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Practical Training (OPT & CPT) Federal Regulations
Excerpts from the Code of U.S. Federal regulations 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10) and following (In effect as of May 2016)
(10) Practical training.
Practical training may be authorized to an F-1 student who has been lawfully enrolled on a full time basis, in a Service-approved college, university, conservatory, or seminary for one full academic year. This provision also includes students who, during their course of study, were enrolled in a study abroad program, if the student had spent at least one full academic term enrolled in a full course of study in the United States prior to studying abroad. A student may be authorized 12 months of practical training, and becomes eligible for another 12 months of practical training when he or she changes to a higher educational level. Students in English language training programs are ineligible for practical training. An eligible student may request employment authorization for practical training in a position that is directly related to his or her major area of study. There are two types of practical training available:
(i) Curricular practical training.
An F-1 student may be authorized by the DSO to participate in a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Curricular practical training is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. Students who have received one year or more of full time curricular practical training are ineligible for post-completion academic training. Exceptions to the one academic year requirement are provided for students enrolled in graduate studies that require immediate participation in curricular practical training. A request for authorization for curricular practical training must be made to the DSO. A student may begin curricular practical training only after receiving his or her Form I-20 with the DSO endorsement.
(A) Non-SEVIS process. (not applicable)
(B) SEVIS process. (DSO procedures)
(ii) Optional practical training --
(A) General. Consistent with the application and approval process in paragraph (f)(11) of this section, a student may apply to USCIS for authorization for temporary employment for optional practical training directly related to the student's major area of study. The student may not begin optional practical training until the date indicated on his or her employment authorization document, Form I-766. A student may be granted authorization to engage in temporary employment for optional practical training:
(1) During the student's annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session, if the student is currently enrolled, and is eligible for registration and intends to register for the next term or session;
(2) While school is in session, provided that practical training does not exceed 20 hours a week while school is in session; or
(3) After completion of the course of study, or, for a student in a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree program, after completion of all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent). Continued enrollment, for the school's administrative purposes, after all requirements for the degree have been met does not preclude eligibility for optional practical training. A student must complete all practical training within a 14-month period following the completion of study, except that a 24-month extension pursuant to paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C) of this section does not need to be completed within such 14-month period.
(B) Termination of practical training. Authorization to engage in optional practical training employment is automatically terminated when the student transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level.
(C) 24-month extension of post-completion OPT for a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree. Consistent with paragraph (f)(11)(i)(C) of this section, a qualified student may apply for an extension of OPT while in a valid period of post-completion OPT authorized under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(3)(i)(B). An extension will be for 24 months for the first qualifying degree for which the student has completed all course requirements (excluding thesis or equivalent), including any qualifying degree as part of a dual degree program, subject to the requirement in paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(3) of this section that previously obtained degrees must have been conferred. If a student completes all such course requirements for another qualifying degree at a higher degree level than the first, the student may apply for a second 24- month extension of OPT while in a valid period of post-completion OPT authorized under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(3)(i)(B). In no event may a student be authorized for more than two lifetime STEM OPT extensions. A student who was granted a 17-month OPT extension under the rule issued at 73 FR 18944, whether or not such student requests an additional 7-month period of STEM OPT under 8 CFR 214.16, is considered to have been authorized for one STEM OPT extension, and may be eligible for only one more STEM OPT extension. Any subsequent application for an additional 24-month OPT extension under this paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C) must be based on a degree at a higher degree level than the degree that was the basis for the student’s first OPT extension. In order to qualify for an extension of post-completion OPT based upon a STEM degree, all of the following requirements must be met.
(1) Accreditation. The degree that is the basis for the 24-month OPT extension is from a U.S. educational institution accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Department of Education at the time of application.
(2) DHS-approved degree. The degree that is the basis for the 24-month OPT extension is a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a field determined by the Secretary, or his or her designee, to qualify within a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field.
