Optional practical training (OPT) is defined in the regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study.” Students in F-1 status are eligible to for this benefit as long as they have been lawfully enrolled full-time for one academic year and have maintained valid F-1 status. An academic year would include fall and spring terms only. An applicant for Pre-Completion OPT can file his or her documents up to 90 days before being enrolled for one academic year as long as the period of employment will not begin prior to the completion of the full academic year. This allows first year students to obtain Pre-Completion OPT in the summer after their first year. Like Curricular Practical Training (CPT), the training MUST be directly related to the area of study and not just serve as an opportunity to work. Students may engage in OPT for any employer in any location for the duration of OPT authorization, as long as the employment qualifies under OPT standards. During Pre-Completion OPT, students must maintain a full course of study during the period of employment (unless done during school breaks). Pre-Completion OPT cannot be extended under the STEM OPT extension provisions (including Cap-Gap Extension).
Pre-Completion OPT is authorized to be worked before the student's program end date. Graduate students who have completed all coursework and have only their thesis or dissertation to complete would qualify for pre-completion OPT (as well as post-completion OPT).
A student cannot begin OPT employment until the start date indicated on the EAD issued by USCIS. The effective date of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by USCIS for standard pre-completion will be either the start date requested by the DSO when the recommendation was done in SEVIS, or the date USCIS approves the application for work authorization, whichever occurs later.
Duration: Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training has a limit of 12 months per educational level.
Previous use of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for one year or more eliminates eligibility for Optional Practical Training.
Use of pre-completion OPT impacts availability of post-completion OPT - Full-time pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 month cumulative limit at the full-time rate; Part-time pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 month cumulative limit at a 50% rate.
There is a 20 hours/week limit for pre-completion OPT done while school is in session and student still has coursework to complete.
Full-time employment can be requested for pre-completion OPT done during official school breaks, and for students who have completed all requirements for their degree except for thesis or dissertation.
Travel outside the U.S. during the OPT application process is at the student's own risk. In some cases, students have been denied re-entry to the United States even with proper documentation.
Employment: A job offer is not required in order to apply for Pre-Completion OPT; however, a student is limited to a total of 90 days of unemployment and any time of unemployment counts as part of the 12 month limit. The 90 days begins when the EAD card is issued. Once the student has gained employment, it is his or her responsibility to submit this information to the Baylor ISSS Office. Thesis/Dissertation students are not subject to the unemployment provisions, and may receive a program extension.
Applying: The student is responsible for the application process for OPT. This includes submitting a request to the Baylor ISSS Office. All documents must be submitted to USCIS within 30 days of the date that the DSO enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS and signs the I-20.
The student makes a request for OPT to a Baylor DSO.
After determining eligibility, the DSO updates SEVIS with an OPT recommendation.
The DSO prepares a new Form I-20 and the I-765.
The student the OPT application within OPT filing deadlines and within 30 days of the Baylor DSO recommendation. Documents sent to USCIS should include:
Photocopy of all prior Forms I-20
Photocopy of any previous employment authorization documents (EAD)
Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, marked with the proper code at item 16: (c)(3)(A) for pre-completion OPT
Check or money order for the Form I-765 filing fee, made payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security." Do not send cash. Please write your I-94 number on your check or money order.
Two identical passport photos, taken within 30 days of filing Form I-765 (see 16.9 Photo guidelines for visas and immigration benefits and see 16.9.2 USICS applications requiring photos). Please write your name and I-94 number on the back of the photos.
Photocopy of Form I-94 (both sides of cardstock I-94 or copy of electronic Form I-94 printout)
When it is received by USCIS, they will send a Notice of Action (I-797) to confirm receipt of your application. Students can check the status of their application on line after receiving this receipt.
USCIS reviews and approves or denies OPT request.
If approved, USCIS sends an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card to the Baylor ISSS Office.
The Baylor ISSS Office staff will open the EAD card and confirm accuracy and make a copy and then email the student to come to the office to pick-up their card, or the card will be mailed to the student by courier to ensure that the student received the EAD.
The student notifies Baylor ISSS of the employer name and address and the student’s address.
The student must keep the Baylor ISSS Office updated with work and home address information. Failure to notify ISSS could lead to cancellation of OPT.