Initial 12 Month OPT Application

Initial 12 Month Optional Practical Training (OPT) Application

EADs mailed to the IPO: Once the IPO actually has received your EAD and approval documents you will receive an email notification from us. Please be mindful that while tracking may say it’s delivered, that doesn’t mean the IPO has it in our possession yet. Please wait until we contact you with next steps.

Online USCIS OPT Portal: If you plan to apply for OPT using USCIS’ online portal, you must still follow the IPO’s OPT I-20 Request Process noted below. Once you have your OPT I-20, you can transfer the information from the paper I-765 (plus any noted IPO correction suggestions) to USCIS' online portal and upload the required documents.

OPT is a benefit for F-1 students and provides for an initial 12-months of off-campus work authorization in their field of study in the United States. International students who have been enrolled full-time for a minimum of one academic year (considered to be 9-months or two full semesters) are eligible. RSVP for a Fall 2021 OPT workshops via Zoom.  Please refer to our OPT presentation that is available here, along with the information below. If you have any additional questions, please email your IPO advisor.

The IPO will create a new I-20 for your OPT application. You should NOT send your application to USCIS until you have completed all the application steps below.

ISS Critical Updates

F-1 students must meet these eligibility requirements for OPT:

  • F-1 students must have been enrolled full-time for 9-months (or two full semesters) before eligible 
  • F-1 students are eligible for a total of 12-months of OPT per educational level (BA/BS to MS/MA to PhD).  If you previously applied for OPT for a “lower” academic level, you are eligible to apply for additional OPT if you have completed a “higher” academic degree (i.e. Master’s or PhD.)
  • ​12-months or more of previous FULL-TIME Curricular Practical Training (CPT) at the same academic level will eliminate any future OPT eligibility. Any previous full-time or part-time CPT under 12-months of duration will not be subtracted from Post-completion OPT.
  • OPT is automatically terminated when a student transfers their SEVIS record to another institution to begin a new degree program.
  • You CANNOT begin to work (or volunteer in any capacity) until your OPT has been approved by the immigration service (USCIS) and you have the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in your hands
  • Do not wait for a job offer in order to start the OPT application process; you do not need one to apply
  • Do not submit your OPT application to USCIS prior to obtaining a new I-20 with an OPT endorsement from the IPO. Review the OPT Application Process below.
  • Do not submit in your application too early. If USCIS receives your application more than 90-days before your I-20 program end date/completion of studies date, or more than 60-days after the I-20 program end date it will be rejected or denied.
  • OPT applications to USCIS take approximately 3 to 4-months to process; there is no option to expedite your application
  • THE MOST COMMON REASON FOR OPT DENIAL:  USCIS must receive the OPT application within 30 days of the creation of the OPT I-20 by the IPO if you are mailing the application. If you are applying online, the OPT I-20 must be created before you submit the online I-765 with USCIS and be submitted within 30 days of OPT I-20 creation.
  • If your OPT application is returned to you or rejected, consult with an IPO Advisor immediately before resubmitting the application to determine if you need a new I-20, etc.
  • Unemployment is limited to a cumulative of 90-calendar days during the initial 12-month OPT period (weekends, holidays, and vacations are included in the 90-day unemployment calculation)
  • Internships, unpaid/volunteer positions, part-time positions (20 or fewer hours a week), or self-employment in your area of study can count as employment as long as you report it using the OPT Reporting E-Form listed under OPT Reporting Requirements below

You can file your Post-completion OPT application with USCIS no earlier than 90-days prior to your Completion of Studies date (e.g. 12/16/2021), and must file no later than 60-days* (i.e. 2/14/2022) after your completion of studies date.

Remember that the IPO’s processing time is 7-10 business days so you should ideally submit your OPT request to the IPO at least 10 days before your completion of studies date.  

*Important note: “Completion of studies” is not your graduation date or any date after graduation.

Completion of Studies Dates:

  • Undergraduate Students: Last day of Finals
  • Graduate Students:
    • Non-Thesis track students: Last day of finals
    • Thesis/dissertation students: Decide with your Academic Authority (advisor or GPD) in your department. Important note: “Completion of studies” is considered the date that all degree coursework has been completed. It is also not to be confused with the date the Graduate School officially “signs off” and administratively confirms completion of all thesis or dissertation formalities (these dates are unrelated). You may begin your OPT as long as your coursework is completed; remaining enrolled at UMass to finish your thesis/dissertation will not impact your OPT application.

