International Student Employment - General Eligibility

To be eligible for any of the options listed below, you must currently be on an F-1 visa and have studied at least nine months in the United States at a higher education institution on a valid non-immigrant visa (e.g., F, J, H, E, L, M)

Contact Aaron Colhapp at  or 651-696-6078 with any questions

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT is the employment authorization used for an internship in which you receive academic credit.

Limits
You are limited to 12 months of full-time CPT. However, you may accumulate the 12 months throughout your Macalester undergraduate experience. Additionally, there is no limit to the amount of time you may work part-time.

Application Process

Steps Procedures
1 Find internship
2 Complete Internship Learning Contract from Internship Office
3 Bring completed Learning Contract to Aaron or Luyen to have it entered into SEVIS
4 Obtain new I-20 with CPT notation

Time to Complete Authorization Process
Approximately 1 day (plus time to find internship).

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

This authorization allows a F-1 student to work in a job related to the student's field of study. You may receive monetary compensation or academic credit during your practical training. Students may engage in OPT while school is in session, during vacations or after graduation. Part-time practical training, 20 hours per week or less, shall be deducted from the available practical training at one-half the full-time rate. Applications may be submitted 90 days before employment begins.

Application Process

Steps Procedures
1 Complete Form I-765 (pdf form)
2 Complete OPT Application Info Sheet (word doc)
3 Get two immigration Photos (at Kinkos or Walgreens)
4 Complete Form G-1145
5 Decide the dates you wish to be employed
6

Visit Aaron or Luyen at International Student Programs to have information entered into SEVIS.

Bring check for $380 made payable to "Department of Homeland Security." How to write a check.

7

Mail Form I-765, photos and check to:

USCIS
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

Time to Complete Authorization Process
Approximately 80-120 days

Time to process OPT applications vary depending on the amount of applications the Nebraska Service Center receives. Applications are processed in the order in which they are received. You can go to this link to check out the I-765 forms that they are currently processing. If your application was sent before the date shown, you should allow 30 additional days to receive your OPT card.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When should I file for post-graduation Optional Practical Training work option?
A: My recommendation is that you apply for OPT on or soon after February 15. If you file by this time, you will be guaranteed at least a temporary work authorization card by the time you graduate.

Q: When must I file by?
A: If you don't file by July 12 (for May graduates), you must return home within 60 days from graduation unless you are enrolled to begin graduate school program in the subsequent term. Your F-1 visa status with Macalester ends upon graduation.

Q: How long does OPT allow me to work?
A: It allows you to work up to 12 months full-time. It has to be completed within 14 months of your graduation.

Q: I have been offered a job after graduation and my employer has agreed to sponsor my H1-B Visa. Do I still need to file for OPT?
A: H1-B visas are not issued until October. Unless your job begins later than October, you need to file for OPT in order to begin working before October. Under the current system you cannot file for an H1-B.

Q: Do I need a job to apply for OPT?
A: No. Unfortunately, a regulation states that OPT without a job is not sufficient to permit you to leave and re-enter the United States.

Q: Is there a limit on how long I can be unemployed?

A: If you are unemployed for a cumulative of 90 days from the OPT start date, you must leave the country. During your employment period, you must work or volunteer in your major field of study for at least 20 hours a week to qualify as employed. However, if your employment is terminated or interrupted in some way and no more than 10 days passes in between starting a new job, no time will be deducted from the 90-day clock.

Q: I have applied to enter graduate school in the fall. Should I apply?
A: I highly recommend you obtain the OPT authorization as a back-up plan. Even if you are going to grad school, you can still work the summer with it.

Q: Can I leave and return on OPT?
A: Ask Aaron or Bruce about your specific situation. There are a lot of answers depending on if you have a valid visa, a job, job offer, length of stay, graduate school plans, and others that are more nuanced.

Q: What if I have a change of address during my employment?

A: You must report EVERY change of name or address (personal and employment) within 10 days of the change.

Clocks, Times, Dates

40-100 days: To process applications and complete the authorization process.

60 days: 60 days after graduation date is the latest date you can apply for OPT

90 days: Days after receipt notice that ISP can request OPT card to be expedited.

90 days: Cumulative number of days you may be unemployed until you have to leave the country.

12 months: Amount of time you may work full-time on OPT.

14 months: OPT must be completed within 14 months of graduation date.

20 hours: Amount of time in a week you must work or volunteer in your major field of study to be considered employed.

10 days: If your employment is terminated or interrupted in some way and no more than 10 days passes in between starting a new job, no time will be deducted from the 90-day clock.

February 15, 2014: Recommended date to apply for OPT in order to receive your temporary work authorization card by the time you graduate (applies to May 2014 graduates).

July 12, 2014: This is the last date that you can apply for OPT and the application must arrive by this date. You must return home if you don't file by this date unless you are enrolled to begin a graduate school program in the fall (applies to May 2014 graduates).

Other Important Senior Considerations

Good News!!

You are only required to take the amount of credits that are required of you to graduate your final semester (i.e., 1 credit if that is all you need). However, you must report it to Aaron, Nienke or Bruce.

