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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

General Information About OPT

What is OPT:

OPT, or Optional Practical Training, allows F-1 students the opportunity to gain work experience in the United States. In general, F-1 students do OPT after completing a degree program such as an Associate's, Bachelor's or Master's Degree, referred to as Post-Completion OPT. The information below only pertains to Post-Completion OPT. Should you have any questions regarding other forms of OPT, please visit our office.

When and How to Apply for OPT: 

You may begin application process for OPT up to 90 days before graduation. We encourage all students to apply for OPT no later than 3 weeks before graduation. While one can apply for OPT up to 60 days after graduation, it is best to do so before graduation to ensure timely approval. Please note that you do not need a job offer to begin applying for OPT. Act responsibly and apply early!

To begin applying for OPT, please email our office at intinfo@mcneese.edu and schedule an appointment with the International Student Advisor. Tell us your schedule, and we will try to find a time that is best for you. Also, you will need to bring the following items:
  • Completed form i-765 form .pdf  (any section you are unsure of, please leave blank)
  • Money order or check for $380 payable to the Department of Homeland Security
  • Two identical passport photos
  • Copies of your passport, I-94, Visa
  • Letter from academic advisor verifying your expected date of graduation and major (must be printed on McNeese letterhead) 

*Note, you may not have an I-94 card, as they have been phased out. If so, you may print your I-94 at i-94Retrival

Types of jobs you can do for OPT:
  • Paid Employment (At least 20 hours/week)
  • Multiple Employers
  • Short-term multiple employers (performing artists like singers/dancers/actors)
          Note: Students should maintain a list of all paid performances, their dates and time.
  • Work for hire (contract-based work)
  • Self-employed Business
  • Unpaid Employment (volunteer work)

Remember: The job must be related to your field of study! 

Unemployment during OPT:

After your OPT start dateyou are only allowed up to 90 days of unemployment.

Note: If you are getting close to 90 days of unemployment you should make plans
to exit the country OR re-enroll in a new study program (the goal is to be in-status).

What to report during OPT/STEM:

During OPT, an F-1 Student is required to report the following information to our office:
  • Current Address (Within 10 Days of Change)
  • Employers Name, Address, Phone #
  • Direct Supervisor's Name, Email, Phone #
  • Change of Employer
  • Interruptions of Employment

You can report via: internationaloffice@mcneese.edu
Travel while on OPT:
 
Firstly, an F-1 student may only travel outside the U.S. after securing employment and recieving an EAD card.
The list of requirements for re-entry after foreign travel during OPT are below:

  1. Valid OPT Form I-20, endorsed for travel on page 3
          Note: the signature must not be more than six months old at the time of re-entry to the United States.
  1. Valid F-1 visa stamp in the passport
  2. Valid passport
  3. Evidence of employment
  4. Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

STEM Extention:

After completing the allowed 12 months of OPT employment, some students may qualify for a 17-month extension of OPT called STEM if their field of study is (S)science/(T)technology/(E)engineering or (M)math-related. 

For a full list of all degree programs that qualify for STEM please visit: STEM-Designated Degree Program list.pdf.

OPT Timeline:

                      OPT Timeline