While You Are On Optional Practical Training (F-1 Students)
Once your application is approved, USCIS will issue you an EAD. Make a copy of your EAD and write your UMID somewhere on the page. Scan and email to email@example.com with a note indicating you applied for OPT and have received your EAD.
Your F-1 status continues through the OPT period.
You must stop your employment when the end date on the EAD card is reached, but may remain in the U.S. for the 60-day grace period.
You may begin working once
The EAD is not employer specific, so you may change employers at will. However, employment must be directly related to the field of studies. Any employment outside your field of study is unauthorized and is a substantive violation of your status.
Social Security Number
If you do not yet have a Social Security Number (SSN), you will be required to have one for tax reporting purposes. You may apply for a SSN after you have received the EAD card and the begin date on the card has been reached.
If you already have a SSN, do not apply for a new one. Social Security Numbers are for life.
You do not need your SSN to begin working. On your first day of employment, you will be asked to complete employment paperwork. If you do not yet have your SSN, you may write “applied for” in the space where the SSN is to be provided. Once you receive the Social Security Card in the mail, provide the number to your employer.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Address Notification Requirement
You are required to update your address in Wolverine Access within 10 days of any change, even while you are on OPT.
Travel Outside the U.S. and Reentry
For important information on travel while you're applying for OPT, refer to the Travel Advisory “Travel while on post-completion OPT”. This section includes important information on documents required to reenter the U.S. while on OPT, plus information about applying for a new visa stamp.
If your F-2 dependents travel outside the U.S. and reenter without you during your OPT period, they should carry their own original documents along with photocopies of all the documents you are required to carry for reentry. The list of required documents is provided in the Travel Advisory.
OPT Employment Requirements and Reporting
You are expected to be employed in your field of study during OPT, and you are required to submit employer information to SEVIS. The maximum period of unemployment is 90 days.
Documenting OPT Employment
It is recommended that you keep documentation of all your employment. In the future, you may be asked to provide proof that your employment during OPT was in your field of study.
Specifically, you should maintain evidence — for each job — of the position held, proof of the duration of that position, the job title, contact information for your supervisor or manager, and description of the work
If it is not clear from the job description that the work is related to your degree, we highly recommend that you obtain a signed letter from the employer's hiring official, supervisor, or manager stating how your degree is related to the work you performed. Keep this in your personal records.
Types of employment allowed during pre- and post- completion OPT
All OPT employment, including post-completion OPT, must be in a job that is related to your degree program.
This employment may include the following (does not apply to students on a STEM extension):
Students are required to report changes in employment to the IC as soon as possible. We recommend that you report changes within 10 business days of the change to avoid situations where a DHS official may determine you to be out of status.
To report periods of employment along with employer information, start the IC OPT Employment Record web form by entering your UMID. You will be directed to update your current employer or create a new employer/unemployed record. If your employment information changes, revisit the web form to provide an update. For instance, you must enter an end date for your current job before adding a new employer/unemployed record. The IC will enter this data into SEVIS for you.
Periods of Unemployment
Students on post-completion OPT are only allowed a total of 90 days of unemployment.
If you cannot find employment that meets the definition of OPT employment, you may have the following options:
Ending OPT Early
If you decide to abandon your OPT before the end date of your EAD and leave the U.S., you must notify the International Center so we can end your SEVIS record. Please submit a departure form or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org telling us that you have decided to abandon your OPT and the date you plan to depart the United States. We will end your SEVIS record effective the date you indicate you plan to leave the U.S. or the date you notify us, whichever is later. If you do not notify us, you may continue to be billed for health insurance.
Starting a New Program — at U-M or at Another Institution
During the period you are authorized for OPT, you may decide to apply to another academic program, either at U-M or another University. Once you are admitted to another degree program, it is important to discuss the situation with an advisor at the International Center, as the issuance of a new I-20 will effect/terminate your OPT. Please call the IC to request an appointment (appointments may be in-person or by telephone). If you are admitted to a degree program at another University, the International Center must transfer your I-20 to that institution so they may issue a new I-20 for you.
In order to maintain your F-1 status, a new I-20 for change of academic level, new degree program, or transfer must be issued before the end of your 60 day grace period.
Change of Status During OPT
If you change your immigration status (e.g. from F-1 to H-1B, F-2, or J-1) during the period of your OPT your OPT ends on the effective date of the USCIS action notice and any unused OPT time is lost (you cannot have both F-1 OPT status and another status at the same time, nor can you return to OPT if your new status is terminated for any reason).
The University of Michigan is required to notify SEVIS of your new status and requests that you notify the Office of the Registrar immediately. To officially record your new status, the Office of the Registrar will need a copy of the approval notice you received from USCIS. You can get this information to the Registrar's Office in one of two ways:
“Cap Gap” Relief for OPT — H-1B Transitions
Some students may be eligible for an extension of OPT and F-1 status due to the new Cap Gap Relief rules.
F-1 OPT Special 17-month STEM Extension
Changes in federal regulations from April 2008 have created an opportunity for extension of OPT for F-1 students in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Information about the STEM extension can be found at F-1 OPT Special 17-month STEM Extension.
Last reviewed: 1/09