Applying for OPT is a technical process, one in which you will need to be aware of all deadlines, solicit the help of your international student center and otherwise be on top of the requirements. It's easy to mess it up! And if you do, your chances of finding a job in the US will certainly be reduced.
You must have been enrolled in school in the US for at least 9 months before you can apply for any OPT (pre or post-completion). You can apply for post-completion OPT as early as 90 days before graduation, and up to 60 days after graduation. On the application itself, you will indicate a desired start date for your employment. You cannot start to work before you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS, and not until you have been in the US for at least 12 months. Since USCIS can take some time to act on your request and get your EAD to you, you should apply for OPT as early as possible. You do not need to have a job lined up yet to apply.
Typically, your international student advisor or someone within the international student center will help you through the process of applying for OPT. Here are the basic requirements:
You may be exempt from paying the filing fee. See the form instructions for more information.
You must pay an $85 biometric services fee if you are filing with one of the following eligibility categories:
This list will provide you with some guidance on what will be involved in applying for OPT. However, we cannot stress enough how important it is to begin discussions about how to apply for OPT with your international student advisor or someone in the international student center as early as possible. You will need their help!
Visit the InternationalStudent.com Working in the USA section for more information about how to apply for OPT.
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