Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It’s a brand-new week and we are excited to share with you a recent update that will benefit F-1 students applying for employment authorization under the Optional Practical Training program (OPT).
Today, April 12, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that F-1 students requesting OPT may now file their Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, online by creating an online account at myaccount.uscis.gov, instead of having to submit a paper application by mail to USCIS, if they fall under one of the following categories:
- (c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT;
- (c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT; and
- (c)(3)(C) – 24-Month Extension of OPT for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students.
What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) refers to a temporary period of employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study.
Eligible F-1 students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion).
Eligible F-1 students who receive STEM degrees may apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT.
How Can You Qualify for OPT?
All OPT must be directly related to your major area of study. If you are an F-1 student, you may be eligible to participate in OPT in two different ways:
- Pre-completion OPT: You may apply to participate in pre-completion OPT after you have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year at a college, university, conservatory, or seminary that has been certified by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to enroll F-1 students. You do not need to have had F-1 status for the one full academic year; you can satisfy the “one full academic year” requirement even if you had another nonimmigrant status during that time.
If you are authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT, you may work part time (20 hours or less per week) while school is in session. You may work full time when school is not in session.
- Post-completion OPT: You may apply to participate in post-completion OPT after completing your studies. If you are authorized for post-completion OPT, you may work part time (20 hours or less per week) or full time.
If you participated in pre-completion OPT, USCIS will deduct that amount of time from your post-completion OPT authorization period. For example, if you participated in 10 months of pre-completion OPT, you would be eligible for only up to 2 months of post-completion OPT.
- STEM OPT Extension: If you have earned a degree in certain science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, you may apply for a 24-month extension of your post-completion OPT employment authorization if you:
- Are an F-1 student who received a STEM degree included on the STEM Designated Degree Program List (PDF);
- Are employed by an employer who is enrolled in and is using E-Verify; and
- Received an initial grant of post-completion OPT employment authorization based on your STEM degree.
How do students apply for OPT?
Those eligible can apply for OPT by first:
- Requesting that your designated school official (DSO) at your academic institution recommend the OPT. Your DSO will make the recommendation by endorsing your Form I‑20, Certification of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, and making the appropriate notation in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
- Properly filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with USCIS, accompanied by the required fee and the supporting documentation as described in the form instructions.
Previously Form I-765 was filed as a paper application by mail, but now F-1 students filing Form I-765 for OPT may apply online.
Applicants who submit Form I-765 online to request employment authorization on or after April 15, but are eligible for a different employment authorization category, will be denied and will forfeit their application fee.
What are the benefits of applying online?
Online filings are beneficial for several reasons. The process is much more streamlined since applicants are able to submit their forms and supporting documentation electronically. Applicants can also check the status of their case online at any time and receive notices from USCIS online instead of waiting for them to arrive in the mail.
Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.
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