Remember: You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT!

Per OPT application instructions, you must be physically in the U.S. at the time you submit your application to USCIS. If you choose to travel after this, please review our OPT Travel information below. Updated immigration and reopening info are available here.

*The IPO will create a new OPT I-20 for your OPT application. You should NOT submit your application to USCIS until you have completed all the application steps below and received the OPT I-20.

Step 1. Review “OPT When to Apply” above to determine your completion of studies date. Then choose your requested OPT Start and End Dates. The IPO will review these dates in your OPT I-20 Request E-Form and will contact you if we have questions.

Step 2. Fill out the I-765

Whether you apply online with USCIS* or mail in your application, you still need to submit an I-765 to the IPO so we can review it.  Review which I-765 version you should submit. The IPO will look over your I-765 when reviewing your OPT I-20 Request and will provide suggestions for corrections. We cannot review your I-765 during advising hours.

If you submitted the USCIS OPT application without the OPT I-20, contact your IPO advisor immediately.

Tips for completing the I-765:

  • Your I-765 does not need to be signed for submission to the IPO. Refer to the submission instructions below for signatures on the I-765.
  • The mailing address on the I-765 should be valid and able to receive your mail for 3-5 months after submitting your application. If you are using a friend or relative’s address, add your name to the mailbox. If you choose to use IPO as a mailing address, use the following address:

#5.a: IPO, UMass Amherst
#5.b: 70 Butterfield Terrace 
#5.d: Amherst #5.e: MA #5.f: 01003

NOTE: If you use the IPO’s address to receive your I-797’s and EAD, we will request permission to open your mail in the OPT Application E-Form. The IPO is not responsible for lost or damaged mail. Nor is the IPO responsible for postage errors or undeliverable mail. The IPO will contact you when your documents are received.

  • If you move while your OPT application is still pending you must change your physical address directly with USCIS and update SPIRE. If you are potentially close to being approved, remember that USCIS might not make the change in time and your card may not be delivered correctly. Consider using the IPO’s address if you might move prior to or near your approval. See our OPT FAQs below for more information.
  • Find your I-94 number for item #21a here. (Go to “Get My I-94” at the top and input your personal details).
  • Question #27: write (C) (3) (B). Students applying for OPT do not need to complete #28-31.
  • Part 6: should have your name, even if there is nothing you need to add.

Step 3. Complete the IPO’s OPT I-20 Request E-Form to Request the OPT I-20. If you encounter an E-Form access issue and have tried accessing the E-Form in multiple web browsers and have cleared your cache to no avail, please email iss[at]umass[dot]edu

  • Undergraduate Students: IPO will process the OPT I-20 Request within 7-10 business days after submission.
  • Graduate Students: You will list your academic authority in your request. If you are unsure who your academic authority is, please contact your department or GPD. Submission of your E-Form request will be forwarded to your appropriate academic authority.  Once submitted by the academic authority, the IPO will process your request within 7-10 business days.

Step 4. Receive your OPT I-20 from the IPO

You should not apply for OPT without the OPT I-20 from the IPO.

OPT approval emails occasionally go into your Spam/Junk folder. Please check this folder if 7-10 business days have passed and you have not received the approval email yet. The IPO will provide a document checklist as well any noted correction suggestions for your I-765 in the approval email.

Step 5. Submit your OPT Application to USCIS. Review the instructions below for you chosen method.

Per I-765 instructions, you must be physically in the U.S. at the time you submit your application to USCIS. If you choose to travel after this, please review our OPT Travel information below. Updated immigration and reopening info are available here.

Step 1. Receive the OPT I-20 from the IPO. Follow the OPT I-20 Request Process above

Step 2. Prepare your application documents

The documents (except for the photos and I-765) submitted to USCIS can be in black and white as long as all the information is legible. We suggest you type the information into the I-765.

