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  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)

International Student Services

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  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)

    Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary work authorization available to international students who have been in valid F-1 status for at least one academic year (two consecutive semesters) and who plan to seek employment in the U.S. in their chosen field of study. OPT is recommended by international student advisers at MSUM International Student Services, but the final acceptance of your OPT is granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). OPT duration generally is 12 months. If you are a STEM CIP Program Codes List student you qualify for an additional 24 month OPT extension. Please read below for more information and contact ISS for more information.  The OPT process should begin 90-days prior to your program completion date. ISS recommends to set an appointment ahead of time or plan this process a semester before your anticipated completion date. 

    Eligibility Criteria

    • You must have been a full time student for at least one academic year
    • You must currently be in F-1 status
    • You must be in good academic standing and be making normal progress toward finishing your degree
    • You must not have used more than 12 months of OPT in the past at your current degree level (Bachelor's or masters)
    • You must attend a mandatory OPT sessions conducted through ISS every semester
    • You do NOT need to have a job offer in order to apply for OPT
    • Valid passport (must be valid at least for 6 months)

    When you can use OPT

    You can use your OPT:
    • Before you finish your program and this is Pre-Completion OPT
    • After you finish your program - Post-Completion OPT
    • Or a combination of the two, as long as the total amount of OPT does not exceed 12 months

    Application Deadlines

    The earliest you can apply for OPT is 90 days before your completion date. Undergraduate student completion date is considered to be the last day of final exams of the semester your degree requirements are fulfilled. Graduate students completion date is the day on which all degree requirements are fulfilled, such as filing your thesis or dissertation in Graduate Programs. If you are in a graduate program that does not require a thesis or dissertation, your completion date would be the last day of final exams of the semester your degree requirements are fulfilled. The latest date the USCIS will accept your application is 60 days after your completion date. We strongly recommend our students to apply for OPT ahead of time.

    Unemployment Limits

    Students on post-completion OPT have limited on periods of unemployment. In order to maintain F-1 visa status students must NOT EXCEED a total of 90-days of unemployment. If you are on STEM Extension you have a total of a 150 day limit on unemployment, counting from the beginning of the initial OPT. Please read below for more information on STEM extension.  

    STEM Extension

    Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a new regulation which changed several key features of F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT). Students from certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs are eligible to apply for a one-time 24 month extension. Please note: students must notify International Student Services when you change employers, jobs and if you are unemployed during OPT period. 

    Students must meet the following criteria:

    • You must currently be in a valid period of OPT, working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to your major area of study
    • Your OPT employer must be registered in the U.S. Government E-verify employment authorization system
    • You must have graduated from MSUM STEM fields - STEM programs

    Application Process

    Students must complete the following process for OPT. Bring all of the documents except #7 to International Student Services for your appointment.  

    1. Complete form I-765 (Do not worry about this form. ISS staff will complete this form for you at the time of your appointment)
    2. Passport copies (color copies-enlarged, of your picture page)
    3. Color copies of two additional government issued photo IDs (enlarged)
    4. Photocopy of I-94 card (front and back) or your computer print out from I-94 Print Out  
    5. Photocopies of any previous employment authorization cards (i.e OPT (extension), economic hardship)
    6. Two passport size photos (need to be on a white background and should show your entire face)
    7. $410 check or money order made payable to: U.S. Department of Homeland Security
    8. New I-20 printed by International Student Services (OPT I-20) 

    Once all the above documents are completed, mail your application to
    (If you are living in MN)
    USCIS
    PO Box 21281
    Phoenix, AZ 85036
    (The above address is if you are sending your packet through USPS regular mail)

    For express mail / courier deliveries
    USCIS
    Attn: AOS
    1820 E Skyharbor Circle S Ste 100
    Phoenix, AZ 85034

    Once you have submitted all your documents, USCIS will mail you a receipt number. Please hold on to that receipt number. This receipt will have your case number and important information regarding your OPT. Please note: students cannot begin work UNTIL they receive the work authorization card and the date on the card.  

    STEM Extension Process

    All of the above sections will apply when submitting the OPT STEM extension application. Students who will be requesting STEM extension must submit the OPT extension application 90 days prior to their OPT end date.  

