Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Getting a job as a international student can be a tedious process in terms of getting hired by employers as well as the process of applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT)

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How you going to get that job

A question to ask yourself where applying for a job in the US is that:

"Why should I hire you (an international student/alien) when it is cheaper to hire a citizen or national of a given country?

The answers are:

  • You are extremely good at where you do

  • You possess highly-marketable or in-demand skills

  • You bring something new to the table that only you or a limited few can do

So start thinking about what makes you special, and how that unique selling point can be used in your interviews.

Curating data and information for OPT application

Optional Practical Training is a work authorization benefit that is given to F1 visa holders for the purpose of gaining practical off-campus work experience. If you graduating soon, you should start preparing some materials for a smooth OPT application.

Here is what you need:

  1. G-1145 e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance. Use this form to request a text and/or email when USCIS accepts your I-765 form. Clip this form to the first page of your application Package.

  2. The original I-765 form signed in black. If applying for pre-completion OPT, use code (c)(3)(A) in line 16. If post-completion OPT, use (c)(3)(B). Students will upload a copy of the I-765 when completing the OPT Request e-form in iStart.

  3. Copies of 1st and 2nd page of all I-20s including the new I-20 containing the OPT recommendation on the 2nd page. Be sure to print, sign and date the bottom of all I-20s before making copies. Students who attended another institution prior to coming to GA Tech (including English language schools and high schools), will need to submit those I-20s as well. Students who no longer have copies of one or more I-20s should contact their previous institution’s international student office and ask if they can send copies.

  4. Copies of any previous Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) (if applicable)

  5. Copy of I-94 record. If you have traveled and no longer have a paper I-94 record, obtain and print the electronic record at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov If you still have a paper I-94, include a copy of the front and back of your I-94 card. The paper I-94 card is the white card typically stapled in the passport.

  6. Copy of the most recent F1 visa. Students who do not have a F1 visa because they have changed status in the US should include a copy of their most recent visa.

  7. Copy of the most recent passport biographical page. The passport should be valid for the period of OPT if possible, but at least 6 months into the future from the time the application is being reviewed by USCIS. If it is not, students will need to obtain a new passport before applying for OPT. Students who have received an extension of their passport, should include a copy of the biographical page and the page that shows the extension.

  8. Application fee of $410 in the form of Check or money order, payable to Department of Homeland Security. If paying by check, do not use a starter check which does not contain one’s name and address printed on the top left corner of the check. Be sure to sign and date the check as well as put the I-94 number in the memo section. If the address is incorrect, do not cross out and change – leave it as is. Students who do not have a check with a name and address should use a money order.

  9. Two US-style passport photos with name and I-94 number printed in PENCIL on the back.Lightly print the applicant’s name and I-94 number on the back of each photo.

Source: https://oie.gatech.edu/isss/opt-application-document-checklist

Recommended reading: https://scaddistrict.com/2018/01/28/how-to-obtain-u-s-work-authorization-in-2018/

Curating data for your employment

Here are some handy information you have ready for your potential employers and interviews. While some information are obvious to you (such as graduation date), it's good to list it down when you are emailing employer pertaining to hiring you. Use the template below wherever possible.

Here is information which you can forward to your HR / Administration department regarding legal employment of international students like me:

  • Graduation date:DATE

  • Willing to relocate and have the intention to work in the U.S. for many years

  • With Optional Practical Training (OPT), I am eligible to work from DATE, and this permits 12 months of work.

  • I am eligible for STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT), granting me a 24-month extension of OPT *

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*For STEM extension eligibility,

  • Companies need to be under the E-Verify program

  • Digital media degrees should fall under CIP code 09.0702 Digital Communication and Media/Multimedia (it is listed under your I20)

OPT & EAD

Be aware that the chance of you getting your EAD before your OPT start date is rather slim. There is often a delay in the processing and delivery.

  • For me, after sending in my application on March 07.

  • On 11 March (4 days later), my case was received.

  • On 15 June (96 days later), my EAD was being prepared.

  • On 21 June, my EAD was delivered to my place.

  • The duration for the whole process is about 100 days / 14 weeks.

  • Using this standard and if you are graduate in June, the optimal start date of your new job should be July onwards.

Check your EAD case status here

  • Enter your receipt number you got for your I-765 application

  • Register for an account to receive through text and email alert

After graduating from SCAD SAV, it is highly recommended to stay in Savannah, take a break, sell your furniture, reevaluate where you are going in life till your EAD arrives because it is going to take awhile.

Background check

Some companies may run background checks before employing you, some information you should have ready would be:

  • Employment history for past seven years (Company name, address, department contact number, documentation of your employment such a letter of offers, and paystubs)

  • Education history for past seven years

  • Every place you have lived for past seven years

  • References (at least 3)