International Students (2) – How to get a OPT VISA for summer internships!
As I mentioned in my previous post I’m an international student who is currently a junior majoring in economics, and working two internships in finance during this semester. However, like many of my peers, I’ve had to prepare for the dreaded OPT (Optional Practical Training) certificate in order to get a summer internship.
In this post I intend to discuss limitations on a regular F-1 Visa when it comes to working outside of campus, outside of the regular semester, how to obtain what is call an OPT, and which type of OPT to apply for.
The Different Types of OPT’s
So to start of lets discuss what kind of different OPT’s there are, more specifically the two different kinds.
This is the kind of OPT that most of you international students will be applying for. This particular certificate are for people who are currently pursuing a degree and would like to acquire work authorization to do work in the field related to their study. This work may be part-time during the academic quarters and full-time during vacations.
I won’t focus on this type of OPT, as it does not really concern my target audience. But I will say that this is for people who have completed their degree.
Useful Information about the Pre-Completion OPT
As I’ve recently found out, in my efforts to landing a summer internship for the summer of 2014, the application process is quite lengthy and it may actually take up to 12 weeks before the process is complete and you’re allowed to work. However, you are allowed to apply for this OPT without a job offer.
Now, first and foremost there are three requirements to be eligible for this kind of OPT.
- You must be a registered student in F-1 status physically in the United States at the time of application
- You must have been enrolled in lawful student status on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year
- You must not have used twelve months or more of full-time curricular practical training
Furthermore, please notice that obtaining authorization for OPT is a two-step process. Your first step in obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is to receive a recommendation for OPT from the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) and then authorization for employment from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The ISSO cannot authorize OPT—only USCIS can do so by issuing you an EAD.
The Actual Application Process
Step 1 – Dealing with your schools international students’ office
The first step is to complete and print the I-765 Form which can be found here (http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-765.pdf). This form basically makes you submit general information such as name, address, date of birth, and what kind of VISA you currently hold – it’s not hard people, just read carefully.
The second step is to complete page 1 of the OPT Recommendation Request Form which should be available through your international students office’s website, and then physically bring the form to said office.
Now, you’ve gathered up the required forms and it’s time to head off to your schools international students office. But wait! There are a few more things you need to bring with you, more specifically:
- Your current I-20 and all previously issued I-20’s
- I-94 card (white card usually stapled in passport or printed from the electronic I-94 web site at http:www.cbp.gov/I94 if your most recent entry was on or after May 1, 2013)
- I-765 Form
- OPT Recommendation Request Form(s)
Once your schools international students office has finished reviewing your application, and making sure you are eligible, they will mail you a new I-20 with a OPT recommendation attached.
Step 2 – Mailing your OPT to the USCIS
You finally have your brand new I-20 with a OPT recommendation, but the pain does not stop here dear sirs. Now it’s time to mail the whole thing to the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Below I will provide 5 separate steps for successfully going through this process.
- Sign and date the new I-20! (section 11) This sounds obvious but many OPT applicants have had their applications returned for an unsigned I-20 and/or an unsigned check.
- Photocopy the entire application before you send it so that you have a complete copy for your records.
- Send your application to the USCIS by certified mail, return receipt requested or by a courier service such as FedEx so you have proof that your application was timely in the event that the application is lost.
- Send your application quickly as it must be received by the USCIS Service Center within 30 days of the date of the OPT recommendation.
The location you mail your application to differs depending on what state you live in, directions can be found here (http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-765instr.pdf). As I previously mentioned the USCIS can take from 6 to 12 weeks, or more, to process this application, so get it in as fast as possible!
I hope this article is useful to some, although the audience is somewhat limited, as I found it very frustrating going through this process.
Please give me feedback on my post, share your thoughts, flame away!