Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (commonly referred to as "OPT") is a benefit of your F-1 status that allows off-campus employment for the purpose of gaining hands-on experience working in your major in the US. OPT is not a diffferent type of visa. You can think of your OPT period as an extension of your F-1 status. Standard Post-Completion OPT takes place after you graduate from Bentley, however you must continue to maintain valid F-1 status during your approved OPT period. The F-1 regulations are slightly different for students on OPT. You can read more about them on the OPT Acknowledgement Form (located in the application documents at the link below). OPT requires a somewhat lengthy and detailed application process.To request Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment authorization, you will need to submit an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
Click HERE for detailed instructions regarding applying for Standard Post-Completion OPT.
Updating your OPT Employer
Students on OPT must update the CISS as soon as they recieve employment or their employer information changes. Click HERE to enter your OPT Employer Information.
Employers sometimes have questions about employing international students. Your employer may find this guide helpful: Hiring International Students - a guide for employers.pdf.
Your EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card is what is granted to you after being approved for OPT. It is very important that you review the EAD card for correct dates and other information. Contact the CISS immediately if your EAD card is lost, damaged, or stolen.
Click HERE for more information about what to do if you lose your EAD card.
Traveling while your OPT is Pending
You must to be very cautious if you are traveling while your OPT is pending. Technically, if you return to the U.S. and the application is still pending, you may re-enter to search for employment. To return while your OPT is pending, make sure you have:
1)A valid passport with unexpired F-1 visa stamp
2) Form I-20, signed for travel within the past 6 months (NOTE: this is different from when you are actively enrolled in a program on F-1 status, during which time signatures are valid for an entire year)
3)I-797c Notice of Action Receipt from USCIS or EAD Card, depending on whether your OPT has been approved or is still pending
4)Employment Offer (recommended) (NOTE: If you already have an employment offer, It is best to get a letter from your employer before you leave)
If you have issues re-entering at the port of entry, you can refer to the following response regarding travel during pending OPT from Immigration and Customs Enforcement:
Travel while OPT is pending:
"Yes, but traveling during this time should be undertaken with caution. USCIS may send you a request for evidence while you are away, however, so you would want to make sure you have provided a correct U.S. address both to your DSO and on the application and would be able to send in requested documents. Also, if USCIS approves your OPT application, you will be expected to have your EAD in hand to re-enter the United States. Like a request for further information, USCIS can only send the EAD to your U.S. address."
Traveling on Approved OPT (Once EAD card has been received)
Generally, an F-1 student on Post-Completion OPT may travel outside the U.S. temporarily and return to resume F-1 status (and employment) for the remainder of the authorized OPT period on your EAD card.
When returning to the U.S. after travel, you will need to present at the Port of Entry:
1) A valid passport with an unexpired F-1 visa stamp
2) OPT or STEM OPT Form I-20 with a travel signature on page two from the last six months
3) Unexpired EAD card
4) Proof of employment (and/or offer letter) – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
*Please keep in mind that the 90 day unemployment limit still applies. If you are traveling for business or a temporary vacation while hired by a company, travel outside of the U.S. will not count towards the 90 day limit. However, travel while not employed will still count towards your 90 days, even if spent outside of the U.S. Always remember to update us with any change in your employment HERE.
Renewing your visa on OPT
To renew your visa on OPT you should schedule a visa appointment as usual and provide all of the original documentation (check consulate requirements) for F-1 visas. In addition to the typical documents, be sure to carry the following additional documents:
- Proof of Employment (job offer letter or verification of employment letter from your current employer)
- I-20 with current job information and travel signature no more than 6 months old
- Current, valid EAD card
You can expect the visa interview to be similar to past interviews. The officer will want to know about your goals in the U.S. and your intent to return home after completing those goals. The difference is that you will still need to answer these questions in such a way that you show your goals in the U.S. to be in line with a student visa – that they are ultimately academic in nature. You’ll need to make it clear to the official interviewing you that after you complete your academic goals, you still intend to return home.
