Important Issues for Students on Optional Practical Training
Status as a Student
This is a reminder that while you are on Optional Practical Training (OPT), you are still in F-1 immigration status. If you do not complete your degree by the date designated by your advisor, you must inform UC International Services. Furthermore, if a new academic year begins (Fall Semester) and your degree is not complete, you are required by University of Cincinnati regulations to register one credit hour during any quarter of that academic year.
When you register for classes, you may be charged for the University of Cincinnati Student Health Insurance Plan. If you are working and receiving medical insurance as a part of your employee benefits you may be approved to waive the UC student health insurance coverage. Documentation of your employee medical benefits must be presented to the Student Health Insurance Office during the waiver period.
Failure to submit an approved waiver prior to the waiver deadline will result in a policy being purchased for you. You will then be responsible for reimbursing the University for the premium. If you have any questions regarding the insurance requirement or the waiver procedure, please call the Student Health Insurance Office at (513) 556-6868.
Changes to your House Address, Employer Address, or Employer Name
While on OPT you are responsible for informing UC International Services of a change of address within 10 days of moving. You are also responsible for informing UC International Services about the name and address of your employer. If on the 24-month STEM OPT extension a new I-983 Training plan is required. While on 12-month OPT you can remain in the U.S. unemployed for an aggregate of 90 days. Students approved for 24-month OPT based on having a degree in STEM fields can be unemployed for an aggregate of 150 days.
Annual self-Evaluation for 24-month STEM OPT students
Students on the 24-month STEM OPT extension must submit a formal employer-signed self-evaluation of the training progress to UC International Services at the 12 and 24 month points in the STEM OPT extension period. The self-evaluations will be subject to DHS review and will be a required part of the immigration (SEVIS) record. The first evaluation is due within one year and 10 days of the first day of employment indicated on the OPT Employment Authorization Document. The second evaluation is due with 10 days of the expiration date of the OPT EAD.
If you remain unemployed for 90 or 150 days your F-1 status will be terminated. You must keep UC International Services informed of any loss of employment while on OPT. Every 6 months you are required to verify your employment status with UC International Services. If you decide to stop working on OPT and return to school, you must notify UC International Services immediately of this and the name of the school you will attend. Your OPT ends when your SEVIS record is transferred.
H-1B Cap-Gap Relief
F-1 students who are the beneficiaries of approved H-1B petitions, but whose period of authorized F-1 stay expires before the H-1B employment start date, will have a gap in authorized stay and employment requiring them to depart the U.S. and return within 10 days of beginning H-1B employment. New regulations provide relief to students and employers in this situation. This interim rule extends the status AND work authorization of any F-1 student who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year.
This rule applies to all students on OPT, not just STEM students. The extension of duration of status and work authorization automatically terminates upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf. Students are REQUIRED to obtain a new I-20 form from UC International Services showing an OPT recommendation that covers this "cap-gap" period. Students will need to provide UC International Services with proof of H-1B receipt or approval in order to obtain the new I-20 form.
Changes to your Immigration Status
If at any time your immigration status changes while on OPT (i.e. H-1B, Permanent Residence), you must inform UC International Services immediately so your records can be updated. You should fill out an eForm at https://ibearcatsglobal.uc.edu for Notification of Change of Immigration Status. It can be found under the Biographical Information tab.
If for some reason you cannot access iBearcatsGlobal, fax a copy of your status approval to (513) 556-2990 or mail it to the following address:
UC International Services
51 W. Corry St.
3134 Edwards Center One
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, Ohio 45221-0640
60 Day Grace Period
You are in valid F-1 immigration status until the expiration date on your EAD card (Employment Authorization Document). You have a 60 day grace period after that date to extend your status, change your status, get a new I-20 to start a new program of study, request a release of your SEVIS record to a new school, or leave the country. Your SEVIS record will automatically become completed on the 61st day following the completion of your OPT.
Travel while on OPT
You may NOT travel outside the US while your 12-month OPT application is pending at the USCIS. You can travel while the 24-month STEM OPT application is pending. You may travel once you receive your EAD card. You will need the following in order to re-enter the US:
- Unexpired passport (unless passport exempt)
- Unexpired F-1 visa* (unless visa exempt)
- The back of your I-20 signed for travel (signed within the past six months)
- Your EAD card (or receipt)
- A letter from your employer stating you are currently employed (or a recently dated paycheck).
*If your visa has expired, you will need to present all the documents above (except #2 and include salary in #5) to the US Consulate/Embassy to obtain a new visa stamp. Please consult with a UC International Services advisor prior to traveling in such circumstances. Obtaining a new visa at this stage may be difficult.
Checking the Status of your OPT Application
To check the status of your application, please call 1-800-375-5283. You will need the receipt number which is printed on the back of your cancelled check (begins LIN-). You can also check the status of your application online at https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/Dashboard.do.
Approval of your OPT Card
When you receive your EAD card, you must provide UC International Services with a copy of the card. You should fill out an eForm at https://ibearcatsglobal.uc.edu for Update Immigration/Visa Documents. It can be found under the Biographical Information tab.
If you cannot access iBearcatsGlobal for some reason, you may email a copy of the card to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send it as a pdf attachment. You can fax, hand deliver or mail a copy to UC International Services at the following address:
UC International Services
47 W. Corry St.
Room 3134 Edwards Center ONE
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0640