(i) The term "science, technology, engineering or mathematics field" means a field included in the Department of Education’s Classification of Instructional Programs taxonomy within the two-digit series or successor series containing engineering, biological sciences, mathematics, and physical sciences, or a related field. In general, related fields will include fields involving research, innovation, or development of new technologies using engineering, mathematics, computer science, or natural sciences (including physical, biological, and agricultural sciences).
(ii) The Secretary, or his or her designee, will maintain the STEM Designated Degree Program List, which will be a complete list of qualifying degree program categories, published on the Student and Exchange Visitor Program Web site at http://www.ice.gov/sevis. Changes that are made to the Designated Degree Program List may also be published in a notice in the Federal Register. All program categories included on the list must be consistent with the definition set forth in paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(2)(i) of this section.
(iii) At the time the DSO recommends a 24-month OPT extension under this paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C) in SEVIS, the degree that is the basis for the application for the OPT extension must be contained within a category on the STEM Designated Degree Program List.
(3) Previously obtained STEM degree(s). The degree that is the basis for the 24-month OPT extension under this paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C) may be, but is not required to be, the degree that is the basis for the post-completion OPT period authorized under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(3)(i)(B). If an application for a 24-month OPT extension under this paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C) is based upon a degree obtained previous to the degree that provided the basis for the period of post-completion OPT authorized under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(3)(i)(B), that previously obtained degree must have been conferred from a U.S. educational institution that is accredited and SEVP-certified at the time the student’s DSO recommends the student for the 24-month OPT extension and must be in a degree program category included on the current STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time of the DSO recommendation. That previously obtained degree must have been conferred within the 10 years preceding the date the DSO recommends the student for the 24-month OPT extension.
(4) Eligible practical training opportunity. The STEM practical training opportunity that is the basis for the 24-month OPT extension under this paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C) must be directly related to the degree that qualifies the student for such extension, which may be the previously obtained degree described in paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(3) of this section.
(5) Employer qualification. The student’s employer is enrolled in E-Verify, as evidenced by either a valid E-Verify Company Identification number or, if the employer is using an employer agent to create its E-Verify cases, a valid E-Verify Client Company Identification number, and the employer remains a participant in good standing with E-Verify, as determined by USCIS. An employer must also have an employer identification number (EIN) used for tax purposes.
(6) Employer reporting. A student may not be authorized for employment with an employer pursuant to paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(2) of this section unless the employer agrees, by signing the Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, Form I-983 or successor form, to report the termination or departure of an OPT student to the DSO at the student’s school, if the termination or departure is prior to the end of the authorized period of OPT. Such reporting must be made within five business days of the termination or departure. An employer shall consider a student to have departed when the employer knows the student has left the practical training opportunity, or if the student has not reported for his or her practical training for a period of five consecutive business days without the consent of the employer, whichever occurs earlier.
(7) Training Plan for STEM OPT Students, Form I–983 or successor form.
(i) A student must fully complete an individualized Form I-983 or successor form and obtain requisite signatures from an appropriate individual in the employer’s organization on the form, consistent with form instructions, before the DSO may recommend a 24-month OPT extension under paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(2) of this section in SEVIS. A student must submit the Form I-983 or successor form, which includes a certification of adherence to the training plan completed by an appropriate individual in the employer’s organization who has signatory authority for the employer, to the student’s DSO, prior to the new DSO recommendation. A student must present his or her signed and completed Form I-983 or successor form to a DSO at the educational institution of his or her most recent enrollment. A student, while in F-1 student status, may also be required to submit the Form I-983 or successor form to ICE and/or USCIS upon request or in accordance with form instructions.
(ii) The training plan described in the Form I-983 or successor form must identify goals for the STEM practical training opportunity, including specific knowledge, skills, or techniques that will be imparted to the student, and explain how those goals will be achieved through the work-based learning opportunity with the employer; describe a performance evaluation process; and describe methods of oversight and supervision. Employers may rely on their otherwise existing training programs or policies to satisfy the requirements relating to performance evaluation and oversight and supervision, as applicable.
(iii) The training plan described in the Form I-983 or successor form must explain how the training is directly related to the student’s qualifying STEM degree.