    OPT STEM Extension Process can be found at: STEM Links  

    1. Please follow steps 1-7 above
    2. Copy of the job offer
    3. Copy of your current OPT employment card (color-enlarged)
    4. Copy of your official transcript
    5. Copy of your degree
    6. Your I-983

    Please note: all students must report to International Student Services when you change jobs, change employers and if you are unemployed

    OPT Reporting

    OPT is a great opportunity for F-1 students. To maintain F-1 status during OPT you must comply with U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employment and reporting requirements. DHS requires all international students to report to their school all periods of employment and unemployment while authorized for OPT. If you change your employment, became unemployed recently or changed your mailing address, please update your information within 10-days
      

    To maintain F-1 status during OPT comply with U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employment and reporting requirements. DHS requires students to report all changes or address and periods of employment and unemployment while authorized for OPT You may report to the information to ISS. Alternatively, you may also make the updates yourself using the new SEVP Portal.

    Updates must be reported within 10 days of the start of your OPT work authorization and within 10 days of any subsequent change. Direct any questions regarding OPT reporting to international@mnstate.edu

    What to Report

    All F-1 Students on OPT – Within 10 days of the start of your period of OPT work authorization and within 10 days of any subsequent change, you are required to report the above, plus the following:

    • Current U.S. address
    • Change of your official name
    • Start or end of employment
    • Change of your employer’s address
    • Change of your employer’s name

    All Students with an OPT STEM Extension – You are required to report all the above, plus the following:

    • Employment status, 6 months after your extension start date, even if your information has not changed.
    • Employment status, 12 months after your extension start date, even if your information has not changed.

    Updates to the following information will result in ISS issuing an updated I-20:

    • Change of your official name
    • Start or end of employment
    • Change of your employer’s address
    • Change of your employer’s name

    ISS will email you when the I-20 is ready to collect. Please make arrangements to collect, or have your I-20 mailed to you within 30 days. After 30 days, your I-20 will be destroyed, and cannot be reproduced.

    How to Report

    • Option #1: OPT Reporting Form

    For changes in your name or residential address submit an OPT Reporting Form via international@mnstate.edu or in person to the ISS. The ISS will report your changes to Homeland Security.

    • Option #2: SEVP Portal and OPT STEM Reporting Form

    You may report some changes to SEVIS via the SEVP Portal. Updating the SEVIS Portal does not eliminate the need for you to report to ISS . To meet your reporting obligations, you must also complete and submit an OPT STEM Reporting Form indicating that you have made updates in the SEVP Portal. You may also request ISS  to print an updated I-20 for you via the Reporting Form.

    SEVP Portal

    Effective March 23, 2018, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is launching a portal that will help SEVIS Active F-1 alumni on Post Completion OPT and STEM OPT meet some immigration reporting requirements. The SEVP Portal shares information with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), but does not give you direct access to SEVIS. The SEVP Portal also does NOT remove the need for F-1 alumni to report changes to the ISS.

    SEVP Portal Account Instructions:

    1. SEVP Portal: How to Create an Account
      1. If your OPT or STEM OPT has been approved and is active, check your email inbox for an email notice that includes a link to the SEVP Portal registration pages. You can recognize the email by the sender and subject lines:
      1. The email contains a link you must use to create the account. The link is unique to you. You can only use the link once. If you are unable to start the registration process, ask the ISS to have SEVP send you the email notice again. Email ISS international@mnstate.edu or call ISS to unlock your account and/or request a password reset. Response times for email requests is approximately 2 business days.
      2. Click the link. The initial Register page in the SEVP Portal registration process opens.
      3. Enter your SEVIS ID. Click submit. The next Register page opens to create your password.
      4. Enter a password. The password must meet the criteria on the page.
      5. Confirm the password.
      6. Click “Create Account”. The Portal opens the Log in page and displays a success message.

    1. SEVP Portal: How to Log In and Navigate After You Have Created Your Account
      • Visit https://sevp.ice.gov/opt/#/login
      • Enter your email address and password on the login screen.
      • On the Attestation page, click “Continue” to access the SEVP Portal. Clicking “Continue” signifies that you agree to the terms and conditions outlined on the page. If you do not agree, do not proceed into the SEVP Portal.
      • To log out of the portal, click the log out link in the upper right hand corner of the header.