  • Two passport-style photographs (name and date of birth written on the back). Instructions on photo size can be found on the I-765 instructions.
  • A properly completed, signed, and dated I-765 form. Review which form to submit here. You should not sign electronically or digitally. Sign with a pen prior to mailing.
  • New OPT I-20 attached to the “OPT I-20 is ready” email (you must sign the OPT I-20 with a pen prior to submitting to USCIS)
  • Copies of all previously issued I-20 forms. If you are missing your previously issued I-20s, please submit a request using the I-20 Reprint E-form. Previously issued I-20s will not be signed by the IPO; this will not impact your OPT application.
  • Copy of your biographical page from your passport (it is ok to apply with an expired passport but contact your IPO advisor) and copy of your F-1 visa stamp.
  • Copy (front and back) of your prior 12-month OPT EAD (if you have one from a previous OPT approval)
  • Print out of your current I-94 record
  • Fee (mailing): A personal check or money order made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Review current USCIS fees as they frequently change.  USCIS’ fee website can be reviewed here. Remember to send the fee with the application; do not send it in a separate package.
  • Form G-1145 is optional but highly recommended as USCIS will e-mail and/or text you with updates regarding your OPT application if you include this form.

Tips on Fee Payment

  • Personal Checks: remember to have the full amount of the fee in your account until it is cashed by DHS
  • Add your SEVIS number to the memo line in the lower left corner
  • Date should be in the mm/dd/yyyy format (12/14/2021) or write it Month Date, Year (December 14, 2021).
  • Money Orders: there are many different types of money orders that can be purchased from convenience stores, pharmacies, and the US Postal Service. Basic tips are below:
  • If the money order asks for the recipient’s address, list the USCIS address where you are mailing the application
  • If the money order asks for the purchaser’s address, list your mailing address (#5 on the I-765)
  • Remember to keep the receipt potion of the money order as it is the only way to track your payment
  • Do not sign the back of the money order
  • In the Memo line (if there is one): include your SEVIS number

Step 3. Mail your application to USCIS

All mailed OPT applications should be sent to USCIS’ Chicago lockbox.  Please be sure to get tracking on your package to USCIS. If you mail your application to the wrong lockbox, USCIS will transfer your application to the correct location but there will likely be a delay in your receipt processing.

Step 4. Receive I-797 Receipt Notice for Your Pending OPT Application 

Usually within 10 business days of USCIS receiving your package. If you used the IPO’s address as your mailing address, we will email you a scanned .pdf of your receipt notice. If you used the G-1145, you should receive an email/text message as soon as the case number is assigned.

Step 5. OPT Approval

USCIS processing time is 3-4 months. You will receive a I-797 approval notice and your employment authorization document (EAD) once approved (usually 90-120 days after the case is receipted).

The hardcopy approval notice and EAD will be sent to your mailing address on your I-765.

If you used the IPO’s address: Once the IPO actually has received your EAD and approval documents you will receive an email notification from us. Please be mindful that while tracking may say it’s delivered, that doesn’t mean the IPO has it in our possession yet. Please wait until we contact you with next steps.

Step 5. OPT Reporting and Life After OPT

Report your OPT employment by reviewing the OPT Reporting Requirements. Review the OPT Life after OPT information for additional information.

Per I-765 instructions, you must be physically in the U.S. at the time you submit your application to USCIS. If you choose to travel after this, please review our OPT Travel information below. Updated immigration and reopening info are available here.

*The USCIS Online Portal is a new process for OPT applications. The IPO still recommends mailing your application as we can only provide basic information on the online application process, how it works, and long-term outcomes are unknown at this time.

Step 1. Receive the OPT I-20 from the IPO by following the OPT I-20 Request Process above.

Step 2. Prepare your application documents to upload to the USCIS Portal. The I-765 application will be submitted entirely online.

  • Two passport-style photographs. Instructions on photo size can be found on the I-765 instructions.
  • New OPT I-20 attached to the “OPT I-20 is ready” email from the IPO (you must sign the I-20 with a pen prior to submitting to USCIS). Students are not permitted to sign the I-20 digitally or electronically.
  • Copies of all previously issued I-20 forms. If you are missing your previously issued I-20s, please submit a request using the I-20 Reprint E-form. Previously issued I-20s will not be signed by the IPO; this will not impact your OPT application.
  • Copy of your biographical page from your passport (it is ok to apply with an expired passport but contact your IPO advisor) and copy of your F-1 visa stamp (it is ok if the visa is expired).
  • Copy (front and back) of your prior 12-month OPT EAD (if you have one from a previous OPT approval)
  • Print out of your current I-94 record
  • Fee: submitting your fee will be the last thing you do as part of your online application. Review current USCIS fees as they frequently change.  USCIS’ fee website can be reviewed here. Once the USCIS fee is submitted online, you have applied for OPT and no changes can be made to your application. DO NOT PAY THE FEE UNTIL YOU HAVE THE OPT I-20 FROM THE IPO.

