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International Student Services

Optional Practical Training After Graduation

International Student Services: Current Students


Optional Practical Training After Graduation

What is Optional Practical Training?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is 12 months of authorized off-campus employment directly related to your major field of study that can be used during your studies or after completion of your degree.

When can I begin OPT?

Students must have been enrolled full time for at least one academic year in a degree program and be in good standing in F-1 status. Undergraduate students may begin OPT once they have completed all requirements towards the degree. Graduate students may begin OPT either once they have completed all coursework requirements for the degree except for the thesis or comprehensive exams, or once all requirements for the degree are complete. Students are eligible for a maximum of 12 months of OPT employment for each degree level (associate's, bachelor's, master's, PhD.).

Do I need a job to apply for OPT?

No. Students do not need to have a job offer to apply for OPT but must look for a job that is related to their field of study and that is appropriate for their educational level.

What is the OPT application deadline?

Students may apply for OPT no more than 90 days before completion of studies and 60 days after completion of studies. You cannot apply after the deadline.

*NOTE*:  Once your OPT I-20 has been created by our office, USCIS must receive the completed application package within 30 days or your application will be denied.

How do I apply for OPT?

Step 1 – Attend an OPT workshop. These required information sessions are scheduled throughout the semester. You must attend one workshop before you can apply for OPT. Applications for OPT will be available at the workshop.

Step 2 – Hand in your OPT application packet to International Student Programs in VH 201.

We will review your application and, if you are eligible, will update your SEVIS record, and issue a new I-20 with the OPT recommendation.

Step 3 – International Student Programs will contact you once your application is ready to be picked up from VH 201. You should send your application to USCIS by certified mail or by overnight courier service and it should arrive before the deadline. 

*NOTE*:  Once your OPT I-20 has been created by our office, USCIS must receive the completed application package within 30 days or your application will be denied.

When will I get my EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card?

The USCIS will first send a receipt notice and then send the EAD card to the address indicated on the I-765 form. Processing by the USCIS can take up to 90 days.

When can I begin working?

You can only begin working once you receive your EAD card and you can only work during the dates printed on your EAD card.

Where can I work during OPT?

You can work anywhere in the US during your OPT period. You can work part time (minimum of 20 hours per week) or full time and you can do an internship. You can change employers during your OPT period, but you must update International Student Programs with your new employer’s name and address. Any work you do while on OPT must be directly related to your major field of study and it must be appropriate for your education level.

What if I cannot find work?

You are not allowed to be unemployed for more than 90 days in total during the 12-month OPT period.

What do I do if I change my employer or my address?

Submit the OPT Reporting Form (employed) or US Address Reporting Form (unemployed), available on our website.  We will update your SEVIS record accordingly.

When I finish OPT, do I have a grace period?

When you finish OPT, you are allowed to stay in the US for an additional 60-day grace period. During that time, you are considered to be in valid status, but you are not allowed to work. You may apply to change your status, transfer to a new academic program, or prepare to leave the U.S. during this time.

Can I travel while my OPT application is pending?

It depends. We do not recommend you travel in this case. Contact International Student Programs if you plan to travel while your OPT application is pending.

Can I travel while on OPT?

If your OPT has been approved, you can travel outside the U.S. as long as you re-enter with the following documents: valid passport (at least six months into the future of re-entry date), valid F-1 visa, EAD card, and an OPT I-20 with a valid travel signature. We also recommend that you carry a letter from your employer stating that you are returning to resume employment. If you have any questions about travel, please contact International Student Programs via email:  international@newpaltz.edu

What if I begin a new academic program during OPT or after my OPT has finished?

If you transfer to a new academic program during your OPT period, your OPT is automatically cancelled. Please contact International Student Programs to arrange for your SEVIS record to be transferred to the new school. If you transfer to a new academic program after your OPT has finished, your SEVIS record must be transferred to the new school during the 60-day grace period after completion of your OPT.

What is the STEM extension?

F-1 academic students who receive Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) degrees, and who are granted up to 12 months of post-completion OPT, may apply for a 24-month extension for a maximum of 36 months of post-completion OPT. STEM extensions must be filed at the USCIS Service Center before the last day of your OPT. If you want to apply for a STEM extension, review HOW TO APPLY FOR THE 24-MONTH STEM EXTENSION. Please note that you need to submit your STEM extension materials to International Student Programs well before your OPT expires.

What is the CAP-GAP?

Students who apply for H-1B status while on OPT or OPT STEM extension may request a “CAP-GAP” I-20 while their H-1B is pending or approved to extend their F-1 status to Sept. 30 of the year the H-1B application was filed. CAP GAP I-20s can only be issued during the H1B application period from April 1-Sept. 30. If you qualify for a CAP-GAP I-20, please contact our office for assistance.

Can I enroll in the school’s health insurance plan while on OPT?

—Yes. To be eligible, you will need to sign up for the insurance no more than 30 days after your current SUNY insurance expires. Contact International Student Programs who will verify your OPT status with Student Accounts. Student Accounts will then contact you to extend your current coverage.  You will need to pay for the insurance at the time of enrollment through Student Accounts and must enroll for a minimum of four months.

Please contact the International Student Programs for any OPT or STEM extension related questions at international@newpaltz.edu