I Have Applied for OPT, Now What?
RECEIVING OPT CARD – NEW PROCESS REQUIRING SIGNATURE AND PHOTO ID
USCIS is the agency who issues the Employment Authorization Cards. They announced April 30, 2018, they have begun phasing in use of the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) Signature Confirmation & Restricted Delivery services. The first phase will only affect EADs returned as undeliverable, but in the future all EADS will be delivered under this system. They have not announced when delivery will be expanded to all EADs. As part of the new delivery method, you must present identification to sign for your EAD upon delivery. You also have the option to:
- designate an agent to sign on your behalf by
- completing the USPS’s PS Form 3801, Standing Delivery Order
- OR completing USPS’s PS Form 3801-A, Agreement by a Hotel, Apartment House, or the Like
- AND sign up for USPS Informed Delivery to receive delivery status notifications
- OR arrange for pickup at a post office at a convenient date and time by going to the USPS website and selecting "Hold Mail" This will stop delivery of all your mail.
- DO NOT continue working in an on-campus student position once you have completed your academic program.
- DO NOT promise an employer you can start on a specific date or sign an employment contract with a specific start date unless you already have your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
- DO NOT begin working before receiving your EAD or before the start date on the EAD. DO NOT continue working after the expiration date unless you have other applicable work authorization.
- Maintain evidence – for each job – that the employment is directly related to your degree. Have proof of the position held, the duration of the position, job title, contact info for the supervisor or manager and a description of the work. If it is not clear from the job description, obtain a signed letter from your employer’s hiring official, supervisor, or manager stating how your degree is related to the work performed.
Go to http://www.uscis.gov/
OR, Go to Tools > Check your Case Status Online.
Enter your Receipt Number (ex. LINxxxxxxxxxx, YSCxxxxxxxxxx, PSCxxxxxxxxxx)
You will have an option to create a myUSCIS account where you can set the account up to receive any automatic email updates on the status of your application.
IMPORTANT: The receipt is NOT your work permit!
To maintain your F-1 status, WITHIN 10 DAYS of any change, you must comply with the reporting requirements listed in the table below.
SEVP will send you an email once your OPT is approved to set up an account for an SEVP Portal for reporting. The SEVP Portal is OPTIONAL. ISS recommends:
- You use the SEVP Portal only for VIEWING accuracy of data.
- You report all changes through iHawk.
- You should NOT report changes in both iHawk and the SEVP Portal.
Why report through iHawk?
- ISS reviews information for compliance before submitting to SEVIS.
- ISS automatically issues a new I-20 when appropriate.
F-1 Practical Training
If you are a performing artist reporting multiple gigs, or a self-employed business owner/contract worker, here are some reporting TIPS for special categories.
Upload OPT EAD Card
Phone Number Update
|U.S. Address Update (residential or mailing)*|
|Request I-20 for Employer Update Made in Portal|
Leaving U.S. and Forfeit Remainder of OPT
Change of Status and Forfeit Remainder of OPT
|Passport Name Change|
*ADDRESS CHANGES: If your OPT application is still pending, you must report address changes in 3 places (even if you request the post office to forward all your mail):
- iHawk or SEVP Portal AND
- USCIS AND
- The ISS advisor who processed your OPT
- Only look for and accept employment that is directly related to your field of study.
- Comply with OPT reporting requirements.
- Since F-1 status is dependent on employment, you must not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment while on post-completion OPT.
- OPT employment does not have to be paid, but volunteer or unpaid opportunities do need to be reported in order to avoid accrual of unemployment. Unpaid internships must not violate any labor laws, must be directly related to your field of study and the work must be at least 20 hours per week.
- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (not ISS) will be responsible for determining if your status has been violated by exceeding the permissible period of unemployment. They may deny future immigration benefits and/or they may terminate your SEVIS record if you fail to maintain the proper period of employment.
- You are allowed 60 days after the expiration of the EAD (if properly maintained status) to remain in the U.S. for the purpose of preparing for departure, to change education levels at the same school, to transfer out, or to apply for a change of status.
- Your duration of status and possibly also work authorization may automatically be extended if you are a beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition and change of status request. See more details on H-1B Cap-Gap OPT Extension.
Travel out of the U.S. while waiting for OPT approval is not advised unless you have a job offer and you have a way of getting the EAD should the OPT be approved while you are overseas.
If the OPT is Pending
I-20 with a recent travel signature
*STEM OPT Pending: Do not travel outside the United States if your EAD is expired and the STEM OPT extension request is pending. Wait until you receive the new EAD.
Once OPT is Approved
OPT EAD (Employment Authorization Document)
Proof of Employment (i.e. job offer or recent paycheck stub)
I-20 with a travel signature within the last six months
- If your F-1 visa has expired you will need to apply for a new one while abroad if you plan to return to the U.S. to continue with OPT. It is sometimes more difficult to obtain an F-1 student visa while on OPT since you have already completed your degree and you are only returning to work. In addition, all new visas require a security check that could take time. Please carefully consider these risks before traveling outside the U.S.
- If traveling to Canada, Mexico or adjacent (Caribbean) islands for less than 30-days, automatic revalidation may be a possibility and a need for a new visa may not apply.
- Your period of post-comp OPT is completed (as indicated by the dates on your EAD card)
- Accrue an aggregate of 90 days of unemployment during the entire 12- month OPT period
- Transferring to another school or beginning study at another education level automatically terminates any remaining portion of OPT
- Change your status to another immigration status, or adjust to US permanent resident
- Depart the US permanently (not for temporary visit/vacation) and report forfeiting the remainder of OPT