Step 3. Create your USCIS account online

Step 4. Apply for OPT using USCIS’ online application

Please review the IPO’s tips for applying for OPT online using USCIS’ portal.

Any technical questions regarding the online application should be directed to USCIS.

Step 5. Receive I-797 Receipt Notice for Your Pending OPT Application 

Your receipt will be created almost automatically and uploaded to the “Documents” tab of your online account.

Step 6. OPT Approval

USCIS processing time is 3-4 months. You will receive a I-797 approval notice and your employment authorization document (EAD) once approved (usually 90-120 days after the case is receipted).

The hardcopy approval notice and EAD will be sent to your mailing address on your I-765.

If you used the IPO’s address: Once the IPO actually has received your EAD and approval documents you will receive an email notification from us. Please be mindful that while tracking may say it’s delivered, that doesn’t mean the IPO has it in our possession yet. Please wait until we contact you with next steps.

Step 7. OPT Reporting and Life After OPT

Report your OPT employment by reviewing the OPT Reporting Requirements. Review the OPT Life after OPT information for additional information.

Students on Post-Completion OPT have employment reporting requirements. Failure to submit these in a timely manner could impact your long-term immigration future in the U.S.

Reporting Employment 

Students are required to report changes in their OPT employment within 10 days using the OPT Reporting E-Form. This includes reporting the information listed below but is not limited to this. Check with your IPO Advisor if you are unsure.

·       New Employment Information

·       Employer Name

·       Change in work location

·       Start and end date changes

·       If there is a change in position (job title, part/full-time)

Cap Gap

If you are eligible for and have received cap gap, please submit the OPT/STEM OPT reprint E-Form so we can verify this and provide an updated I-20. More information on eligibility for the cap gap extension can be found on the Study in the States website.

Change of Status

If you are changing your status from an F-1 to an H-1b, Permanent Resident, etc. please submit this information using the Change of Status E-Form.

**If you are no longer a student at UMass and you are on OPT, AT, etc. when you change your status, your NENS access to UMass systems (access to UMass email, UMass VIP, etc.) will be deactivated 30 days after your new change of status begins. Please plan accordingly.

Personal Information

Any change in personal information (address, email, phone, name) should be updated in SPIRE within 10 days of the change.

The Department of Homeland Security has indicated that failure to provide any of the reporting requirements mentioned above can result in the automatic termination of your SEVIS immigration record and corresponding F-1 immigration status. The IPO will not take responsibility for a student’s failure to update information accordingly and to adhere to these considerable OPT reporting requirements.

What if I move while my OPT is pending at USCIS?

The U.S. Postal Service WILL NOT forward mail from the USCIS!  It is extremely important that the address you put on the I-765 application form be valid for the next several months. You can consider using a friend or relative’s address if your name is on their mailbox. You can also consider using the IPO address: C/O IPO, UMass Amherst, 70 Butterfield Terrace, Amherst, MA 01003 (please note that IPO is not responsible for mailing errors/delays that are not the fault of the IPO).

If you need to change your address while your application is pending you must do so directly with USCIS. You should also update your address in SPIRE.

I used the IPO as my mailing address with USCIS. How do I get my EAD and approval document?

Once the IPO actually has received your EAD and approval documents you will receive an email notification from us. Please be mindful that while tracking may say it’s delivered, that doesn’t mean the IPO has it in our possession yet. Please wait until we contact you with next steps. You may either pick it up from the IPO (by appointment only) or set up an eShip so we can mail it to you.

I lost my EAD, can I continue to work?

You may continue to work as your employment authorization is not impacted until the expiration of the lost/stolen EAD. You must apply for a replacement EAD as soon as possible.  A replacement EAD takes 3-4 months and requires the USCIS fee. You must file a replacement application, with a new I-765 and filing fee plus the documents noted in the OPT Application Steps above (you do not need to do the IPO’s OPT I-20 request process again).

If you need to change employers while waiting for a replacement, you will need to show different documentation during your I-9 process since you don’t have your EAD. Work directly with your employer’s Human Resources as there are documents they can temporarily accept in lieu of an EAD.

My EAD never arrived in the mail, can I work when my start date arrives with my receipt notice?