STEM Extension OPT
Certain F-1 international students are eligible for a 24-month extension of their standard, Post-Completion OPT work authorzation, allowing them to apply for a “STEM OPT Extension.” Eligibile STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) majors correspond to specific ‘CIP codes’ issued by the U.S. government.
The following is a list of STEM eligible majors here at Bentley:
- Actuarial Science
- Computer Information Systems
- Mathematical Science
- Information Systems Audit and Control
- M.S. Human Factors in Information Design
- M.S. Information Technology
- M.S. Business Analytics
- M.S. Marketing Analytics
- M.S. Finance - Quantitative Track
STEM OPT Extension Eligibility
- As a legal F-1 student, you must first be approved for and engaged in standard Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) based on a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a STEM field that appears on the DHS STEM-Designated Degree Program List.
- You must have a job or a job offer from an E-Verify employer.
- The employer or its designated agent must be registered with E-Verify and be a participant in good standing.
- You must apply for the STEM OPT extension before your standard period of post-completion OPT expires. You must also be sure to submit the application within 60 days of the issuance of the new STEM OPT I-20. Any application received by the USCIS Processing Center after the standard OPT post-completion expires will not be approved for a STEM extension.
- The employer must agree to report to the DSO at Bentley - within 48 hours - when you are terminated or leave their employment. Be sure your employer is reminded of this rule and please provide your employer with the email address of the GA account for reporting any termination of your employment: GA_CISS@bentley.edu.
- You must agree to make periodic reports to the DSO at the GA account (GA_CISS@bentley.edu) while on a period of STEM OPT extension and validate your employment every 6 months (see directions about mandatory validation reporting below)
Employer Eligibility for the STEM OPT Extension
(Note that you must work at least 20 hours per week in a job that is related to your approved STEM degree).
- Bona fide Employer-Employee Relationship- According to DHS, students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the I-983 Training Plan, and the employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.
- Multiple employer arrangements, sole proprietorships, employment through “temp” agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, do not constitute bona fide employer-employee relationships [81 FR 13079 par. 521]
- E-Verify- The Employer must be enrolled in E-Verify. You can search a list of E-Verify employers by clicking here.
- Employer Identification Number- The employer must have an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN).
- I-983 Training Plan- The employer must complete and sign the Form I-983 Training Plan, agreeing to wage, working conditions, supervision, site visit, and reporting obligations set forth by the regulations [8 CFR 214.2 (f)(10)(ii)(C)(5)].
Note: Self-employment and volunteer opportunities do not qualify for the STEM OPT Extension. Start-up businesses may be eligible, but all regulatory requirements must be met and the student may not provide employer attestations on his or her own behalf.
Timing of the STEM OPT Extension
You may apply for the STEM OPT Extension and submit your application as early as 90 days before your current initial post-completion OPT expires. Remember that once you receive your new STEM OPT I-20, that you must submit the I-20 and the rest of the STEM application within 60 days after the new I-20 is issued.
All STEM extensions start the day after the standard OPT post-completion expires, even if the extension is not approved by this date. STEM extensions end 24 months after the day after the initial OPT post-completion expires.
As long as you have submitted a complete application to USCIS for the STEM extension before your standard post-completion OPT expires, you may continue working up to 180 days after the end date of the initial post-completion OPT while the application is pending. Work being engaged in after the initial OPT expires must comply with all STEM extension conditions as noted above.
How to Apply for a STEM OPT Extension
1. Make an appointment with CISS or submit the required application documents electronically to CISS at least 1 month before your current STEM-based initial OPT expires.
2. Allow for 5 business days for your application to be processed by CISS.
3. Submit your application to the USCIS Processing Center within 30 days of the issuance of your newest STEM OPT I-20 and be sure it reaches USCIS before your current OPT expires.