(iv) If a student initiates a new practical training opportunity with a new employer during his or her 24-month OPT extension, the student must submit, within 10 days of beginning the new practical training opportunity, a new Form I-983 or successor form to the student’s DSO, and subsequently obtain a new DSO recommendation.
(8) Duties, hours, and compensation for training. The terms and conditions of a STEM practical training opportunity during the period of the 24-month OPT extension, including duties, hours, and compensation, must be commensurate with terms and conditions applicable to the employer’s similarly situated U.S. workers in the area of employment. A student may not engage in practical training for less than 20 hours per week, excluding time off taken consistent with leave-related policies applicable to the employer’s similarly situated U.S. workers in the area of employment. If the employer does not employ and has not recently employed more than two similarly situated U.S. workers in the area of employment, the employer nevertheless remains obligated to attest that the terms and conditions of a STEM practical training opportunity are commensurate with the terms and conditions of employment for other similarly situated U.S. workers in the area of employment. "Similarly situated U.S. workers" includes U.S. workers performing similar duties subject to similar supervision and with similar educational backgrounds, industry expertise, employment experience, levels of responsibility, and skill sets as the student. The duties, hours, and compensation of such students are "commensurate" with those offered to U.S. workers employed by the employer in the same area of employment when the employer can show that the duties, hours, and compensation are consistent with the range of such terms and conditions the employer has offered or would offer to similarly situated U.S. employees. The student must disclose his or her compensation, including any adjustments, as agreed to with the employer, on the Form I-983 or successor form.
(9) Evaluation requirements and Training Plan modifications.
(i) A student may not be authorized for employment with an employer pursuant to paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(2) of this section unless the student submits a self-evaluation of the student’s progress toward the training goals described in the Form I-983 or successor form. All required evaluations must be completed prior to the conclusion of a STEM practical training opportunity, and the student and an appropriate individual in the employer’s organization must sign each evaluation to attest to its accuracy. All STEM practical training opportunities require an initial evaluation within 12 months of the approved starting date on the employment authorization document granted pursuant to the student's 24-month OPT extension application, and a concluding evaluation. The student is responsible for ensuring the DSO receives his or her 12-month evaluation and final evaluation no later than 10 days following the conclusion of the reporting period or conclusion of his or her practical training opportunity, respectively.
(ii) If any material change to or deviation from the training plan described in the Form I- 983 or successor form occurs, the student and employer must sign a modified Form I-983 or successor form reflecting the material change(s) or deviation(s). Material changes and deviations relating to training may include, but are not limited to, any change of Employer Identification Number resulting from a corporate restructuring, any reduction in compensation from the amount previously submitted on the Form I-983 or successor form that is not tied to a reduction in hours worked, any significant decrease in hours per week that a student engages in a STEM training opportunity, and any decrease in hours worked below the minimum hours for the 24-month extension as described in paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(8) of this section. Material changes and deviations also include any change or deviation that renders an employer attestation inaccurate, or renders inaccurate the information in the Form I-983 or successor form on the nature, purpose, oversight, or assessment of the student’s practical training opportunity. The student and employer must ensure that the modified Form I-983 or successor form is submitted to the student’s DSO at the earliest available opportunity.
(iii) The educational institution whose DSO is responsible for duties associated with the student’s latest OPT extension under paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(2) of this section is responsible for ensuring the Student and Exchange Visitor Program has access to each individualized Form I- 983 or successor form and associated student evaluations (electronic or hard copy), including through SEVIS if technologically available, beginning within 30 days after the document is submitted to the DSO and continuing for a period of three years following the completion of each STEM practical training opportunity.
(10) Additional STEM opportunity obligations. A student may only participate in a STEM practical training opportunity in which the employer attests, including by signing the Form I-983 or successor form, that:
(i) The employer has sufficient resources and personnel available and is prepared to provide appropriate training in connection with the specified opportunity at the location(s) specified in the Form I-983 or successor form;
(ii) The student on a STEM OPT extension will not replace a full- or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker; and
(iii) The student’s opportunity assists the student in reaching his or her training goals.