You may NOT commence working until you have the physical EAD in hand, even if the start date has passed. In rare cases, a card can be lost in the mail. Note that USCIS does not make a duplicate of your EAD card so the one mailed to you is the only copy. If your card shows as delivered but you do not have it, check with your local post office, your landlord, roommates, neighbors, etc., to make sure the card is really lost and not delivered to the wrong person or returned to the post office. Submit a lost card notice to USCIS and they will determine if it was returned to them already and sent to their Undeliverable Mail Office.

If the card was not returned to USCIS or found by the local post office, etc. the only way to get another EAD is to file a replacement application, with a new I-765 and filing fee plus the documents noted in the OPT Application Steps above (you do not need to do the IPO’s OPT I-20 request process again). While waiting for a replacement, you will need to show different documentation during your I-9 process since you don’t have your EAD. Work directly with your employer’s Human Resources as there are documents they can temporarily accept in lieu of an EAD.

How long does it take for USCIS to approve my OPT application?

3-months to 4 months is average so please take this into consideration when applying.  For example, a student completing studies in May who wishes to commence employment immediately following graduation should apply as early as possible (90-days from completing studies).  You may not begin working legally until you have the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in your possession. Check the status of your application on the USCIS website. USCIS will not expedite your OPT application.

Can I change the application or dates requested after I submit the application to USCIS?

Changes to OPT dates are not possible after an application is submitted to the USCIS.  However, withdrawal of OPT is possible if you do not plan to work.  No USCIS application fees will be refunded. 

If you have NOT submitted your application to USCIS, the IPO may be able to change your requested OPT dates but it might not be beneficial to do so.

Speak to your IPO advisor immediately in these instances.

What visa status will I have during OPT?

You will continue to have your F-1 student immigration status while on OPT.  You will need to possess a valid F-1 visa in your passport for travel* during OPT, as well as an I-20 with an IPO travel signature no older than 6-months.  Your F-1 immigration status while on OPT is contingent upon you maintaining employment related to your field of study and appropriate to your level of education.

Am I allowed to stay in the US after my grace period ends and before my OPT is approved?

Yes. As long as you have submitted your application to USCIS before your grace period ends (day 60 after your completion of studies date), you can remain in the U.S. as long as your OPT application is pending.

Can I have Curricular Practical Training (CPT) until my OPT is approved?

No.  CPT is not an option once you have completed your studies as you are no longer a student and CPT is based on your academic curriculum.

Can I continue working on campus or maintaining my graduate assistantship once I have applied for OPT?

You will no longer have legal work authorization beyond your completion of studies date (see your program end date on your new OPT I-20 form).  If you intend to remain employed in any capacity at UMass you can only do so if your OPT has been approved and you have the EAD from USCIS in your possession.

You will need to update your I-9 paperwork and Glacier Tax Prep with UMass Human Resources.

Please note: even if your UMass employment is exactly the same as it was during your studies you cannot continue to be employed without OPT approval.  Please consider this when selecting your completion of studies date and OPT start date.

I will end my employment at UMass when I complete my studies. What do I need to do for my tax obligations with Human Resources’ Glacier Tax Prep?

Once you have determined your completion of studies date and no longer plan to work at UMass, please log in to Glacier Tax Prep (GTP) to update your information. UMass HR will ensure they have the correct information on file so your W-2 and other tax documents will be updated accordingly. Please contact HR is you have any questions regarding this as the IPO does not oversee GTP.

Can I work as a volunteer/an unpaid intern/part-time while on OPT?

Yes, current F-1 OPT regulations allow for such employment, but the work must be related to your degree.  More than 20 hours/week is recommended but less than 20 hours/week is allowed.

If you are working unpaid in a position that is normally paid, this is a violation of Department of Labor regulations. You should be mindful of this if taking an unpaid position.

Can I be self-employed while on OPT?

Yes. However, there are additional considerations to keep in mind. While you are self-employed, there will be no W-2s or other tax documents proving employment. You need to ensure that you can demonstrate that you had a legitimate business through a client list, contact hours, billable hours, invoices, a website, registering with your local chamber of commerce/town requirements, etc.

Please keep in mind that you cannot be self-employed while on STEM OPT.

What if I am unemployed for part of my authorized OPT?

Current OPT regulations allow for a cumulative 90-day unemployment duration within the 12-months of OPT.  If you are unemployed or between jobs for less than 90 days your OPT and F-1 immigration status are not negatively affected. 

