checklist which will indicate the final application documents that should be sent to USCIS.
- Review the checklist and your application to ensure it is complete. Before approval, USCIS takes up to 4 months to review the application, although this can be faster depending on the month of the year.
- USCIS will release your EAD, together with a receipt form I-765. The documents will then be mailed to you or they will notify you to go and collect your form.
Upon completing your OPT, you are given a 60 days grace period to decide what to do next. You may decide to depart from the United States, apply for a change of status to another category within the U.S or begin a new program of study. You are not allowed to work within the 60 days grace period.
My OPT is denied. What next?
You will receive a denial letter which will explain the reasons for your denial. You may not have an option of appealing to a higher authority but you can decide to consult the office that made the decision by submitting a motion to consider or a motion to reopen. If you decide not to choose the above options, then you can depart from the US since your I-20 form will be expired.