1.1 An international student may apply to the Service (United States Custom and Immigration Services) for authorization for temporary employment for optional practical training directly related to the student’s major area of study.
1.2 The student may not begin optional practical training until the date indicated on his or her employment authorization document, Form I–765.
1.3 A student may submit an application for authorization to engage in optional practical training up to 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year, provided that the period of employment will not begin until after the completion of the full academic year as indicated by the DSO.
2. OPT ELIGIBILITY
2.1 To be eligible for the initial 12-month OPT period, the student must:
2.2.1 Be a full-time registered student for at least one full academic year.
2.2.2 Be physically present in the United States
2.2.3 Be maintaining valid F-1 status at the time of application
2.2.4 Intend to work in a position directly related to the major field of study – no offer of employment is needed at the time of application submission.
3. REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
3.1 Student must report to UNCP Center for International Programs within 10 days any change of:
3.1.1 Legal name
3.1.2 Residential or mailing address
3.1.3 Employer name and address
3.1.4 Termination or loss of employment if within your OPT period
3.1.5 Change of status (i.e. to H-1B)
3.1.6 Transfer to another F-1 program
3.1.7 Change of educational level
4. LIMITATION ON UNEMPLOYMENT
4.1 Students approved for the 12 month post-completion OPT may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during the approved OPT dates. Periods of up to 10 days between the end of one job and the beginning of the next job will not be included in the calculation for time spent unemployed. To be considered to be actively using your OPT you must be engaged in employment.
4.2 Paid employment. Students may work part-time (at least 20 hours per week when on post-completion OPT) or full-time.
4.3 Multiple employers. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student’s degree program.
4.4 Short-term multiple employers (performing artists). Students, such as musicians and other performing artists may work for multiple short term employers. The student should maintain a list of all employers, the dates and duration. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing a list of all employers.
4.5 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 employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
4.6 Self-employed business owner. Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must 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 the student’s degree program.
4.7 Employment through an agency. Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
4.8 Unpaid employment. Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. These students must be able to provide evidence from the “employer” that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of activity.
5. HOW TO APPLY/OPT APPLICATION TIMELINE
5.1 Graduating students must properly file his or her Form I-765 up to 90 days prior to his or her program end-date and no later than 60 days after his or her program end-date
5.2 The student must file the Form I-765 with USCIS within 30 days of the date the DSO enters the recommendation of OPT into his or her SEVIS record
5.3 Review I-765 instructions at https://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-765instr.pdf
5.4 Complete a paper application or apply online at http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-765.pdf
6. DATES OF OPT AUTHORIZATION
6.1 The OPT card is approved for a specific beginning and end date. You must identify those dates on the OPT Request Form. For OPT after completion of studies or graduation, the beginning date can be no later than 60 days after the date you complete your studies. If you have questions about your OPT dates, please discuss this with a PDSO or DSO.
7. SCHEDULE AN OPT APPOINTMENT AT INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS
7.1 OPT must be recommended by International Programs before submitting the application to USCIS. Your first step is to schedule an appointment with our office - email firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the office to schedule a meeting.
7.2 Submit your application materials to USCIS
7.3 A copy of your I-94 form (both sides) and a copy of the visa and identification pages from your passport (ID pages include your photo, passport expiration date, and passport no.)
7.4 Two recent photographs per the attached instructions from USCIS http://www.oiss.yale.edu/visa/photoguide.pdf .
7.5 Write your name and SEVIS number in pencil on the back of the photos. Do not cut to size or staple.
7.6 A check made payable to US Department of Homeland Security (for current rate, view the I-765 instruction form).
8. OPT RECOMMENDATION I-20
8.1 International Programs will review your application and submit a recommendation for OPT by updating your record in SEVIS. The SEVIS system will produce a new I-20, a copy of which you will submit with your application for optional practical training. You will include a copy of this new I-20 with the rest of your OPT application materials.
9. MAILING YOUR APPLICATION TO USCIS
9.1 Students are responsible for mailing all required documents. http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/I-765_instructions.pdf, the I-765 instructions will instruct you as to which service center you must send your application.
9.2 Make sure to send your application via certified mail with a return receipt or via courier with tracking information.
9.3 Keep a copy of all application materials for your records.
9.4 USCIS will notify you directly of OPT decision.