As the academic year comes to a close, many graduating F-1 students are looking forward to beginning their period of post-completion optional practical training (OPT). OPT is a program that allows foreign students attending school in the United States on F-1 status to work in their field of study for one year following their graduation (an additional period of OPT is available for graduates in STEM fields).

Many students apply for OPT on their own or with the help of their schools. Unfortunately, the USCIS has recently increased their focus on several key deadlines of which many students and their schools may be unaware. As a result of missing these deadlines, many students have lost their opportunity to participate in the OPT program.

1. Students must submit applications for OPT to the USCIS no earlier than 90 days before the end date of their academic program and no later than 60 days following the end date of their academic program. 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(11)(i)(B)(2).

2. Students must also submit applications for OPT to the USCIS “within 30 days of the date the DSO enters the recommendation for OPT into his or her SEVIS record.” Id.

3. In order to maintain status, students must work during the majority of their OPT period. Students are only allowed to be unemployed for a period of 90 days during OPT (additional time is available for students who obtain a STEM extension of OPT). 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(E). If a student accrues too much time unemployed, he or she would be deemed to have violated status. This could have consequences for students if they later try to change their status, for example to H-1B.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact the Law Offices of Hwang & Weiss, P.C. to schedule a consultation if you have further questions.