UT Tyler

Practical Training Opportunities

OPT/CPT

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT authorizes a student to gain hands-on experience in their field of study prior to graduation.
It can be part-time or full-time, paid or unpaid, depending on the circumstances.

Eligibility

To be eligible, the student must:

  • Have attended at least one academic year (two long semesters) of full-time study in a U.S. college or university.
  • Be in F-1 status.
  • Be in a degree program that requires an internship to graduate or enroll in the appropriate,credit-bearing internship course.
  • Not yet have completed degree requirements. (You cannot delay graduation to take a semester of CPT.)
  • Have a job offer for a position that is appropriate for the student's degree program.
  • Submit a completed CPT I-20 Recommendation Form to the ISSFS that includes an academic advisor's recommendation.

Timing

  • CPT must be authorized, as evidenced by a CPT I-20, prior to beginning work or the student loses his or her visa status.
  • Authorization lasts up to one semester.
  • The full CPT authorization process is required prior to every semester of CPT.
  • Students who are authorized for a year or more of CPT lose eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
  • Students must remain full-time enrolled during spring and fall semesters, so part-time CPT is appropriate during those semesters.
  • As enrollment is not required for students during the summer, unless it is their first semester in a program, summer CPT can be part-time or full-time.
  • Students who are authorized for a year or more of CPT lose eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Procedure

  • Obtain an appropriate internship.
  • Complete a CPT Recommendation Form and obtain the necessary authorization from your academic advisor.
  • Submit the form to the ISSFS to obtain a CPT I-20. Authorization is made by a UT Tyler International Student Advisor so processing time is minimal, one business day or less.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT authorizes a student to gain hands-on experience in their field of study after graduation. There are several types. The most common is post-graduation.

Types of OPT

There are five types of OPT:

  1. Pre-completion – Authorization for part-time employment before graduation while remaining full-time enrolled. Use of pre-completion OPT cancels eligibility for post-completion (after graduation) OPT. Usually CPT is more advantageous to students.
  2. Coursework-completion OPT – Employment authorization for students who have completed all coursework but lack only a thesis or dissertation. This is in lieu of post-graduation OPT.
  3. Post-completion – Authorization for full-time employment after graduation.
  4. OPT STEM Extension – Second period of OPT for students who graduated in certain Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) degree programs.
  5. H-1B Cap Gap Extension – Continued authorization between the end of OPT or STEM OPT and the start date of an approved change of status to H-1B.

Post-Completion OPT

Eligibility

To be eligible, the student must:

  • Have attended at least one academic year (two long semesters) of full-time study in a U.S. college or university
  • Be in F-1 status
  • Have completed one year of full-time courses but have at least one year of courses left (Pre-Completion OPT) OR completed all coursework except for thesis or dissertation (Coursework-completion OPT) OR be in your last semester of classes (Post-completion OPT).

Timing

  • Creating the OPT I-20 takes the ISSFS one business day or less.
  • The OPT application is mailed to USCIS within 30 days after the I-20 is created.
  • USCIS requires three months to process the application.
  • Students may apply for OPT up to three months prior to the end of their final semester.
  • Students choose an OPT start date between 1-60 days after the semester ends.
  • A student can start employment once he/she receives the OPT card and reaches the OPT start date listed on the card.
  • A receipt letter is usually mailed in about two weeks.
  • It takes another 2-3 months for the processing to be complete and an OPT EAD mailed to the student.

Procedure

  • Attend an OPT workshop (optional but highly recommended)
  • Collect all the items listed on the Checklist for Optional Practical Training.
  • Complete a Form I-765 from USCIS.gov. (See OPT I-765 Instructions.)
  • Complete an OPT I-20 Request Form.
  • Submit the Form I-765 and OPT Request Form to your International Student Advisor who will create the OPT I-20 and review the assembled documents, if requested.
  • Assemble the OPT package and mail it to USCIS.

Maintaining Status – Reporting and Unemployment

Reporting          

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires you to report to your international student advisor within 10 days of each change of:

  • Address
  • Employment (ending, starting or changing jobs)
  • Employer’s name

DHS requires that your advisor report the changes in the SEVIS immigration database within 21 days of your report.

Unemployment

  • You have a total of 90 days of unemployment for the whole OPT year
  • Days of unemployment start on the OPT Start Date on your OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • Once you have 91 or more days of unemployment SEVP can terminate your record at any time. If that occurs you are out of status.

24-Month STEM Extension

Students who graduated with certain Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) degrees may be eligible for an additional two years of OPT.  New regulations go into effect on May 10, 2016 so the current information regarding the STEM extensions is currently in flux.

Some of the fundamental points of the regulatory change are:

  • Changes go into effect on May 10, 2016. Until May 9, the 17-month extension rules apply.
  • Starting May 10:
    • The OPT STEM Extension becomes 24 months long.
    • A second STEM Extension is available after completion of a STEM degree at a higher educational level; from Master’s to PhD, for example.
    • A STEM Extension can be based on a previous degree if that degree was in a STEM field at a SEVP-approved U.S. university.
    • The employer of a STEM student will have new responsibilities, including working with the student to design and maintain a Training Plan.
    • The number of allowed unemployment days increases to 180 days.
    • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has published several documents regarding the new regulation. 

Transition from 17-Month to 24-Month

If you are already in a STEM authorization period

1. If on May 10, 2016 you have at least 150 days of your STEM authorization left, you are eligible to apply for an extension of an additional seven months.
      a. You must apply between May 10 and August 8.
      b. You will need an employer-signed I-983 Training Plan.
      c. You will need a new I-20.  
      d. You must send the application to USCIS within 60 days of the printing of the I-20.
      e. You will not have to pay a filing fee.
2. If by May 10 you have less than 150 days until the end of your STEM period, you are not eligible to extend. In other words, if your current authorization ends before October, you cannot extend. In other words, if your current authorization ends before October, you cannot extend.

If you have a pending STEM application with USCIS:

1. Up to May 9, your application will be processed for the 17-month period.
2. Starting May 10, if your STEM application is still pending, USCIS will mail you a Request for Further Evidence (RFE), giving you the opportunity to submit documents for the longer period.
3. You will need several documents:
      a. You will need to obtain an I-983 Training Plan.  The employer must be willing to work with you on a Training Plan, report material changes in employment, provide an annual review of the Training Plan and report employment terminations.
      b. You will send the Training Plan to your international student advisor to obtain a new I-20.
      c. You will send a copy of the new I-20 with the RFE paper back to USCIS.
4. Exceeding the 120 day unemployment limit before approval will make you ineligible.
5. If approved, the extra time starts the day after the current STEM end date.
6. If you do not respond to the RFE your current extension will end.
 
If you have not yet filed a STEM application with USCIS:

1. You must have a STEM degree from a SEVP-approved school.
2. You must have a job that is appropriate to the STEM degree.
3. You must apply before the last day of OPT authorization.
4. You must have fewer than 90 days of unemployment.
5. Your employer must participate in the E-Verify registration system.
6. Your employer must be willing to take on responsibilities, such as working with you on a Training Plan, reporting material changes in employment, provide an annual review of the Training Plan and report employment terminations.
7. You will submit the Training Plan to your international student advisor who will verify the plan’s completeness before creating the new STEM OPT I-20.
8. You will send an I-765, copy of new I-20, copy of current EAD and fee to USCIS.
9. If you submit the application prior to your OPT end date, your work authorization will continue even if the new application is not yet adjudicated by the end date. The automatic authorization can last up to 180 days. 

 

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