If you have not already applied for post-completion OPT, Georgia Tech will shorten the program end date listed on your I-20 to the last day of the semester and you have a 60-day grace period during which you may do the following:
1. Apply for post-completion OPT: You should submit the appropriate e-form in iStart and send your application to USCIS so that it is received by the end of your 60-day grace period. If USCIS has not received your OPT application by this date, you should depart the U.S.
OPT Hints and Tips
Find more info at oie.gatech.edu/OPT
- OPT takes about 90 days to process. Therefore, you should apply early to ensure you can begin working when you want.
- USCIS must receive your application during your 60-day grace period in order for you to be eligible for post-completion OPT. The latest possible start date that you may request is the last day of your 60-day grace period. Therefore, if you do not submit an application until the last day of your grace period and you request the last possible date to begin your employment, this means that the 90 days of unemployment will begin on this last date of your 60-day grace period. This should be incentive to submit your OPT application early!
- To submit an application, please see oie.gatech.edu/OPT to watch the tutorial and submit the appropriate e-form in iStart.
- Remember that you are no longer eligible to work on campus at GT after the last date of the semester during which you will finish your academic program unless you have your post-completion OPT EAD card.
2. Be accepted to another GT academic program: complete the Change of Level e-form in iStart.
3. Transfer your SEVIS record to another U.S. institution to begin a new academic program.
To request a SEVIS transfer
- Obtain an acceptance letter from the new institution.
- Complete the Transfer Out Request e-form in iStart. In the e-form, upload a copy of the admission letter, provide the name and SEVIS school code for the new institution and include the requested transfer release date.
- Within 5 business days, an OIE advisor will initiate the transfer. The record will not fully transfer until the transfer release date has passed.
- Begin classes at the new institution within 5 months of the transfer. Students who do not begin classes within 5 months must get a new "initial attendance" I-20 from the new institution.
Important reminders regarding choosing a transfer date:
- After the transfer release date, Georgia Tech will no longer have access to the record and cannot make any changes to the record. Any changes to the record must be made by the new institution, including transferring the record to a different school.
- Students are only eligible to work on-campus at the institution that possesses the SEVIS records.
- After the transfer date, students participating in post-completion OPT must stop off-campus employment and are only eligible to work at the new school.
- The SEVIS record must be transferred to the new school within 60 days of completing a Georgia Tech program. After the 60 day grace period, the record is no longer eligible for transfer in SEVIS.
4. Apply for a change of immigration status: You should submit the Change of Status e-form in iStart.
5. Depart the U.S.
F students interested in changing to a status other than F2, J1 or J2 should consult an immigration attorney. OIE does not have the expertise to advise students on other statuses.
However, it is important that students notify OIE when they change immigration status or would like to abandon their F status while a change of status application is pending.
- Login to iStart and review the information in the Change of Status from F1/F2 e-form.
- If the change of status has been approved or you would like to abandon your F-1 status while an application is pending, complete the e-form. In the e-form, upload proof of your pending/approved change of status. Examples include:
- paper I-94 card issued by Customs and Border Protection along with the corresponding entry visa
- electronic I-94 card along with the corresponding entry visa
- I-797 notice of action containing the I-94 card issued by USCIS
- front and back of the U.S. permanent residency card (green card)
- U.S passport or naturalization documents
- An International Student Advisor will review your request within 5 business days and either terminate or complete your SEVIS record depending on your individual situation and remove your F-1 status from the Georgia Tech information system.
Important Reminders for All Students with Terminated/Completed F-1 SEVIS Records Due to a Change of Status:
- Not eligible for F-1 benefits such as on-campus work benefit or off-campus work authorization (OPT or CPT).
- No longer automatically enrolled in Georgia Tech's international student health insurance plan.
- Are responsible for providing the Registrar's Office with proof of the change of status.
- If employed on-campus, are responsible for providing Human Resources with proof of the approved/pending change of status to update their tax and employment documentation.
- Important: It is possible to possess an approved change of status application but the change of status is not yet effective (i.e. an H1B application approved in May but an effective date of October 1st). If a change in employment occurs between the approval notice date and effective date (i.e. discontinuation of employment by H1B sponsor), students must contact the OIE immediately to prevent the termination of their F1 status.
Additional Considerations for Students with Pending U.S Permanent Residency Applications and Requesting a Termination of Their F-1 Status:
- Consult an immigration attorney before choosing to terminate F-1 status prior to receiving legal permanent residency.
- Will require a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS in order to be employed.
- OIE will no longer be able to make updates to your student visa status
- If the permanent residency application is denied, you will be considered to be out of status (that is, unlawfully in the U.S.)