As you make your travel plans, please remember to keep travel restrictions, quarantines, negative test/vaccine documentation, airline obligations, and visa requirements in mind. You should also note the visa appointment availability due to consulate backlogs and closings prior to making any travel decision (if your visa is expiring soon/expired).

Whether traveling within the U.S. or outside, there are certain considerations you need to make before leaving UMass. While you can make plans to depart at any time, you need to make certain that you have the appropriate documentation to return to the U.S.

Inside the U.S.

NOTE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has the right to check all documents of any person within 100 miles of the U.S. border. You should carry originals of your documents if you are within these zones.

Beginning in May 2023, you will need to use your passport to fly within the U.S. unless you have a REAL ID from Massachusetts.

Outside the U.S. while on OPT

If you plan to leave the U.S. to visit another country, all F-1 students on OPT and their dependents must have certain documentation to return to the US. If the F-2 dependent is traveling without the F-1 student, the dependent should also carry copies of the F-1 student's documents mentioned below.

F-1 Students on OPT should keep the information below in mind while planning their travels. Any student who wishes to enter the U.S. must have the following documents:

  • Valid Passport
  • Valid Visa (for exceptions read Automatic Visa Revalidation) (unless you are Canadian) anchor to renewing your visa and auto visa revalidation below?
  • I-20 with a valid travel signature on page 2 (signed within the last 6 months) anchor to requesting a travel signature
  • Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) if on approved OPT (this is technically not a travel document but is helpful to have with you)
  • Job offer letter or job confirmation letter

There are numerous scenarios for students pending OPT and on approved OPT with regards to travel. Please read below to determine which scenario fits you best.

Remember: You may leave the U.S. without an updated travel signature. Failure to acquire a travel signature prior to departing the U.S. is NOT an emergency. Do NOT call UMPD. Request a reprint of your document and we can email it to you wherever you are.

  • Travel while OPT is pending but before your program end date: 
    Yes, however as with all international travel there is risk. You must ensure your documents (valid passport, valid visa, I-20 signed in the last 12 months) are in order and you return to the U.S. before the final program end date listed on your OPT I-20. Prior to your program end date on your I-20, you are still considered a student. After the program end date, you are either on pending OPT or approved OPT when traveling.
  • Travel while your OPT is pending and after your program end date:
    Yes, however as with all international travel there is risk. Your EAD is NOT a travel document so you should technically not need it. If you travel, be sure all your documents are in order (valid passport, valid visa, I-20 with travel signature—on OPT these are valid for 6-months only). Some ports of entry may request your EAD card, your I-797 approval notice, and confirmation of employment—lack of these documents may cause issues but are not technically required for travel.
  • Travel while your OPT is pending, you have a job, but before OPT has been approved:
    Yes, however as with all international travel there is risk. Your EAD is NOT a travel document so you should technically not need it. If you travel, be sure all your documents are in order (valid passport, valid visa, I-20 with travel signature—on OPT these are valid for 6 months only). Some ports of entry may request your EAD card, your approval notice, or confirmation of employment—lack of these documents may cause issues but are not technically required for travel.
  • Travel once your OPT has been approved and you have a job:
    Yes, however as with all international travel there is risk. International travel for personal and professional reasons while employed on OPT should be routine as long as you have the documents noted above. Working remotely outside the U.S. is permitted as long as your employer has approved it.
     
  • Travel while on OPT (pending or approved) and needing to renew your visa:

Yes, however as with all international travel there is risk. Renewing your visa can be quick or can take months if you need administrative processing. If you need to leave the U.S. while on OPT and renew your visa to return, please advise your employer about the potentiality that you might be outside the U.S. for longer than anticipated so alternative work arrangements can be made. As long as you are still employed, you may work outside the U.S. remotely and not accrue unemployment. Please see below for information about renewing your visa.
 

  • Cap-gap and applying for an H-1b: You should confirm with your immigration attorney that you can leave the U.S. while your H-1b (or other immigration status) is pending. Leaving the U.S. is often considered an abandonment of your application so you will need to make alternative arrangements.

Requesting a New Travel Signature

While on OPT, travel signatures are valid for 6 months and must be renewed if it will expire before re-entry to the U.S. Check the travel signature date on page 2 of your most recently issued I-20. You may leave the U.S. without an updated travel signature.

*During COVID-19 (starting March 16, 2020): the IPO is closed and cannot accept I-20s for signatures. You may request a reprint of your I-20 through the OPT I-20 reprint E-Form for an emailed I-20 that you will need to print. The approval emails occasionally go into your Spam/Junk folder. Please check this folder if 2-3 business days have passed and you have not received the approval email yet.

