[2023/02/05] OPT/H1B Q&A

Today I attended OPT/H1B Workshop, run by Hubert Wantong. He took out his Sunday morning to talk to us and make sure that all our questions are answered. I really appreciate everything that he does for us because, without workshops like this and people like him, I would have to spend hours and hours reading USCIS’s law book and going through numerous pages for international students provided by other schools, which might not even apply to my case in Villanova, since Villanova has a slightly different academic year and program.

Below is my note on this workshop and I am documenting it here for your reference if you ever need information on this topic. This is last updated on 02/05/2023.

What is OPT?

  • OPT – Optional Practical Training
  • There are two kinds of OPT:
    • Pre-OPT: Doesn’t apply to Villanova Students
    • Post-OPT: A time period that begins after the program end date on I-20 (May 31 for Villanova)
      • Although the graduation ceremony is on May 19, the extension time is for correction if needed to make sure that the students can actually graduate on time.
      • Visa status: F1 (OPT is only an extension of your F1 visa)

What kind of job can I take?

  • Anything that is directly relevant to your degree
  • Example: If you finish your graduate degree in Computer Science at Villanova, but you have an undergraduate degree in Fashion Design. The job offer is cutting fabric for a fashion company, but you cannot take it because it is not related to your most recent degree in Computer Science. However, if the job is to employ and maintain software that improves the accuracy of fabric cutting, you can take it. (Hubert notes that he has used this example a thousand times because it’s easy to understand, and it covers all kinds of possibilities)

When do I apply and what is the latest I can apply for the EAD card?

  • Note: There are 3 kinds of dates – EAD card start/end date, EAD card application start/end date, and work start date.
  • EAD Card Application Start Date: March 03 (90 days before college graduation on I-20)
    • However, the Villanova book opens on March 03, 2023, and those with CPT can start coming in on March 04
    • If you already have an employer, they can give you the start date or you can pick your start date among the ones that they give you. So, make sure to come into the International Student Office with your start date for your EAD card and for your work ready.
    • If you don’t have an employer yet, you choose the start date for your EAD card.
    • Most of the time, USCIS will give you the date you requested. Only when your submission date/process time passes the date you requested, will USCIS pick the start date of the EAD card for you
  • EAD Card Application End Date: July 30

Start date for OPT and working on-campus?

  • You are unable to work anywhere until you receive your EAD card
  • Work on-campus ends on May 31
  • EAD Card Earliest Start Date: June 01
  • EAD Card Latest Start Date: July 30

What is the rule of 90 days of unemployment?

  • You have 90 days from the EAD card start date to be unemployed. If you have a STEM degree, you have an extra 60 days. Unemployed means that you are not physically working. So even if you already have a job, but you have not been to work yet, you are still counted as unemployed.
  • These 90 days don’t restart regardless. They are cumulative throughout your OPT duration
  • Example: You have a non-STEM degree, such as in Contemporary Arts. Your EAD Card Start Date is July 01, and your company starts onboarding you on July 10. That means you lose 9 days of unemployment. If you got laid off from this company for whatever reason, you have 81 days left to find another job and start that job, or else you will be out of status.

What do I need to apply for OPT?

  • You don’t need an employer to apply for an EAD card to start your OPT period
  • An EAD Card Start Date
  • A laptop (Chrome browser is preferred)
  • A Digital US Passport Photo (taken within 6 months)
  • EAD Card Application link
  • Payment method: Debit/Credit Card; $410 for regular processing and 1,500 for premium processing (30-day wait time)
  • Original and digital Passport, I-20, most recent I-94
  • A good mailing address (not school or PO BOX addresses)

How long does it take to get the EAD?

  • Regular processing:
    • Peak filing season (Spring): About 60 days (traditionally speaking, before Premium processing was a thing)
    • Winter season: About 45-60 days
  • Premium processing:
    • Just rolled out in 2023
    • Promise for approval within 30 days

Can I travel during OPT?

  • Yes. As long as you have your physical EAD Card in hand
  • Remember to always bring: a valid F1 Visa, I-20 signed, pay slip, employment letter, and EAD card (please always meet with the Office of International Student every time you travel outside of the country)

Do I have any responsibilities during OPT?

  • Yes. Notice of any changes in mailing/residential address, email, and phone number
  • If you change your employer, also update the company’s address and phone number to the Office and the Government

Can I get an extension of my OPT period?

  • Yes, if you have a STEM degree (I’m not sure why I don’t have many notes in this section but you should consult Hubert for more information if you need it)

I am applying to another course does this affect my OPT period?

  • Yes. If you decide to go to pursue another education degree after obtaining the EAD Card, you will have to give up the card. The card will expire the moment that Villanova Internation Student Office transfers your record to that school

What happens after I complete my OPT period?

  • Leave
  • Go onto another visa classification, such as H-1B
  • Get married
  • Go to another educational institution
  • You have 60 days of grace period to work on this.

Can you help me apply for my next visa H1B?

There are 2 types of employers: Cap-exempt and Cap

  • Cap-exempt: Apply to Non-profit colleges or non-profits associated with a college
    • Villanova University is qualified
  • Cap: Apply to most the employers
    • Application start date: March 01, 2023. Application end date: March 18, 2023
    • The lottery is drawn on March 29. Results are announced on April 01
    • 90 days grace period to complete filling (adding graduation degree, make corrections on the information, etc.)
    • You can be entered for more than 1 employers
    • There is another drawing in June/July. They retain the group of people from March and redraw. The chance is a lot lower, but it could happen.
    • Since Trump’s administration, he changed how the lottery is supposed to be separated. Traditionally, there are about 65k general visas + 20K master’s student visas. Instead of separating them simultaneously, they mix them up, then they fill the first 65k general visas before moving on to the 20K visas. So now everyone has less chance!

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