GENERAL OPT FAQ:
1. What employer information do I need to report during OPT?
You should report the following information: employer name, employer address, start date of employment, and any periods of unemployment.
2. How do I report my employer information?
You will report your employment information in iStart. You can find Employer Reporting Instructions here.
3. Does my employer have to be in the E-Verify program during my 12-month standard OPT period?
No. However, to be eligible for the 24-month STEM extension your employer is required to be an E-Verify employer. For more information on the 24-month STEM OPT extension, please see our website.
4. Do I need to continue to update my personal address while on OPT?
Yes; you must continue to report any changes to your physical U.S. and foreign addresses while on OPT. This cannot be a PO Box or your company's address. Complete the Personal Information Update e-form through iStart.
5. Can I be unemployed during OPT?
Unemployment is allowable while you are on post-compleiton OPT. However, you may not accrue more than a total of 90 days of unemployment during the initial 12 months of post-completion OPT.
6. What counts as time unemployed?
Each day (including weekends) during the period when OPT authorization begins and ends that the student does not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment. OPT authorizaton begins on the employment start date shown on the student's EAD card.
7. How do I report that I am unemployed?
You report that you are unemployed in iStart. Type "Unemployed" in the "Name of Employer" field. In the "Date Employment Began" field, use your OPT start date (if you are not employed by the EAD start date) or the date you became unemployed (if you became unemployed during OPT).
8. What type of work is allowed on standard post-completion OPT and which documents should I have to prove employment?
Please see ISSS's website on what types of employment are allowable while on OPT and a list of documents that have been suggested by USCIS to prove employment.
9. My employer has asked me to take a business trip outside the US. What do I report?
You are not required to change employment information (i.e. the address) if you will take a business trip outside the US.
10. I work in one location, but my employer's office is in another location. What should I report?
Report the address of the location where you are working.
11. Will I still have health insurance through Georgia Tech?
No, you will no longer be enrolled in an insurance plan and should seek personal medical insurance. Please see our Health Insurance after Graduation website for more information.
12. What is the H-1B cap-gap extension?
The H-1B cap-gap extension allows students who have timely-filed H-1Bs to continue working or staying in the U.S. until their H-1B becomes active. Read more at our H-1B Cap-Gap Extension website.
F-1 Regulations allow students participating in OPT to travel abroad, but there may be additional risks and/or additional documentation to prepare. OIE is unable to guarantee that students will be granted admission by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon return to the U.S or that the Consulate will renew an F-1 visa at a consulate abroad. Although not common, there are reports of students on OPT having problems at ports of entry as well as being denied visas or experiencing significant visa delays. The decision to travel abroad must be made by the individual student with an understanding of the preparations that should be made and the risks involved.
Pre-completion OPT Students:
You are currently still an enrolled student so you’ll follow the same procedure for visits abroad and re-entry as enrolled F-1 students. Additional documentation is not required for reentry beyond a valid I-20 signed for travel, unexpired passport and unexpired visa stamp.
Post-completion OPT Students:
You are eligible to travel abroad on a temporary basis (less than 5 months) and re-enter the U.S to continue employment. F-1 regulations require that the student present the following documents to CBP upon reentry:
- Passport valid at least 6 months into the future from the date of reentry
- Valid F-1 Visa stamp
- I-20 containing the OPT recommendation and a travel signature less than 6 months old. Students requiring an updated travel signature should complete the “Travel Signature Request” e-form in iStart to request a new signature.
- Unexpired EAD work permit
- Proof the student is returning to resume employment. This can be in the form of a job offer letter or a letter written on letterhead from the student’s supervisor confirming employment. However, a paystub or other documentation showing intent to return to work may be sufficient for a CBP officer.
Travel While OPT Application is Pending:
According to Student Exchange Visitor Program’s guidance, students participating in post-completion OPT may travel abroad while the OPT application is pending. However, travel during this period of time should be undertaken with caution for the following reasons:
- If a request for more evidence (RFE) is issued by USCIS: An RFE requires immediate attention by the applicant.
- If the application is approved while the applicant is abroad, the student will be required to present the EAD upon return.
Students who decide to travel while the OPT application is pending are highly discouraged from leaving the U.S until the application has been received by USCIS and the I-797 receipt notice has been issued. Students should bring the receipt notice with them as proof that an application has been submitted. Although the receipt notice is a good substitution, admission into the U.S. is up to the discretion of the CBP officer, and there have been reports of students without their EAD work permit having problems at the port of entry.