(11) Site visits. DHS, at its discretion, may conduct a site visit of any employer. The purpose of the site visit is for DHS to ensure that each employer possesses and maintains the ability and resources to provide structured and guided work-based learning experiences consistent with any Form I-983 or successor form completed and signed by the employer. DHS will provide notice to the employer 48 hours in advance of any site visit, except notice may not be provided if the visit is triggered by a complaint or other evidence of noncompliance with the regulations in this paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C).
(D) Duration of status while on post-completion OPT. For a student with approved post-completion OPT, the duration of status is defined as the period beginning on the date that the student’s application for OPT was properly filed and pending approval, including the authorized period of post-completion OPT, and ending 60 days after the OPT employment authorization expires.
(E) Periods of unemployment during post-completion OPT. During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT period described in 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(3)(i)(B). Students granted a 24-month OPT extension under paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(2) of this section may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during a total OPT period, including any post-completion OPT period described in 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(3)(i)(B) and any subsequent 24-month extension period.
(11) OPT application and approval process.
(i) Student responsibilities. A student must initiate the OPT application process by requesting a recommendation for OPT from his or her DSO. Upon making the recommendation, the DSO will provide the student a signed Form I-20 indicating that recommendation.
(A) Applications for employment authorization. The student must properly file an Application for Employment Authorization, Form I-765 or successor form, with USCIS, accompanied by the required fee, and the supporting documents, as described in the form’s instructions.
(B) Applications and filing deadlines for pre-completion OPT and post-completion OPT.
(1) Pre-completion OPT. For pre-completion OPT, the student may properly file his or her Form I-765 or successor form up to 90 days before being enrolled for one full academic year, provided that the period of employment will not start prior to the completion of the full academic year.
(2) Post-completion OPT. For post-completion OPT, not including a 24-month OPT extension under paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(2) of this section, the student may properly file his or her Form I-765 or successor form up to 90 days prior to his or her program end date and no later than 60 days after his or her program end date. The student must also file his or her Form I-765 or successor form with USCIS within 30 days of the date the DSO enters the recommendation for OPT into his or her SEVIS record.
(C) Applications and filing deadlines for 24-month OPT extension. A student meeting the eligibility requirements for a 24-month OPT extension under paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C) of this section may request an extension of employment authorization by filing Form I-765 or successor form, with the required fee and supporting documents, up to 90 days prior to the expiration date of the student’s current OPT employment authorization. The student seeking such 24-month OPT extension must properly file his or her Form I-765 or successor form with USCIS within 60 days of the date the DSO enters the recommendation for the OPT extension into his or her SEVIS record. If a student timely and properly files an application for such 24-month OPT extension and timely and properly requests a DSO recommendation, including by submitting the fully executed Form I-983 or successor form to his or her DSO, but the Employment Authorization Document, Form I-766 or successor form, currently in the student’s possession expires prior to the decision on the student’s application for the OPT extension, the student’s Form I-766 or successor form is extended automatically pursuant to the terms and conditions specified in 8 CFR 274a.12(b)(6)(iv).
(D) Start of OPT employment. A student may not begin OPT employment prior to the approved start date on his or her Employment Authorization Document, Form I-766 or successor form, except as described in paragraph (f)(11)(i)(C) of this section. A student may not request a start date that is more than 60 days after the student’s program end date. Employment authorization will begin on the date requested or the date the employment authorization is adjudicated, whichever is later.
(ii) Additional DSO responsibilities. A student must have a recommendation from his or her DSO in order to apply for OPT. When a DSO recommends a student for OPT, the school assumes the added responsibility for maintaining the SEVIS record of that student for the entire period of authorized OPT, consistent with paragraph (f)(12) of this section.
