International Law School Students
Obtaining Employment in the United States
The application for Optional Practical Training (OPT) is offered to students who have been in status for nine consecutive months and who are in good academic standing. OPT allows you to work in the U.S., provided the job is directly related to your field of study. Students with F-1 visa status may apply for one year (12 months) of Optional Practical Training, during which time employment is authorized in the United States.
Think of OPT as a bank account. In that account is 12 months of full-time Optional Practical Training. If, for example, you would like to work full-time for three months one summer before you graduate, that is a three month “withdrawal” of full-time employment. You will still have nine months to use after you have completed your academic program.
When to Submit Your OPT Application
You may apply for OPT up to 90 days prior to your academic program end date, and no later than 60 days after your academic program end date. For students who intend to do OPT after graduation, we strongly advise applying before your academic program ends. Consult the law school’s Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) about the exact end date of your program.
Please note that OPT must be obtained from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, so please plan ahead to ensure a timely receipt of your application. If your OPT application is received by USCIS more than 60 days after you complete your program, you will not be eligible for OPT.
OPT may take place:
- While school is in session, provided that it does not exceed 20 hours per week;
- During the summer recess, either full or part-time;
- After completion of program, full-time only.
Please note: Authorization for OPT is limited to a total of twelve (12) months combined, and all OPT must be completed within fourteen (14) months after the end date of your academic program.
Other Points of Note
- Part-time OPT (20 hours or less per week) is deducted from available practical training at one-half the full-time rate.
- Many students do not fully understand the mechanics of obtaining and preserving OPT options. For example, many students obtain authorization for OPT, and then start looking for a job. Please bear in mind that the authorization period is based upon the date authorization is given, not the date a job is obtained. Consequently, students can lose valuable time by ignoring this key detail.
- Furthermore, many students apply for OPT authorizations and later change their minds, or pursue other options. Yet, if the application for authorization is not officially withdrawn, the student will still exhaust entitlement to OPT if authorization is granted. Just because OPT is not used, this does not mean that the authorization for OPT has expired. Therefore, any student desiring to potentially explore his or her OPT options is strongly advised to consult with the law school’s Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) – the New England Law registrar – well in advance of the need for OPT, so that the student fully understands all of the common pitfalls associated with OPT.
Responsibilities of F-1 Students on OPT
While on Post-Completion OPT, you are still an F-1 student visa holder through New England Law | Boston. This means that you are responsible for communicating the following information to the PDSO (the New England Law registrar) during your OPT time:
- Any change of name.
- The name and address of your employer when you get a job and when you change jobs.
- Any period of unemployment while authorized for OPT.
- Any change in your U.S. or home-country address.
- If you change your address while on OPT, you must update your address with the PDSO (registrar) at New England Law and with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. A change of address must be filed within 10 days of that change. You may email the address change to the registrar (firstname.lastname@example.org) who will then update your SEVIS record. You must also change your address with USCIS. You may do this online - go to www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis.
- Mail the completed form within 10 days to:
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Change of Address
P.O. Box 7134
London, KY 40742-7134
Traveling Outside the U.S. While on OPT
Please read this section carefully. If you do not follow these guidelines, you may be refused reentry into the United States, should you travel outside the U.S. while on OPT:
Note:: You must obtain a travel signature from the PDSO on your I-20 every six months while on OPT.
If you plan to travel abroad, you must carry your:
- Passport valid for at least 6 months
- Valid U.S. F-1 visa
- I-94 card
- EAD card, and
- a letter from your employer.
You may travel outside the United States while the OPT application is pending, if you can present the USCIS Processing Center receipt, proving that the application for employment has been filed.
However, once the EAD card for OPT is issued to you, if you decide to travel outside the U.S., you may only re-enter the United States to resume employment. DHS has clarified that the F-1 student does not need to have already started actual employment before leaving, as long as the student has a job offer to which to return.
If you must travel abroad, we strongly advise F-1 students who are an OPT and have received the EAD card to make sure that there is documentation from your employer confirming the employment or job offer. Otherwise there is a real risk that you may not be allowed to reenter the United States.
Before you travel, you should also go onto the U.S. Consulate website in your home country to see if there are other requirements: http://travel.state.gov.
Applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT)
You are not authorized to begin Optional Practical Training until you receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service/Department of Homeland Security. Current policy for submitting applications to receive an EAD stipulate that international students must apply no earlier than 90 days prior, and no later than 60 days after, the end date of their academic program. Completed OPT applications may be submitted to New England Law's Principal Designated School Official (the registrar). We suggest allowing 7-10 days for processing by the registrar and for any delays in the U.S. mail delivery. The registrar will submit your application at the correct time(s).
How to Apply for your Employment Authorization Document
Information and resources about the application process for an OPT can be found online at www.ice.gov/sevis/practical-training/. Be sure to read the "OPT Policy Guidance (PDF)" located at the bottom of the of the page.
Please note: U.S. government Internet links change frequently. The registrar checks the links listed here every semester before publication of the course registration information on the Registrar's website. The registrar has verified that the Internet links listed in this section are accurate as of January 14, 2013. If links are not working properly for you, please see the registrar for assistance.
1.) Download and complete INS form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization). (Form available at: http://www.uscis.gov/i-765)
2.) Bring the following items to the Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) in the Registrar's Office:
- A completed form I-765
- 2 color photos, 2 x 2 inches, showing full face, frontal view. For complete photo specifications, visit the USCIS’s I-765, Application for Employment Authorization webpage and click on the Download Instructions for Form I-765 link. Go to Page 6 and under "Required Documentation" you will find additional photo requirements.
- Check for $380.00* payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (*Fee as of November 2010. Students should check the USCIS website for fee changes),
- The original of your most recent I-20 form
- A copy of any previously issued I-20
- A copy (both sides) of I-94 card
- A copy of the photograph page of your passport
- Copies of any previously issued EAD cards.
3.) At the New England Law Registrar’s Office, fill out a Student Request Form, requesting the OPT. Be sure to give the dates for your OPT request on the Student Request form, and (if known), the name and address of your employer.
Note: It is not required that you have employer information at the time of your application for OPT. However, if you are approved for an OPT, the “clock starts” with the date you requested as the start date, whether or not you have employment.
Once your application and supporting materials have been reviewed by the PDSO (New England Law registrar), the PDSO will enter your OPT request online on the SEVIS website. You may then submit your application and all necessary supporting materials to the Immigration Service Center for final processing. You may also ask the New England Law registrar to submit it for you.
If you choose to mail the application yourself, you should send it to:
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Vermont Service Center
75 Lower Welden Street
Saint Albans, VT 05479
After your application and supporting materials have been mailed and received by the Vermont Service Center:
- If your application is complete, the INS will mail you Form I-797. This is not your employment authorization. It is merely a receipt notice, confirming that your completed application has been received and is in process.
- After having received your application, the INS will process it. The Service Centers have seen an increase in the volume of applications, so plan as far in advance as possible. If your application is approved, your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) should be mailed directly to you. In some instances, however, you may be required to appear at a local INS office to receive your EAD card.
- You can check the status of your OPT request after receiving the I-797 by logging onto the USCIS Case Status online website at: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/jsps/index.jsp
- Plan carefully. Once your application has been submitted and entered onto the SEVIS website, making changes to OPT requests can be difficult. The Service Centers cannot be contacted by telephone and are often unresponsive to letters from students and/or the registrar.
You may not begin working until you have received your EAD card. Working without an EAD card is a serious violation of your F-1 status.