Moving from student life to the working world can be daunting, especially for F-1 international students navigating the U.S. immigration process. If you’re an F-1 student looking to apply for your post-graduate work permit (Employment Authorization Document/EAD) on Optional Practical Training (OPT), you probably have some questions. And we have some answers, and some good news for you! The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has just shared several helpful tips for students applying for OPT. Here is an “OPT Application Guide for F-1 Visa Students” with the updated 2023 DHS guidelines that every OPT applicant should be aware of when filing for their EAD work permit.
Always Check the USCIS Website First
Before starting your application for any type of work permit, including OPT, it is essential to check the USCIS website. Ensuring that all details, such as the edition date on your form, filing fee, filing address are up to date is critical. The immigration process can be strict and unforgiving, and even minor errors can jeopardize your application.
DHS now recommends you apply online as opposed to via mail. Not only can you track your case more efficiently, but you’ll also receive your receipt notice promptly. Embracing the digital age in this scenario can prove beneficial.
Complete and Submit the Correct Forms
When applying for OPT, you’ll need an updated Form I-20, a crucial document for international students. The I-20 has to be signed, dated, and endorsed for employment authorization by your Designated School Official (DSO). The DSO must sign and date the School Attestation section on the first page of Form I-20
Alongside the I-20, you’ll also have to submit the I-765 form, the work permit application, and some documents. Also, make sure you sign the forms where required.
Submit the Application Timely
It’s vital to remember to submit your application timely – timing is everything with these submissions!
- Regular OPT: Submit your application within 30 days after your DSO enters the recommendation in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) system.
- STEM OPT Extension: Submit your application within 60 days after your DSO enters the recommendation into the system.
You should ask your DSO for the date they entered the recommendation in your SEVIS record. This date is not included on Form I-20. The “Date Issued” on Form I-20 may be different from the date the recommendation was entered in your SEVIS record!
And we recommend applying as soon as you can to avoid delays.
Keep Your Address Updated
An often-overlooked – yet extremely important – step is (if you move) updating your address with USCIS and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Your work permit is mailed to your recorded address, so ensuring it is current and accurate is critical to receiving your permit without delays.
You can see the guidance/tips directly from DHS here.
Navigating the U.S. immigration system as an international student can be challenging. However, with the right guidance and knowledge, the journey can be smoother. Always remember to check official sources, and if in doubt, reach out for professional help.
At McEntee Law Group, we focus on immigration law and our attorneys are here to assist, if needed. From all of us, congratulations to the international students on their upcoming graduations! We are ready to answer any of your immigration-related questions.