OPT (Optional Practical Training) is the opportunity for graduating international students to work in the US for one year and gain experience in the field they’ve just earned a degree in.
OPT requires an application be prepared and sent to USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) for review. The application can take up to 3 months to process, so students should plan ahead as much as possible and apply early! The IES office works with students individually to prepare the OPT application, which requires a new I-20 specifically for OPT.
Please use the OPT Application 2016 – 17 for a checklist of required documents to prepare, and much more information about OPT. After reviewing this information carefully, please also let IES know what questions you have about OPT.
PhD students should note that you have quite a bit of flexibility concerning when you apply for OPT to start working, which can take place during your research if you prefer, and not just after graduation. Please use our website here to review your options in more detail, and let us know what questions you might have.
UPDATE: For students currently on OPT or STEM OPT – please use this OPT Employer Update Form to send us updates about your employer while on OPT. Based on new rules which take effect in early December2015, we’ll need this more detailed information then we have in the past to update your immigration record and I-20 with your employer information, so will need to use this form moving forward. Thanks for your cooperation!
NOTE: You must be logged in to your UMBC account to complete the online form!
When you are ready to apply, you will need to schedule an OPT appointment with an IES international adviser. Please note: you need to bring ALL required documents to the OPT appointment, and it is expected that you will have read through the entire OPT application in advance.
Schedule an OPT appointment with Michelle: www.tinyurl.com/optmichelle
Schedule an OPT appointment with Dave: www.tinyurl.com/optdave
**Please make sure you have your google calendar set to the local timezone (EST) when reviewing appointment times!!
While the OPT application will give you the best details about planning for your OPT application, please note the following as you plan ahead:
- The OPT application can be submitted as early as 3 months before your I-20 end date. Your I-20 end date should match your approximate graduation date from UMBC, and will need to be altered if it is not accurate.
- The latest date the OPT application can be submitted is 2 months after your I-20 end date, though please do NOT plan to wait this long to apply!
- The OPT application takes up to 3 months to process, so please plan to apply as early as possible. You should apply at least 3 months before the Start Date you plan to request for your OPT year. Please see the OPT application for more information on your Start Date and advice on how to select it.
- To apply for OPT, please review the OPT application, prepare the required documents, and make an appointment with international adviser by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org We will meet with you to review your application and make the new OPT I-20 you need to apply.
IES offers a series of OPT workshops throughout each semester, where we spend an hour reviewing the OPT rules, application process and next steps. Attendance at a workshop is not required to apply, but we hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about OPT and feel comfortable and prepared to apply.
Replacing a lost EAD card
If your EAD (employment authorization document – your card you receive when your OPT is approved) is lost, stolen, or otherwise no longer in your possession, you would need to apply for a replacement EAD. Please note this will require a new complete OPT application, including the $410 fee. Please contact the IES office if you would like assistance preparing the application for the replacement EAD card.