    General Information:

      • Expand/Collapse Options: Expand to view information or collapse to hide
      • Colors: The colors of the action buttons in the portal tell you whether they can take that action. If an action is available for you to take, the button will appear bright blue with white text. If an action is unavailable for you to take, the button will appear grey with black text
      • Error/Success Messages: The portal uses different messages and visual aids to help you enter data correctly. If you submit data incorrectly or submit incomplete information, the portal displays light pink error messages at the top of the page. If you submit data correctly, the portal displays light green success messages at the top of the screen to reflect a successful submission.
      • Idle Time: After 20 minutes of inactivity, the portal will ask you to confirm that they want to remain logged into the system. You must click OK to remain logged in. If too much time has passed and you do not respond to the prompt, the system will log you out.
      • Locked Account: The SEVP Portal will lock your account if you do not log in to the portal for 90 days or after three failed attempts to log in to the system. Email international@mnstate.eu or call to speak with the Express Advisors on Tuesday and Thursdays from 9 am – 12 noon to unlock your account and/or request a password reset. Response times for email requests is approximately 2 business days.

    View History:

      • Click ‘View History’ in the top navigation bar to view a history of changes that have happened in your portal record.
      • Click the plus (+) sign to the right of the event to expand its information. The event will indicate which field(s) changed and the old and new values for the field(s).

    Address Validation:

    The portal will validate the physical and mailing addresses that you enter, meaning it will check to see if the address given is a valid one. If the system does not recognize an address, you will get an error message at the top of the page only, telling you that changes failed to save.

    SEVP Portal FAQs

    1. How do I create an SEVP Portal Password?

    If you have been approved for Post Completion (OPT) you will receive an invitation to create an account in the SEVP Portal. This email will be sent to your UT Dallas email address. Once you receive the link to create your SEVP Portal account, you will be required to create a password. Instructions for creating the password are included in the email.

    1. I didn’t get an invitation to create an account for the SEVP Portal?

    If you are an F-1 alumni, you will only obtain an invitation for the SEVP Portal if all of the following conditions have been met:

      • You SEVIS record reflects that you have been approved for Post Completion OPT and/or STEM OPT and
      • The start date for your period of Post Completion OPT is either today, or is in the past, and
      • Your SEVIS F-1 immigration record is ‘Active’

    If you believe that you meet all of these conditions and you have not received an invitation for the portal to your email account:

    1. What can I do and see in the SEVP Portal?

    F-1 alumni on Post Completion OPT will be able to:

      • View, add and edit phone number.
      • View, add and edit mailing and physical residential address.
      • View, add and edit OPT employer information.

    F-1 alumni on STEM OPT will be able to:

      • View, add and edit phone number.
      • View, add and edit mailing and physical residential address.
      • View and edit employer information (cannot add).

    1. I’ve been locked out of my SEVP Portal. How do I request a password reset?

    Email international@mnstate.edu or call ISS  to request a password reset.

    1. May I change the email address used for the SEVP Portal?

    No. The SEVP requires the ISS to report a valid email address for each active F-1 student or alumni. It must be a valid used email address. 

    1. I edited data via the SEVP Portal. Will I get a new I-20? How will I get a new I-20?

    Maybe. The I-20 does print certain information regarding your employment. If you edit your employment information you may request an updated I-20 from the ISS. Your I-20 does not print information regarding your address, and phone number; therefore, you will not need a new I-20 based on these changes.

    This ISS is not notified directly when you make an update through the SEVP Portal. If you need an updated I-20 based on your edits please submit a request by submitting an OPT Reporting Form or STEM OPT Reporting Form to the ISS. Processing times are approximately 3-5 business days.

    1. May I print an I-20 directly from the SEVP Portal after I make edits?

    No. The SEVP Portal does not allow you to print an I-20, only the ISS can print and sign I-20s for you. You will need to submit an OPT Reporting Form to the ISS in order to obtain an updated I-20. Processing times are approximately 3-5 business days.

    1. I updated my information in the SEVP Portal. Do I still need to fill out an OPT Reporting Form?

    Yes. Updating the SEVIS Portal does not eliminate the need for you to report to ISS. To meet your reporting obligations, complete and submit an OPT Reporting Form or STEM OPT Reporting Form indicating that you have made updates in the SEVP Portal. You may also request ISS to print an updated I-20 for you via the Reporting Form.