Documents to Submit to CISS to be given a STEM OPT Request I-20:
- The STEM Acknowledgement and Reporting Form: STEM_Acknowledgement and Reporting_Form.pdf
- Completed Training Form I-983
- Click HERE for Training Form I-983 Instructions
Documents to be sent to USCIS to apply for the STEM Extension:
- Completed Form I-765
- Completed Form G-1145
- Two color U.S. passport-sized photos with your name written on the back of each photo
- Check in the amount of $410 made out to the Department of Homeland Security
- Copies of all current and previously issued Forms I-20
- Copy of your F-1 visa and copy of most recent entry stamp in to the U.S.
- Copy of the expiration and identity page of your passport (valid at least 6 months in to the future)
- Print-out of your I-94 information
- Copy of all EAD cards
- Copy of your diploma or official transcript reflecting your educational level of study and your major/area of concentration that is STEM eligible
- HIGHLY Recommended: Offer letter from STEM employer, written on company letterhead which includes the following information:
- Employer name and address, including zip code
- Confirmation that employer is enrolled in E-Verify
- Confirmation that employer agrees to report to Bentley DSO any departure or termination of your employment within 48 hours
- Employment start date
- Your job title
- Confirmation of full or part-time employment
- Employer’s “Employer Identification Number (EIN)”
Mailing in Your STEM OPT Extension Application:
If using USPS mail services, send your application to:
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
(Be sure to select a service that allows your application to be tracked)
If using an overnight courier service such as Federal Express or DHL, send your application to:
2501 S. State Hwy. 121
Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
Limits on Days of Unemployment
You are permitted a total of 150 days of unemployment during the entire 36 months (12 month standard OPT + 24 month extension). If you accrue any more than 150 days of unemployment you are considered out of status, lose the rest of your STEM OPT time, and must leave the U.S.
Student Reporting Requirements while on STEM OPT Extension
General Reporting Requirements (Be sure to report any of the following changes to your Bentley DSO at GA_CISS@bentley.edu within 10 days of the change):
- Your legal name
- Your residential or mailing address
- Your employer’s name and address
- Any loss of employment
Mandatory Validation Report Requirements While on STEM OPT Extension
Beginning from the start date of your STEM OPT Extension, you are required to submit a validation report to CISS to GA_CISS@bentley.edu every 6 months.
Click HERE to validate your OPT STEM Extension employment
You are required to submit this information every 6 months - even if nothing has changed. If you fail to do so, SEVIS will automatically terminate your record rendering you out of legal immigration status.
Changing Employers on the STEM OPT Extension
Contact the CISS at GA_CISS@bentley.edu immediately if you have or plan to change employers on STEM Extension. You must fill out a new I-983 Training Plan with your new employer.
Travel While on STEM OPT Extension
When travelling during your STEM OPT Extension, be sure to use your STEM OPT EAD card. While on a period of STEM OPT you must travel with the following documents:
- Your STEM OPT Form I-20 form with a valid travel signature (valid for 6 months)
- Valid F-1 visa stamp
- Passport (valid at least 6 months in to the future)
- Letter from your E-Verify employer confirming your employment
- STEM OPT EAD Card
- Also consider travelling with all of your previously issued EAD cards and I-20s
H-1B Cap Gap
Each year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security allots a specific number of H-1B visas for professionals in specialty occupations and with a specific educational level for an October 1st start date. Since the limit is reached quickly, employers are required to submit applications at the beginning of April to request a visa number for the employee they wish to sponsor. Once the number of H-1B applications reaches the limit, USCIS stops accepting applications and selects H-1B visa applicants based on a visa lottery.
If you are a May graduate, your F-1 grace period or OPT employment may end before the October 1st start date of your requested H-1B. In order to “bridge the gap” between the April 1st filing deadline and the October 1st start date of your H-1B status, USCIS automatically authorizes a “cap gap” extension of your F-1 status. This extension of status will include work authorization if you were on an active period of OPT at the April filing deadline, or simply an extension of your F-1 status (without work authorization) if you were an active student or on your grace period at the filing deadline.
For more information about the H-1B Cap Gap, or to request an I-20 reflecting your Cap Gap extension, download our information sheet and request form: Request For I-20 - H1B Cap Gap