Special Issues in Travel on OPT
Visa Renewal while on Post-Completion OPT:
OPT is a benefit of the F-1 status. Therefore, students traveling while on OPT and have an expired F-1 visa are required to apply for a new F-1 visa. Although the U.S. consulates/embassies are permitted to grant visa renewals to students participating in OPT, these students may be subject to additional scrutiny. The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant intent visa. Therefore, applicants are required to provide proof of “binding ties” to their home country. This may be more challenging for some students on OPT.
Procedures and requirements for visas can vary between countries and are often subject to change. As such, reviewing the visa requirements on the website for the appropriate U.S. Embassy/Consulate is the best way to prepare you for the visa application process. Visit www.travel.state.gov to determine the procedures for applying for a visa at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in the country in which you’ll be traveling.
For general guidance and information on visa renewals please visit the OIE’s Visa Renewal website.
Automatic Visa Revalidation for OPT Students:
F-1 students participating in OPT traveling to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean (except Cuba) for less than 30 days are eligible to reenter the U.S with an expired F-1 visa as long as they qualify for automatic visa revalidation. Citizens of Syria, Sudan, Iran and Cuba do not qualify. For more information visit ICE’s Reentry for F-1 Nonimmigrants Traveling Outside the United States.
Accrual of More Than 90 Days of Unemployment’s Impact on Travel:
Students who accrue more than 90 days of unemployment while participating in post-completion OPT will likely be deemed not eligible for reentry into the U.S. by a CBP officer. Students who have/will accrue more than 90 days of unemployment and have decided to leave the U.S. are advised to complete the “Intent to Depart/End I-20 Status” e-form in iStart. An International Student Advisor will review the e-form and complete the SEVIS record which will stop the accrual of unemployment days and end the student’s SEVIS record. Students are advised to leave the U.S as soon as possible after the SEVIS record is ended and will not be eligible to return to the U.S to continue to use their OPT.
Time Outside the U.S and Unemployment:
Time spent outside the U.S during a period of post-completion OPT counts as unemployment against the 90 day limit, unless the student is either:
- Employed during a period of leave authorized by an employer; or
- Traveling as part of his or her employment.
Change of Status and Travel:
Students who have/will apply for a change of status to H1B, permanent resident or any other immigration status should speak with their immigration lawyer prior to making travel plans. Students utilizing the Cap-Gap extension should not travel abroad during the period of time between the end of the EAD and the start of the H1B unless they are eligible to return to the U.S. with the H1B visa stamp.
- Summary of new STEM OPT extension rule
- History of STEM OPT extension rule
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Employer Resources for Employees on STEM OPT
Current 24-Month STEM OPT extension procedures (effective May 10, 2016):
Launch 24-Month STEM OPT extension presentation
The H-1B cap-gap extension allows F-1 students currently on post-completion OPT to continue working if they have a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting change of status and an employment start date of October 1 (the first day of the following fiscal year). An automatic cap-gap extension of an F-1 student's duration of status also applies to the duration of status of the student's dependents in F-2 status.
"Cap-gap" has become the common term used to refer to the "gap" in nonimmigrant status that occurs in a change of status to H-1B, when a student's current nonimmigrant status expires before the requested H-1B start date. For example, an F-1 student with an post-completion OPT end date of June 30 will have duration of status for 60 days beyond that, until August 30. The gap between August 30 and October 1 is a "cap-gap."
Who qualifies for an H-1B cap-gap extension?
Students must have a timely-filed H-1B petition while the student's authorized F-1 duration of status (D/S) admission was still in effect. This includes:
1. Students working on post-completion OPT with an end date on or later than April 1 and have a timely-filed H-1B petition. Students on post-completion OPT may continue to work until 9/30 until the H1B begins on 10/1.
2. Students who are currently in their grace period with a timely-filed H-1B petition. These students may stay in the U.S. until the H-1B begins on 10/1, but are not eligible to work during this time.
The student must not have violated the terms or conditions of his or her F-1 status.
Is there an application or fee for the cap-gap extension?
No. The extension is automatically recorded on your SEVIS record.
How do I get an updated I-20 showing the cap-gap extension?
You may request a cap-gap extension I-20 from OIE to present to your employer. To request a cap-gap I-20, log into iStart and complete the Cap-Gap I-20 Request e-form. You will be required to upload a copy of a receipt notice from USCIS showing that your application was filed in a timely manner and is being adjudicated. Within five business days, an international student advisor will process your request.
Do I have to have a new I-20 showing the cap-gap extension?
No. The cap-gap extension is automatic as long as you have timely-filed H-1B petition. However, some employers request evidence of work authorization or you may be applying for benefits (i.e. renewing a drivers license) that may require a reprint.