Renewing Your Visa Stamp

If your U.S. F-1 visa in your passport has expired or will expire prior to your next re-entry to the U.S., you will need to renew your visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad before you can re-enter the US.  There is no option to renew a U.S. visa while inside the U.S. Visit this website for updated visa renewal information and procedures at your nearest U.S. consulate in your home country.

Note: If you are currently in the U.S. and your U.S. visa has expired, or will expire, please remember that you do not need to renew your U.S. visa if you do not have actual travel plans.  Your U.S. immigration status remains valid as long as you are maintaining proper F-1 status at UMass. While on OPT, this means you have remained employed, reported personal information changes in SPIRE, and not accumulated more than 90 days of unemployment.  A U.S. visa is only necessary for travel and re-entry to the U.S., but is not necessary if you do not have immediate travel plans.

Passports

Anyone planning to depart from the U.S. and return after a temporary absence must have a valid passport in order to exit the U.S. The passport must also be valid for a minimum of six months into the future at the time of re-entry to the U.S. Some countries have an agreement with the U.S. that automatically extends passport validity for 6 months, for U.S. entry purposes only.

Automatic Visa Revalidation

For a visit of less than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean (except Cuba), you are allowed to re-enter the U.S. with an expired visa. This process is known as Automatic Visa Revalidation.

You will need your:

  • Valid Passport
  • Most recent Visa Stamp
  • Current I-20 with a valid travel signature

Please note if you apply for an F-1 visa in Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean and are denied, you will not be able to return to the U.S. using Automatic Revalidation.

Nationals of Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria are not eligible for automatic revalidation of an expired visa.

What happens if I do not finish my program before my OPT begins?

There are two scenarios where this might happen:

  1. You are an undergraduate or a non-thesis Master’s student who applied for OPT: If you did not finish as planned (received an Incomplete, failed a course, etc.), you may still keep your OPT application active. You cannot work more than 20 hours/week on OPT until you have finished your degree. Your OPT dates cannot be amended or “paused” and withdrawing your OPT application may not be advisable.  Contact your IPO advisor if you are in this situation.
  2. You are a thesis Master’s student or a PhD student who applied for OPT:  This is not entirely uncommon.  An example of this is when your defense date is unexpectedly rescheduled or some minor revisions in your research are necessary for final submission of your thesis/dissertation.  Should this occur, you will still able to finalize your UMass degree requirements during your OPT period.  As long as you are no longer enrolled full-time and making progress on completing your degree requirements as soon as possible and within a reasonable amount of time, your OPT will not be affected. The Grad School may require enrollment in Continuous Enrollment courses (this has no impact on your F-1 record or OPT status) until you actually graduate. However, your OPT dates cannot be amended or “paused.”  Once the EAD card start date arrives, the OPT “unemployment clock” starts to count.

Can I have health insurance while on OPT?

There is no F-1 regulatory requirement that students on OPT have health insurance. However, it is very expense to get sick/hurt in the U.S. so we recommend everyone have health insurance coverage. Contact the representatives of UMass’ Student Health Benefit Plan to determine how long you have access to this coverage (the phone number is usually on the back of your insurance card). Once you are no longer on the SHBP, you may consider alternative arrangements (for example your new employer’s health coverage). This page provides a few options but please note that it is specifically for J-1 Exchange Visitors not F-1 students but it may guide you in your search. There are also numerous companies that specialize in health insurance for students transitioning to OPT that you can find through an online search.

If I earn a degree after my OPT, will I be eligible for another 12-months of OPT after that degree?

It depends.  If your new degree is at a higher educational level (i.e. Master’s or Ph.D.), then it is theoretically possible.  As long as you meet all eligibility requirements you could potentially have three different OPT authorizations for three different degree programs while in the U.S. (Bachelor, Master’s, PhD.). 

Completion of a second degree within the same educational level (i.e. a BS degree followed by another BS degree) does not entitle you to additional OPT, unless you were granted less than 12-months after the first degree.  For example, if you applied for/were granted only 4-months of OPT upon completion of your previous degree at the same academic level; you would still have 8-months of remaining eligibility for use after completion of your new degree at the same level.  This is only if your initial OPT application was approved for less than 12-months.