    1. Will logging into the SEVP allow me to access my SEVIS record?

    No. The SEVP Portal does not provide access to your SEVIS record, it only allows you to view and edit phone, address and employer information.

    1. If I update my information via the SEVP Portal, is it immediately available in SEVIS?

    The information you enter in the portal should be sent immediately to SEVIS to update your record.

    1. How soon after information is updated in SEVIS will it be available in the SEVP Portal?

    Information is sent from SEVIS to the SEVP portal once a day. Therefore, if there is a change made in SEVIS you should expect to see it in the SEVP Portal by the next day.

    1. Am I required to use the SEVP Portal to edit my information?

    No. At this point, you are not required to use the SEVP Portal. If you report via the SEVP Portal, you must also submit an OPT Reporting Form indicating that you met your reporting obligations via the SEVP Portal. Processing times are approximately 3-5 business days.

    1. Is there a cost or fee associated with using the SEVP Portal.

    No. There is no additional cost associated with creating an account or accessing the SEVP Portal. Do not pay any money to use the SEVP Portal.

    Collect your Updated I-20

    Updates to the following information will result in ISS issuing an updated I-20:

    • Change of your official name
    • Start or end of employment
    • Change of your employer’s address
    • Change of your employer’s name

    ISS will email you when the I-20 is ready to collect. Please make arrangements to collect, or have your I-20 mailed to you within 30 days. After 30 days, your I-20 will be destroyed, and cannot be reproduced.

    Maintaining Your Immigration Status While on Optional Practical Training

    While you are pursuing your degree, you maintain your F-1 immigration status by pursuing a full course of study. However, while you are on OPT, you maintain your F-1 status by seeking and maintaining appropriate employment.

    Beginning Employment

    You may not lawfully begin employment, or pre-employment training, until you receive your EAD and the start date has arrived. If you work during a gap between previous work authorization (for example, CPT authorization, or on-campus work authorization) and the start of your OPT authorization, you violate your F-1 status.

    Acceptable Employment

    DHS has ruled that acceptable employment during OPT can include standard employment, contract employment, self-employment and volunteer positions. All employment must be appropriate to your degree and must be at least 20 hours per week. Please refer to the following chart for more details.

    Type of Employment

    Instructions

    Single Employer

    Provide the employment dates and your employer’s name and address.

    None – Actively Seeking Employment

    If you have been unemployed for more than 10 days since your OPT start date, indicate those dates. To remain in the U.S., you must be actively looking for relevant employment. In order to maintain your visa status, you must limit unemployment while on OPT to a total of 90 days or 150 days if you have been approved for the 24-month OPT extension.

    Work for Hire (contract employment)

    Provide the employment dates and your employer’s name and address. If requested by DHS, you must be able to provide evidence that you worked an average of at least 20 hours per week.

    Unpaid Volunteer or Intern

    Provide the employment dates and your employer’s name and address. If requested by DHS, you must be able to provide evidence that you worked an average of at least 20 hours per week and that the work was related to your OPT degree. This option is not available to students in the 24-month OPT extension period.

    Self-Employed U.S. Business Owner

    List your company’s name or print “Self-Employed” and the business address. This location may be the same as your personal address, if appropriate. If requested by DHS, you must be able to provide evidence that you have proper business licenses, the business is related to your degree and that the business keeps you full-time employed.

    STEM Requirements

    Must be full time 21 hours a week or more

    Must be a paid position

    Must have an EIN

    Must be everified https://myeverify.uscis.gov/

    Must report every 6 months

    Must have an I983 on file

    Unemployment Limits

    Students in Initial OPT Period – Maximum of 90 calendar days allowed during the 12-month OPT period.

    Students With an OPT STEM Extension – An additional 60 days applies, for a maximum of 150 calendar days allowed during the 24-month OPT period. NOTE: The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has issued contradictory information regarding whether unemployment periods of less than 10 days count, or do not count, towards the 90 day unemployment deadline.

    However, it is crucial that you report all periods of employment to avoid unnecessary accrual of unemployment days.