Inviting a Family Member to Graduation/Need a Visitor Visa?

To facilitate visitor visas for your family members, send relevant information and request a letter to intlstudent@macalester.edu.

Going to Grad School?

If you are going to grad school, you need to start the process of transferring your visa status with your new institution. Typically, your new institution will have a downloadable 'transfer release form' online. Aaron, Bruce or Nienke will need to transfer you within 60 days of graduation unless you have OPT. Once you transfer your visa status, you cannot work on OPT.

No School, No Work?

If you are neither working on OPT, nor going to grad school, you have 60 days to leave the United States. Once you leave, you cannot legally enter with your student visa even if there is still validity listed on it.

Severe Economic Hardship (SEH)

You may apply for SEH if something unforeseen has happened to your financial situation (e.g., significant devaluation of your currency, loss of a sponsor, or an unexpected change in your family's income).

Limits
Authorization is for one year and it is renewable. Authorization allows you to work 20 hours or less while school is in session and full-time during the breaks (i.e., between semesters, summers and spring break).

Application Process

Steps Procedures
1 Write cover letter to USCIS explaining the unforseen financial hardships beyond your control which necessitate applying for Severe Economic Hardship
2 Complete Form I-765 (pdf form)
3 Get two immigration Photos (at Kinkos or Walgreens)
4 Decide the dates you wish to be employed
5

Visit Aaron or Nienke at International Student Programs to have information entered into SEVIS.

Bring check for $380 made payable to "Department of Homeland Security"

6

Mail Form I-765, photos and check to:

USCIS

P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

Time to Complete Authorization Process
Approximately 80-120 days

Check on OPT/SEH Status

Where is my OPT/SEH Card?

You can check the status of your Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Severe Economic Hardship (SEH) petition by typing your receipt number from your receipt (I-797c) at this link:

https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/caseStatusSearchDisplay.do

Obtain a Temporary OPT/SEH Card

If your employment authorization card (called an EAD by Immigration) has not been approved after 90 days, you are eligible to get a temporary (generally 3 month) card at the district USCIS Office. (Note: If the card has been approved but has not yet arrived, you are not eligible for a temporary EAD).

To get a temporary card, take the following to the USCIS District Office:

  1. Your reciept from Immigration that your petition (I-765) is being processed. The receipt is also known as an I-797c.
  2. Your passport valid for at least 6 months
  3. Your I-94 printout (the arrival departure card)
  4. Your I-20 which shows a notation for OPT or SEH on page 3.


Public Hours:
The St. Paul District Office (Located in Bloomington by the Mall of America) is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 8:00 AM to 2:30 PM. THE INFORMATION OFFICE IS CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC ON FRIDAY. More information on the office is available here.


Directions to the USCIS Office:
MAP
http://uscis.gov/graphics/fieldoffices/stpaul/map.htm

STEM Extension

Eligibility Requirements

  • Currently authorized for post-completion OPT and working for a US employer in a job directly related to your field of study.
  • Bachelor’s degree in a field on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) STEM Designated Degree Program list.
  • At the time of application you must be employed.
  • You must have a job-offer or be employed by an employer registered with the “E-Verify” federal employment verification system.

When to Apply:

  • Apply up to 3 months before your current EAD expires.
  • Request OPT recommendation form ISP

Send to USCIS: 

  • Original completed Form I-765
  • Photocopy of I-20 page 1 with your signature and page 3 with OPT recommendation.
  • Photocopy of your last EAD card.
  • Photocopy of Form I-94
  • Two color photos. 
  • Photocopies of your valid passport picture page and F-1 Visa page
  • Photocopy of your diploma or a final transcript
  • Check or money order, payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" for the OPT application fee.

Keep a copy of the above documents for your records.

Wait for USCIS to mail you the EAD
It takes approximately 2 to 4 months for USCIS to process your request and mail your EAD to the address on Form I-765. Several weeks after you apply, you should receive a receipt notice (Form I-797) in the mail from USCIS. Students who file a timely application can continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first. The EAD will reflect the dates of your employment authorization.  The authorization period begins the day after the expiration of your initial post-completion OPT employment authorization and ends 17 months later, regardless of the date the extension is approved. Requirements while on OPT

  • Upon receipt of the EAD, email a copy of it to ISP
  • Report the following information to ISP within 10 days:

Change in your name
Name and address of employer
Change in the name or address of employer
When employment changes or terminates

  • Contact ISP every six months starting from the date the extension begins to verify your name and address, and your employer's name and address. Send the report no earlier than 15 days before and no later than 30 days after the 6 and 12 month dates from the start date of your OPT extension.
  • You may not accumulate more than 120 days of unemployment during the total 29-month Post-Completion OPT period.
  • Notify ISP if you decide to permanently depart the US during your OPT.
  • Notify ISP if you change your visa status during your OPT.
  • Failure to follow the reporting requirements above may result in the termination of your F-1 status.

Travel during Post-completion OPT

  • Passport with a valid visa stamp
  • EAD card
  • Letter of Employment
  • I-20 Form with valid travel signature.
  • Travel signatures are valid for 6 months.