As an F-1 nursing student or new graduate, you’re likely to be aware of Optional Practical Training (OPT) - the 12-month employment authorization that enables you to work in the U.S. after graduation.
However, as a partner to colleges and universities across the U.S., Conexus regularly works with students who are still in the dark about OPT and the OPT application process. In this blog post, we explore the key factors you need to be aware of both before and after graduation.
Timing Is Everything
You can apply for OPT no sooner than 90 days before graduation, and as late as 60 days following graduation. However, be aware of how strict this time period is. For example, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must receive your OPT application before the 60 day period is over. In turn, don’t mail your application to USCIS more than 90 days before graduation as it will be rejected, and the fee is not returned.
If you want to start work immediately after you graduate, you should apply for OPT sometime during the 90 days before graduation. This is because it can take up to 3 months for OPT to be approved, and in some cases, even longer. So, applying late may result in the loss of OPT time and, therefore, the full range of employment opportunities available to you post-graduation. Be sure to keep in constant contact with your DSO or International Advisor through this whole process as their involvement and support is key!
Have Your Documents Ready
While the OPT application process is straightforward, some students can experience unnecessary delays due to missing or wrong documentation. Make a note of the following items that you need to send with your application:
2x identical copies natural color passport photos taken within the last 30 days. You’ll need to lightly print your name and your SEVIS number on the back of each photograph. Do bear in mind that passport photos taken in your home country are not acceptable.
Copy of your new OPT I-20 that you received after the OPT application session with your ISS advisor.
Record of any prior CPT authorizations.
Copy of your most recent I-94.
Copy of your passport photo/information page showing the passport expiration date and your most recent U.S. visa.
Copy of your previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card if you’ve ever had one before.
The OPT filing fee is $495, which you can pay via personal check or money order made payable to “United States Department of Homeland Security.” Personal checks are preferred as they can be more easily traced in the event of a problem.
Be Aware Of The Process
Your OPT application process will look like this:
Complete the I-765 Form.
Arrange an appointment with your International Student & Scholar Services Advisor (ISSSA), who will issue you with a new I-20 recommending OPT.
You’ll then need to submit several documents to the USCIS so that they can grant your OPT and release your EAD.
You’re ready to start working as a nurse in the U.S.
EAD: What’s This?
Once you’ve been approved for OPT, you’ll receive an EAD card from USCIS. This is your official employment authorization. Typically, the card will be mailed to your ISS, who will make arrangements to get the card to you immediately. On the card, you’ll find the specific 12-month period that you’re allowed to work.
What happens after the end of the 12-month OPT?
Once your OPT expires, you will only be able to remain in the USA for a further 60 days unless you have:
Obtained a new I-20 to start a new degree
Applied to extend your OPT if your degree is in a STEM area (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths)
Applied to change to another nonimmigrant status.
If you use your OPT and return to school to complete a new degree at a higher level of study than your previous one, you’re entitled to another year of OPT. For example, if you’ve earned a Bachelor’s degree, 12 months of OPT, then started a Master’s program, you will be eligible for another 12 months of OPT following the completion of your Master’s.
Working With Conexus
Conexus offers the advice you need to get started in your U.S. nursing career. While we’re unable to complete OPT applications on your behalf, our experienced team knows all aspects of the process. It’s this knowledge that enables us to educate students on all of the latest developments regarding F1, OPT, and EAD. Contact our team today with any questions or concerns by filling in the form below to find out about our nursing opportunities.