Off-Campus Employment for F-visa student - OPT

A F-1 student may engage in temporary employment (paid or unpaid) if the work is related to one's program of study. The purpose of Practical Training is to gain hands-on experiences that compliment the classroom learning. There are two types of Practical Training- Curricular Practical Training (during your program of study) and Optional Practical Training (after your program of study).

Please click the links below to view details of the employment options:

Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT 17 month Stem Extension

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

OPT is practical work experience in your field of study (typically after completion of a degree) and Initial OPT can last up to 12 months. Students on OPT are still considered to be F-1 students at EMU even if working elsewhere in the U.S. The Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is not a working permit; it is an extension of your F1 status for the purposes of practical training.

Eligibility

  • F-1 students who are legally maintaining their status; and
  • Who have been enrolled full-time for at least 8 months; and
  • Who will be completing a course of study this term; and
  • Whose proposed OPT employment will be directly related to their course of study

When to File?

Students can apply for OPT up to 90 days before, and 60 days after, the program completion date on their I-20. Program completion is the last day of the term during which you're registered for all the necessary credits for your program. It does not mean graduation nor does it mean that you can delay your OPT application until fulfilling incomplete credits.

It is currently taking 2 -3 months for USCIS to process applications and you must have your EAD card in-hand in order to start work. Your OPT may end no later than 14 months after your program completion date.

Application Process

  • Attend a mandatory OPT seminar to learn about OPT regulations and how to apply. You are required to come to a seminar before applying. To view seminar dates and to register to come, see the OISS calendar.
  • After completing the OPT seminar , there are two ways to receive an OPT I-20:
    1. OPT appointment—
      You can make an OPT appointment with an OISS advisor (http://www.emich.edu/oiss/appointment.html). This option is best for students who have a lot of questions about their application, such as choosing OPT start date, how to complete the application documents, and maintaining status while on OPT.
    2. OPT Express Processing—
      You can drop off the required documents below to the OISS front desk. An advisor will review your packet and issue your OPT I-20 and required screenshots in 5-7 business days if all the required documents are received. This option is best for students who do NOT have questions or concerns about their OPT application or OPT period at the time of filing.

What is the 17-month OPT STEM extension?

Students that are STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) majors may be eligible to apply for a 17-month extension of their initial OPT.

How can I learn more about STEM OPT?

There are 2 primary ways to learn about the STEM OPT Extension:
  1. Attend an OISS OPT seminar – highly recommended if in the Ypsilanti area; see the OISS calendar for dates and times of upcoming seminars.
  2. Read the OPT Packet carefully – required of all applicants; it can be found in the "forms" section of the OISS website.

Who is Eligible for the STEM OPT Extension?

  • Students must have their degree conferred in a field included on the STEM designated majors list found on the DHS website. If your degree has not yet been conferred, but you have only a thesis or equivalent remaining, you may also apply for the STEM extension. You will need to provide a letter from your academic advisor indicating you have completed all degree requirements, with the exception of the thesis or equivalent. Learn more about EMU STEM eligible majors here.
  • Students must be currently on an approved, 12 month initial OPT authorization.
  • Student Employer must be enrolled in the U.S. government's E-Verify program. Click to view the E-verify Employers Search Tool.
  • Student employer must agree to report the termination or departure of the student to OISS within 48 hours, by providing the required employer letter.
  • Students must demonstrate proof of employment during initial OPT period; this is best proven with copies of the first and last pay stub you received from each employer.
  • Student must not have accrued more than 90 days of unemployment during the Initial OPT period
  • Work must be directly related to the student's current major area of study.
  • Work must be at a level commensurate with the student's degree level.

What types of employment are allowed for students during a 17-month extension of OPT?

A student authorized for a 17-month extension must work at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify employer in a position directly related to his or her DHS-approved STEM CIP. For a student who is on a 17-month extension, this employment may include:

  • Multiple employers. A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to his or her degree program and all employers must be enrolled in E-Verify.
  • Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment, where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. The company for whom the student is providing services must be registered with E-Verify. If requested by DHS, the student must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract period and the name and address of the contracting company.
  • Self-employed business owner. A student on a 17-month extension can start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must register his or her business with E-Verify and work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program.
  • Employment through an agency or consulting firm. A student on a 17-month extension may be employed by an employment agency or consulting firm. The employment agency or consulting firm must be registered with E-Verify, but the third parties contracting with the agency or firm (for which the student is providing services) need not be.

What is the Application Process?

  • USCIS must receive your STEM extension application before the initial OPT's end date. We recommend you apply 90 – 120 days prior to the end date of your initial OPT.
  • The complete information packet is on the OIS website; see the "forms->employment" OPT 17 section for additional information, application instructions and application materials.

What are the Reporting Requirements?

  • Name, Address, or Employer Changes - You must report all name, US address, and employer name/address changes to OISS within 10 days, using the IR-17 form found on the OISS website. Your address must describe where you live; it cannot be a PO Box or an office address.
  • Mandatory 6 & 12 Month Validation Reports - You are also required to advise OIS of your address and employment information every 6 months, even if you have given it to us recently. Failure to keep this information current can jeopardize your immigration status! Use the IR-17 form to complete this reporting.

Can I Change STEM Employers?

It is possible to change employers while on STEM OPT, but specific procedures need to be followed, determined by whether your STEM extension is pending or if it has been approved.

  • Changing Employers while on Approved STEM 17-month OPT - If you change employers while on an approved STEM 17-month OPT
    • You need to submit the following documents to the OISS within 10 days of leaving the first employer:
      • OISS IR-17 - a new, completely filled OISS IR-17 Reporting form … this MUST include all periods of employment AND unemployment from the beginning of your INITIAL OPT start date.
      • Employment Offer Letter including the commitment to notify OISS of your departure. Please note that a standard offer of employment does NOT normally meet these requirements.
      • You can find the IR-17 form and Employer Letter requirements on the OISS website (www.emich.edu/oiss), in the Forms section, under employment, OPT 17.
      • Once approved, OISS will issue a new, continuing I-20 indicating your new employer.

  • Changing Employers with Pending STEM 17-month OPT - If you change employers while your STEM 17-month OPT application is pending
    • you need to submit the following documents to the OISS within 10 days of leaving the first employer:
      • OISS IR-12 - a new, completely filled OISS IR-17 Reporting form … this MUST include all periods of employment AND unemployment from the beginning of your INITIAL OPT start date.
      • Employment Offer Letter including the commitment to notify OISS of your departure. Please note that a standard offer of employment does NOT normally meet these requirements.
      • You can find the IR-12 form and Employer Letter requirements on the OISS website (www.emich.edu/oiss), in the Forms section, under employment, OPT 12.
      • Once approved, OISS will issue a new, continuing I-20 indicating your new employer.
    • New I-765 – you must submit a new, completely filled I-765 that includes item 17 filled with information of your new employer. This form must be typed and signed in blue ink and sent to the appropriate USCIS Service Center. See your original STEM application for an example and you can find the current form at http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-765.pdf

Where can I obtain additional STEM OPT Information?

OPT Policy Guidance April 23, 2010; US Department of Homeland Security, Immigration & Customs Enforcement


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