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Student Employment & Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training is off-campus paid employment or internships for F-1 students in their major or field of study. Off-campus work is only allowed under certain circumstances. Please check with the ISSO before engaging in any off-campus employment to make sure you have the proper work authorization in place.

International students are eligible for a total of 12 months of Optional Practical Training while at Smith, which can be used as:

Optional Practical Training can be granted in various increments of time. However, any OPT which is authorized prior to completion of studies will be deducted from the total 12-month allotment for Postcompletion Practical Training. This means that if you used precompletion OPT during the summer, those months will be deducted from the 12-month total.

You may apply for both types of practical training programs up to 90 days before end of classes or graduation. You can apply for postgraduate OPT up to 60 days after graduation.

Precompletion Practical Training

This is used rarely, but would be during the annual summer vacation, provided you intend to continue your full-time studies the following semester. This is for students in their first year, sophomore and junior class standings. Generally at Smith, we utilize CPT instead, since it's faster and less costly.

You must have a job offer at the time of application.

Postcompletion Practical Training

This is available after completion of your studies, for an authorization period of up to one year. This is for seniors, AMS students and graduate students who are completing their degree.

No job offer is necessary at the time of application.

Additional STEM Extension

Students majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields may apply for an additional 17-month extension during their initial period of postcompletion OPT if they have a new job or an extended contract.

Instructions for STEM Extension

The procedure for applying for STEM extension is similar to the original application of OPT. STEM extension must be received by USCIS before your current OPT expires. You may continue to work up to 180 days while waiting for your new STEM-approved EAD card.

If your current employer is going to extend you, they must be an E-Verify company (check with their Human Resources Office for the E-Verify number) and should give you a new letter of employment which says they are extending your employment until a particular date. If you are going to work for a different employer, then you will need a letter of employment and their E-Verify number so that you can complete the application.

First Step

Use OPT Form I-765, and fill out the additional information requested in item 17, with the E-Verify number of your employer. Send it to the Office for International Students & Scholars with a new letter of employment or extension of the same job with the same employer. We will then issue you a new I-20.

Required Documents

  • $380 check, made out to US Department of Homeland Security
  • Two passport size color photos (2x2 inches)
    • Tip: LIGHTLY write your name and I-94 number on the back in pencil. Just make sure it doesn't indent the front of your photo!
  • Form I-765 (PDF)
    • Check off "Renewal of my permission to accept employment"
    • Question 11: Check "Yes"; USCIS office: "Vermont Service Center"; Dates: Your dates of authorization on your EAD; Results: Hopefully "Granted"!
    • Question 16: For STEM extension: (c)(3)(C)
    • Question 17: Your employer's E-Verify number should come from their Human Resources or Legal office.
  • Copy of signed new STEM I-20 (use blue ink)
  • Copy of current passport photo page
  • Copy of F-1 entry visa page from passport
  • Copy of most recent I-94 (can be printed online!)
  • Copy of current and all previous EAD cards
  • Copy of your Smith transcript showing the STEM major
  • Letter from your employer, indicating new dates of employment

Please be sure to attach all papers and forms by a single paperclip to the I-765, which should be on top. Make copies of all documents you submit for travel purposes.

Mail everything to:

Express Mail (any courier service requiring a signature):

USCIS ATTN: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy
121 Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

Regular Mail

USCIS
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

You will be notified once your petition has been approved (six to eight weeks) by USCIS. They will send an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card directly to your mailing address. Once you have your receipt number from USCIS, you can check the status of your case here.

Reporting Responsibilities

You have reporting responsibilities once you have received your new STEM card and are working in a STEM field.

Important: You must validate your employment every six months from the start date of STEM OPT and until the end of the 17-month STEM extension. Please report the date you started working, as well as the name and address of current employer and your current and residential address to the International Students & Scholars Office. We are required by SEVIS to update your record; failure to report will terminate your OPT STEM status.

Please notify the Office for International Students & Scholars, at interstu@smith.edu or through our OPT Google Form, within 10 days of any change of the following:

  • Legal name change
  • Residential or mailing address change
  • Employer name change
  • Employer address change
  • Loss of employment

How to Apply - Make an appointment at ISSO & bring:

You cannot begin to work under an OPT program until you receive the EAD card AND you are within your authorization dates. Once you have been approved for postcompletion OPT, you have 90 days from the start date of your OPT to find a job or find a volunteer position in your field, otherwise your OPT will be cancelled. It is your duty to report your new employer and your most current address to USCIS. Please send us the information and we will update your SEVIS record.

We recommend that you do not leave the United States after graduation, unless you have received the EAD card, have found a job and have a letter employment.

Once you have started working, if you wish to travel outside the United States we will endorse your I-20. Please send your most recent Smith I-20 and a copy of the EAD card to our office for endorsement. We will sign and return the I-20 to you for travel. Remember, you are still under Smith College F-1 visa during your OPT.

Updating Employer and Address Information

In order to maintain your F-1 visa status while completing an OPT program, you must report any employer and/or address changes to the Office for International Students & Scholars within 10 days of the change or move by completing the Employer/Address Update Form.