What is the Difference Between OPT Visa and I-20?

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We received this question about OPT Visa, F1 Visa, and the Form I-20. OPT Stands for Optional Practical Training, it’s a 12-month work authorization that is available for international students completing academic programs in the U.S.

You will get 1 OPT period per degree level you earn.

If you do MBA and MS, you can get only one OPT period since both degrees is at the masters’ levels. An OPT card is also called as an EAD Card.

When you I’m in OPT what will be the Visa status? Will I-20 still be valid and how to use OPT Card?

OPT Visa

There is no status called OPT Visa. You will still be in a student F1 visa but in OPT status. Students have to apply for OPT before graduation.

Students are allowed to work only after an OPT is approved and they have received an OPT card on hand.

Your I-20 will say you are in an OPT period. When OPT rules were changed, where a student working in OPT for a company enrolled in E-Verify, he can apply for the additional 17 months OPT extension.

No student can be unemployed in OPT period for over 90 days during his or her first 12 months OPT employment period. If you apply for the STEM OPT, you have a total of 150 days of unemployment.

Make sure you understand the rules about OPT and the related unemployment period. This way, you can take the necessary steps to stay in legal status.

If you go out of legal status, you will run into lots of problems with the immigration department.

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14 Comments

  1. kapata on May 22, 2012 at 10:06 PM

    I applied for OPT but did not get an OPT I-20 within 30 days prior I submitted my application,now my sevis has been released to the next school I am planning to go and USCIS is requesting the OPT I-20. what can i do?



  2. Anu on May 3, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    Hi,
    I completed my Master of science in Scranton USA and I have a OPT extension valid till October 2012 but I left USA and came to UAE 8 months ago. I am now interested to get back to USA on work visa. Could you please tell me if my OPT is still valid or do I need a new H1b sponsorship.
    Your suggestions are highly appreciated.
    Thank you



  3. nisha on January 16, 2011 at 7:57 PM

    i got my i-20 it say's like this

    5. the student is expected to report to the school no later than 01/03/2011 and complete studies not later than 06/04/2012. the normal length of study is 24 months

    my program is one year film editing program

    please advice me is this information provide in i-20 is correct



  4. swetha on July 19, 2010 at 9:01 AM

    hey If my opt expires in feb or march 4th 2011 (added along with 17 months extension ) . . Can i still apply for h1 b for that april 2011 ?



  5. Jay on July 14, 2010 at 3:41 PM

    Hi, I'm studying in a community college, but I already have an RN license, So can I apply for OPT without graduating from my community college?



  6. Anna on May 31, 2010 at 3:45 AM

    Hi! I have a question – My OPT started April 12th, but then I had to wait for my social security as I was told I cannot legally work without it. Today is May 31st, and I still haven't found a paying job, but I got a few unpaid internship offers. Would an internship count for a job? Also, do I need to inform the Immigration department of my work status, and if so, then how. Thank you very much for all your help, I learned a lot from reading your blog!



  7. rithika on March 24, 2010 at 6:55 PM

    Hi

    I had completed my masters and now i am in opt period and my opt getting expired by may 1.Can I register for summer at university can you please let me know…….



    • HSB on March 24, 2010 at 7:27 PM

      Yes, you can enroll for summer and get back to F1 status.



  8. kavitha on March 15, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    Hi,

    I'm student on H4 visa doing my 1st quarter in my grad school.

    To get CPT and OPT how many months I should stay in F1 visa status. My course would take 27months to finish. While searching through internet some says 9months one has to be in f1 status to get CPT and then you could get OPT and if one has OPT only then they can get H1b sponsors. someone else says: As grad school program needs immediate training its not necessary to be in CPT so by the time one apply for OPT one as to be in F1 status and not necessarily stay 9 months in F1 status.



    • HSB on March 15, 2010 at 6:45 PM

      You have to check with with your school international office and their policy on CPT ( number of credit and semesters).



  9. Suchitra on February 25, 2010 at 10:23 AM

    Hi ,

    I have received I-20 for Work and study program for MBA , please let me know how can I explain n answer to visa officer about my program during visa .Please help

    Suchitra



    • VARUN on July 2, 2010 at 9:28 AM

      hi this is varun here ,,, from bangalore,,, even im planning to do my ms for this jan, in usa ,,,, and regarding the visa wat i heard was… to be frank …. and if ur luck is good he will be too friendly,,, also he will ask u as to u hav any plans of setlling dwn there,,, so ur reply wud be " rit nw no such ideas ,, tel u have ur parents here and so u wana come back ,,, nd ul also be asked as to y u selcted tht clg,,, and few regarding ur SOP ,,,, with wat i have heard frm my seniors i hav tld u….. do well all the best:-)



  10. ash on February 25, 2010 at 12:39 AM

    Official OPT Policy Guidance (.pdf, 36 pages)

    http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/opt_policy_guidance_04062009.pdf



  11. ash on February 24, 2010 at 8:34 PM

    >Student cannot be unemployed in OPT period over 60 days during >first 12 months OPT Employment period.
    Correction. You are allowed 90 days of unemployment on OPT, and 10 days of unemployment between jobs which are not counted towards the 90 days.



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