OPT is a type of work authorization for F-1 students that is typically used after graduating or completing an academic program. OPT is granted for one year for students in all majors initially, and students with a STEM major have the option of extending their OPT for two more years.
The work that a student does while on OPT must be directly related to their major and at a level that is commensurate with the student’s degree. A job offer is not required at the time of application. CGE strongly encourages students to apply early, preferably near the beginning of their final term of enrollment.
Applying for OPT
CGE processes OPT applications within two weeks. Then CGE returns the application packet to the student and the student mails it to USCIS. USCIS can take three months or more to process OPT. Total processing time can be 3.5 months or longer. For this reason, CGE recommends applying near the beginning of your final term of enrollment.
To apply, you must first complete the OPT Online Seminar in Canvas. After completing the seminar, you will have access to the application forms. Complete the forms and submit them to the front desk of CGE.
To enroll in the seminar, go to the Canvas website (https://utk.instructure.com/ ) and follow the instructions below.
- Once you’ve logged in to Canvas, select the “Courses” tab.
- Select “All Courses.”
- Select “Browse More Courses.”
- Search for “Center for Global Engagement—OPT Online Seminar.”
- Select “Join this Course” then “Enroll in Course” in the following window.
- You should now be able to see and access the seminar in your dashboard.
- CGE will remove students from the seminar at the beginning of the following semester, so please be sure to save a copy of the forms/information before then.
Submitting Your OPT Request to CGE
After you complete the final module of the OPT seminar, you will be provided with detailed instructions on how to submit your OPT request to CGE through iVols. Once CGE has received your OPT request and verified your eligibility, an international student advisor will update SEVIS with a recommendation for OPT and issue a new I-20 for you. The advisor will contact you to arrange for mailing or shipping your I-20 to you. If the CGE office is open, you may also choose to pick up your new I-20 from our office.
Next Steps after Mailing the Application to USCIS
USCIS will mail a receipt notice to CGE about two weeks after they receive the application. The receipt notice confirms that USCIS has received your application. CGE will email you a copy of the receipt notice once we receive it. After that, you simply wait for USICS to process your application. OPT applications cannot be expedited.
Reporting Requirements while on OPT
All students currently on OPT must report the following information within 10 days of any change. Use the OPT Reporting Form to report the information.
- Change of name or address
- Beginning or ending a job
- Change in name or address of the employer
- Interruption or loss of employment
- Change of status from F-1 to a new status
- Departure from the US
Unemployment on OPT
While on OPT, a student must be employed to maintain F-1 status. Students are allowed only 90 days of unemployment. If you are approaching 90 days of unemployment, contact an international student advisor to discuss your options. These options could include leaving the US, beginning a new degree program, or changing to a different immigration status.
Using OPT before completing the academic program is possible but is rarely recommended. Contact an international student advisor if you are considering applying for pre-completion OPT.