(A) Prior to making a recommendation, the DSO at the educational institution of the student’s most recent enrollment must ensure that the student is eligible for the given type and period of OPT and that the student is aware of the student’s responsibilities for maintaining status while on OPT. Prior to recommending a 24-month OPT extension under paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C) of this section, the DSO at the educational institution of the student’s most recent enrollment must certify that the student’s degree being used to qualify that student for the 24-month OPT extension, as shown in SEVIS or official transcripts, is a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree with a degree code that is contained within a category on the current STEM Designated Degree Program List at the time the recommendation is made. A DSO may recommend a student for a 24-month OPT extension under paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C) of this section only if the Form I-983 or successor form described in paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(7) of this section has been properly completed and executed by the student and prospective employer. A DSO may not recommend a student for an OPT extension under paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C) of this section if the practical training would be conducted by an employer who has failed to meet the requirements under paragraphs (f)(10)(ii)(C)(5) through (9) of this section or has failed to provide the required assurances of paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(10) of this section.
(B) The DSO must update the student’s SEVIS record with the DSO’s recommendation for OPT before the student can apply to USCIS for employment authorization. The DSO will indicate in SEVIS whether the OPT employment is to be full-time or part-time, or for a student seeking a recommendation for a 24-month OPT extension under paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C) of this section whether the OPT employment meets the minimum hours requirements described in paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(8) of this section, and note in SEVIS the OPT start and end dates.
(C) The DSO must provide the student with a signed, dated Form I-20 or successor form indicating that OPT has been recommended.
(iii) Decision on application for OPT employment authorization. USCIS will adjudicate a student's Form I-765 on the basis of the DSOs recommendation and other eligibility considerations.
(A) If granted, the employment authorization period for post-completion OPT begins on the requested date of commencement or the date the Form I-765 or successor form is approved, whichever is later, and ends at the conclusion of the remaining time period of post-completion OPT eligibility. The employment authorization period for a 24-month OPT extension under paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C) of this section begins on the day after the expiration of the initial post- completion OPT employment authorization and ends 24 months thereafter, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved.
(B) USCIS will notify the applicant of the decision on the Form I-765 or successor form in writing, and, if the application is denied, of the reason or reasons for the denial.
(C) The applicant may not appeal the decision.
(12) Reporting while on optional practical training.
(i) General. An F-1 student who is granted employment authorization by USCIS to engage in optional practical training is required to report any change of name or address, or interruption of such employment to the DSO for the duration of the optional practical training. A DSO who recommends a student for OPT is responsible for updating the student’s record to reflect these reported changes for the duration of the time that training is authorized.
(ii) Additional reporting obligations for students with an approved 24-month OPT extension. Students with an approved 24-month OPT extension under paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C) of this section have additional reporting obligations. Compliance with these reporting requirements is required to maintain F-1 status. The reporting obligations are:
(A) Within 10 days of the change, the student must report to the student’s DSO a change of legal name, residential or mailing address, employer name, employer address, and/or loss of employment.
(B) The student must complete a validation report, confirming that the information required by paragraph (f)(12)(ii)(A) of this section has not changed, every six months. The requirement for validation reporting starts on the date the 24-month OPT extension begins and ends when the student’s F-1 status expires or the 24-month OPT extension concludes, whichever is first. The validation report is due to the student’s DSO within 10 business days of each reporting date.
(13) Temporary absence from the United States of F-1 student granted employment authorization.
(i) A student returning from a temporary trip abroad with an unexpired off-campus employment authorization on his or her I-20 ID may resume employment only if the student is readmitted to attend the same school which granted the employment authorization.
(ii) An F-1 student who has an unexpired EAD issued for post-completion practical training and who is otherwise admissible may return to the United States to resume employment after a period of temporary absence. The EAD must be used in combination with an I-20 ID endorsed for reentry by the DSO within the last six months.
(14) Effect of strike or other labor dispute. Any employment authorization, whether or not part of an academic program, is automatically suspended upon certification by the Secretary of Labor or the Secretary's designee to the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service or the Commissioner's designee, that a strike or other labor dispute involving a work stoppage of workers is in progress in the occupation at the place of employment. As used in this paragraph, "place of employment" means the facility or facilities where a labor dispute exists. The employer is prohibited from transferring F-1 students working at other facilities to the facility where the work stoppage is occurring.
Regulations in effect as of May 2016