Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optical Practical Training, also known as OPT, is an employment permission for F1 visa status to gain practical skills in their field of study. F1 students will have the opportunity to get real work experience for up to twelve months or more, after they complete their degree without getting an H1-B visa.
Students who are on an OPT typically are not qualified for the school’s insurance plan and the employer may not necessarily provide international student health insurance; if this is the case then you will have to purchase your own insurance until you find.
Here at G4ST we have several plans for students on OPT, check out “PLAN.” Describe plan in detail (can be bought during school and held through OPT? must be bought at the begging of opt? details!
Let’s Get into Detail
There are many visa categories for international students in the US. Although most students come with an F1 visa; and when you are in an F1 visa status then you can apply to an OPT (optional practical training) to get real work experience.
According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) “Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than nine months are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work for one year on a student visa towards getting practical training to complement their education.”
But what exactly are the work privileges?
Under an F1 visa, students are able to complete their degree and have a certain limited work options.
OPT has some rights for the student to work while still at school, but the main use is supposed to be used immediately after the completion of a degree. When you are getting close to graduation, you can apply to OPT and get the authorization to work. Every time you complete a higher level of education, you can apply to get an OPT. This means, that for example if you complete your bachelors, you can apply for an OPT, work for a year and then go back to finish your masters/PhD, and then apply again for an OPT and work.
OPT & STEM
When a student has been in a STEM (Science, technology, engineering or mathematics) OPT regulations are a little different. OPT for STEM students has the option to apply for an extension of 17 months, giving the student up to 29 months in experience.
Below you will find a list of specific degrees that can apply for this extension:
Computer Science Applications
How to Apply for OPT
Here is where it gets a bit more complicated. You need to stay on top of all the deadlines, through the help of the international student center. If by any means you miss the deadline, then your chances of finding a job are greatly reduced!
Timing is EVERYTHING!
When applying for an OPT you need to take into consideration the timing of everything. Remember, that you need to be enrolled in school at least nine months prior to when you apply for an OPT. When you have completed your program in school, you can apply for a post-completion OPT. The application for such can be completed up to 90 days before graduation, or up to 60 days after your graduation. When you are in the process of completing your application, you will give your desired date to start working. Keep in mind, you can NOT start working until you received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS, and until you have been in the US for at least a whole year. Given that USCIS may take some time to send you your EAD, you should consider applying for OPT as early as you possibly can. Keep in mind, you do not need to have a job lined up to apply.
Steps to Apply
Normally, you will get some help through the application process, either from your school advisor or someone in the international student center. Below you will find some information on the process:
- I-765 Form: this form is the main application for employment authorization. This form must be submitted to USCIS, once your school has approved everything. Check the USCIS website for all important details, and keep in touch with your school for all the information and tips they might have.
- Recommendation Form: This form is normally available at your school. It will sign off on important details regarding your OPT, such as start date and end date.
- Filling Fee: There will a be $380 filling fee. This is a fee you will need to pay every time you request a EAD. The fee can be paid through a personal check; cashier’s check or a money order payable to: US Department of Homeland Security. Remember to put your date of birth and SEVIS ID # on the front of the check.
- 2 Passport Photos: These two photos need to be colored and identical. They need to be taken with in 30 days of the day you submitted your application. The application form (I-765) has some specific details, but any place that does passport photos should be fine. Remember to write your name and your SEVIS ID # on the back of each photo.
- Copies of Documents: If you have your I-94 Form Arrival/Departure Record Card, EAD Card, most recent I-20 and current passport ID page, then you will need to submit a copy of each.
This list is a guidance as to what you will need to do when applying for an OPT. But is extremely important that you start discussing with your international advisor or someone in the international student center as early as possible, to get guidance for an OPT application.
OPT Health Insurance
Picture yourself done with school, working in the US under an OPT authorization. The company/person you are working for could be located anywhere in the US, and you will be working there like any other person would. Your connection to your university is not the same as it was before, you are an alumnus; but the university no longer feels responsible for you. You are an adult, out in the adult world.
It’s hard to understand, when you are in an OPT, under USCIS you are still under an F1 visa status, and technically the university that brought you to the US is still ‘responsible’ for you. With that fact, you can see the complication/tension – you are an adult in the working world, in reality – but under USCIS, the school still has responsibility over you. Understanding that, the question is whether you can be covered through the schools group plan while on OPT or no. Keep in mind, that at this point in life you need to have a good health insurance plan.
School Plans & OPT
Some schools, emphasis on SOME, do believe that students under OPT are still their responsibility. Therefore, they offer good insurance plans for students in OPT. The school works with the insurance carrier to see if they can extend the eligibility to include OPT students in the plan, and if they can meet the needs for such. However, this is not easy. Many insurance companies do not understand why ‘working adults’ must be treated still as students, and get the same benefits, and pricing.
OPT Student Dilemma
Due to the fact mentioned above, many schools are not able to extend the international student health insurance plan to OPT students. Even if you are able to get the schools plan, many times it is useless due to a change in location (city or state) or the benefits no longer fit your personal needs. Given these reasons, many OPT students opt to find their own insurance coverage.
Getting Your OWN Insurance
Now that you are aware of all the dilemmas, issues and tensions between the schools, insurance companies and OPT participants. G4ST wanted to make the decision of health insurance easier for you.
DESCRIPTION OF PLANS
Remember to check out our plans and see which one best suits your needs!