What is Cap Gap? Am I eligible? How do I get an updated I-20?

Cap Gap is the period between the end of OPT/STEM OPT and the start of your H-1B on 10.1. This extension permits some students to work after your EAD expiration and until your H-1B starts. 

Not all students are eligible for or need cap gap if their H1B is scheduled to begin on 10.1. Please review the Study in the States website for more information.

Should you believe you are eligible and want an updated I-20, please submit the OPT/STEM OPT reprint E-Form so we can verify this and provide an updated I-20. You must provide an I-797 receipt showing a pending H-1b.

To ensure your change of status to H-1B is applied correctly to your F-1 record on 10.1, please submit our Change of Status E-Form in early October so the IPO can confirm everything is correct.

** If you are no longer a student at UMass after changing your immigration status, your NENS access to UMass systems (access to UMass email, UMass VIP, etc.) will be deactivated 30 days after your new change of status begins. Please plan accordingly.

Students have several options for Life After OPT. Please review these below:

Apply for STEM OPT  90 days prior to OPT expiration (you cannot apply for STEM OPT after OPT expires)

Leave the U.S. within 60 days of OPT expiration. Note: the 60-day grace period also applies to F-2 dependents

Transfer to a new institution or start a new degree program at UMass within 60 days of OPT expiration

Change your Immigration Status within 60 days of OPT expiration. Please use the Change of Status E-Form under the OPT Reporting Requirements to report any changes.

Basic Info about an H-1B and Changing your Status:

The H-1B is a specialty occupation work visa sponsored by an U.S. company on behalf of an international person. You will work with your employer or immigration attorney on this process.

H-1Bs can be filed requesting either Change of Status or Consular Processing. This is at the discretion of the employer filing the H-1B and both have specific implications for your F-1 status.

Change of Status – The H-1B approval notice will contain an I-94 card, which will forcibly change your status from F-1 to H-1B on October 1. Depending on your situation, possible benefits include Cap Gap and you may not need to file for your STEM OPT extension. If you believe you are eligible for the Cap Gap, request an I-20 reprint above so the IPO can review it.

Students with a change of status effective October 1, should submit the Change of Status E-form to the IPO around October 1 so we can verify your F-1 ended correctly.

Consular Processing – The H-1B approval notice will contain a consular notification that you can use to leave the U.S. and apply for an H-1B visa stamp in your passport when you are ready to take on H-1B status. H-1B cases filed under Consular Processing cannot benefit from Cap Gap.

Students with Consular Processing, should submit the Change of Status E-form to the IPO AFTER you have left the U.S., received your H-1B visa stamp, and returned to the U.S. as an H-1B.

Use the OPT Reprint E-Form to request a reprint of your I-20. If you need to report updated employment information, use the OPT Reporting E-Form and request an I-20 there.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) launched a new SEVP Portal to assist F-1 students on post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM OPT.

  1. The SEVP Portal is optional. If you choose to open a SEVP Portal account, you still need to comply with the IPO’s Reporting Requirements for OPT and STEM OPT.
    1. Update personal information changes in SPIRE.
    2. Use the IPO’s OPT or STEM OPT Reporting E-Forms to report updates to your employment information.
    3. STEM OPT has additional reporting requirements that cannot be met with the portal and you must use the IPO’s STEM OPT E-Forms under STEM OPT Reporting Requirements.
  2. Once approved and your EAD start date is current, SEVP will send an email to your UMass email account listed in your SEVIS record. SEVP Portal emails are sent from: do-not-reply.SEVP[at]ice.dhs[dot]gov.
    1. Refer to information about creating a SEVP Portal account below.
      1. The IPO will not reset your SEVP Portal access or unlock your account.
  3. If the SEVIS ID is entered incorrectly more than three times, the account will be locked. The IPO does not reset your SEVP Portal access or unlock your account.
  4. Please make certain that you are only responding to emails and opening links from this trusted email address.
    1. Be careful of email scammers or “phishing” attempts. See further information about avoiding immigration scams, about common scams targeting international students, as well as information from UMass about fighting phishing.
  5. If you need an I-20 printed, please use the OPT/STEM OPT I-20 reprint form.

If you have any questions about the SEVP Portal or need assistance, call the SEVP Response Center at 703-603-3400 or email SEVP[at]ice.dhs[dot]gov. The IPO does not oversee the SEVP Portal and cannot advise students about it.

For more detailed about the new SEVP Portal information see: