Work Authorization For F-1 Students

During Study

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) CO-OP

CPT is a work authorization that allows students who are eligible to work off-campus or increase the number of hours they are working on campus to more than 20 hours per week if the job is directly related to the student’s major. (Students in F-1 status must have completed two academic semesters as a full-time student to be eligible.)  It is available only while students are enrolled in an academic program. Most students do CPT via CO-OP option.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Non CO-OP

If you have required employment built into your degree program, such as an internship or practicum listed in the course catalog, you should choose the Non CO-OP option.

After Study

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training ("OPT") is work authorization that allows students to work anywhere in the U.S. in a job related to their majors for 12 months. OPT is available either during or immediately following completion of studies. However, because UNM offers CPT which allows the same part-time work benefits as "Pre-completion OPT," UNM generally only offers full-time "Post-completion OPT," which students become eligible for once they have completed all the coursework for their program. (Graduate students who have not completed their theses or dissertations are still eligible once they have completed all coursework as graduation is not a requirement.)

Students interested in OPT should apply approximately 3 months before completing their program as it will take USCIS 3 to 4 months to process applications before OPT work authorization is granted.

To apply, students should read all OPT materials first, complete the necessary forms, and then schedule an OPT appointment with a GEO advisor to complete the application process.This appointment will usually take 2 hours as a GEO advisor will explain OPT rules, help students assemble their applications and answer questions before issuing the required I-20 with OPT recommendation. Students should watch the OPT Instructional Tutorial and access the Optional Practical Training Handout for necessary forms and information.

Please note: If students experience problems with the government website for the I-765 application form, it may be because of the web browser they are using and should try using an alternate browser.

Optional Practical Training STEM Extension (STEM OPT)

A STEM OPT extension is a 24 month extension of a student's OPT work authorizaton. It is available to students who are currently authorized for Post-completion OPT employment based on completion of a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD degree in a qualifying Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) field, as defined by DHS (see STEM OPT handout for list of qualifying STEM majors). In addition, a student must also be working full-time for an E-verified employer at the time of application.

Students interested in a STEM OPT extension should apply approximately 3 months before their OPT expiration date. USCIS must receive a STEM OPT application before a student's OPT EAD expires.

To apply, students should read all STEM OPT extension materials first, complete the necessary forms, and then schedule a STEM OPT extension appointment with a GEO advisor to complete the application process.This appointment will usually take 1 hour as a GEO advisor will explain STEM OPT extension rules, help students assemble their applications and answer questions before issuing the required I-20 with STEM OPT extension recommendation. Students should watch the STEM OPT Extension Instructional Tutorial  and access the 24-month STEM OPT handout for necessary forms and information. Employers will also need to complete an I-983 Training Plan and provide their E-verify number before GEO can issue the necessary I-20 with STEM OPT extension recommendation. 

Please note: If students experience problems with the government website for the I-765 application form, it may be because of the web browser they are using and should try using an alternate browser.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Frequently Asked Questions

Am I eligible for CPT during my first semester at UNM?

No. CPT requires that you are enrolled for at least two semesters for students in F1 status prior to applying.

Is there a minimum amount of credit hours I need to take to be elligable for CPT?

Students must always meet the enrollment requirements to maintain their immigration status, regardless of CPT. During summer vacation, it is not necessary to be enrolled to work on CPT.

Is it too late to apply for CPT if it is already the middle of the semester?

No, it is never too late; students can apply for CPT at any time. However, the start date of the CPT authorization can not be in the past. Also, students must enroll in a 0 credit Coop course to apply for CPT, and if the course registration deadline has passed, they will have to pay a $75 late registration fee.

How long does it take for my CPT application to be processed? How long will it take to get my new I-20?

The most time-consuming part of the CPT application process is students filling out the application, collecting the many required signatures and enrolling in the corresponding Coop course. Once they have completed the process and submitted the application form to GEO, the new I-20 usually takes one to three days.

Can I apply for CPT for only a month or even shorter?

Yes, there is no minimum time period for CPT authorization.

Can I have multiple CPT jobs? And can I thusly work 40 hours?

Yes, so long as all jobs combined do not exceed the maximum total number of hours per week allowed.

If students meet the CPT eligibility requirements for both positions, then it may be possible to work 40 hours per week, but only during the Spring and Fall semesters.

Can I work on CPT in the Summer if I am not taking classes?

Yes, summer CPT authorization does not require summer enrollment.

Can I work an online job with CPT?

Yes, so long as the employer is in the U.S. and the student and job meet the CPT eligibility requirements.

Is out-of-state CPT allowed?

Yes, if a student and the position meet the CPT eligibility requirements, then students may work anywhere in the United States on CPT. However, they must be also meet in-person enrollment requirements if it is during the Spring or Fall semesters, so this may not be feasible.

How many hours of full-time CPT can I do without hindering my chance for OPT?

In order to meet eligibility requirements for OPT, students can not have worked a total of 12 months or more full-time on CPT.

 

Part-time CPT never "adds up" to full-time, so feel free to work part-time as many times as needed.

If I work full-time CPT during summer, does that count towards the 12-month limit for OPT?

Yes, all time worked full-time on CPT counts towards the 12 month limit for OPT.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make an OPT appointment?

In-person, virtual or phone OPT appointments can be made with an advisor by calling the front desk at GEO at 505-277-4032 between the hours of 8:00 AM-5:00 PM (MST).

How long does it take for my OPT update to be processed and for me to recieve my new I-20?

From the time that a student updates their SEVP portal account, it takes approximately 2 weeks for them to receive an updated I-20 from GEO.

I graduated more than 2 months ago. Can I still apply for OPT?

No, students are eligible to apply for OPT only up until 60 days after their graduation date. (Please be aware that USCIS must receive the application by that date, not that students have until that date to send the application.) 

Can I enroll in an academic program on OPT?

No, students on OPT may not be enrolled in a degree program or attend school full-time. Once a student starts another academic program, their OPT will be terminated. However, students on OPT may attend school part-time in non-degree seeking status.

How do I update my OPT information?

Once students have been approved for OPT, on or around their OPT start date they will receive a message from SEVP to create an SEVP portal account. All OPT information is updated by the student through their SEVP portal.This portal allows students on OPT to make changes to their personal information as well as to their employment information. When a student updates their SEVP portal account, that new information is sent to GEO and a new updated I-20 is issued for the student within approximately two weeks.

If my position title changes with the same company do I need to report any changes?

If there are any changes to your employment, including position titles, it is important to report those changes through your SEVP portal if you are on OPT, or by emailing iadvisor@unm.edu if you are on a STEM extension.

How do I update my employment status from "paid employee" to "volunteer"?

During a student’s OPT year, they must create and maintain an SEVP portal account. They self-report all personal and employment information directly through their portal, including type of employment (“paid” or “volunteer”). If there a change in employer, GEO will issue an updated I-20 to the student.

Does volunteer work stop my unemployment clock for OPT?

Yes. If you have secured a volunteer position for OPT, you can report that position as unpaid employment in order to stop your unemployment clock.

Can I take-up other odd jobs for extra income while on OPT?

While on OPT, students can have multiple employers, so long as all employment is directly related to their major/s and they report those employers in their SEVP portal. A student’s I-20 should accurately reflect all of the employment they are engaged in, including volunteer work. If an employer does not appear on a student’s I-20, it is not authorized.

How long can I stay in the US after my OPT ends?

Students have a 60 day grace period after their OPT expires during which they can lawfully remain in the U.S.

If I am on OPT, when is a good time to apply for STEM OPT?

Students on OPT may apply for a STEM extension during the last 90 days of their OPT year. The earliest they may apply is 90 days before their OPT expiration date. The last date that USCIS may receive a STEM extension application is on the expiration date of a student’s OPT. Students who are no longer on OPT are not eligible to apply.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) OPT Extension Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if I am eligible for a STEM extension of my OPT?

Students with degrees in qualifying STEM fields who meet the eligibility requirements may apply for a two-year extension of their OPT. The degree program on which the STEM OPT application is based must have a qualifying CIP code to be eligible for the extension. Codes may be found at: https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2016/stem-list.pdf or on your I-20 under “Major I.” In order to be eligible, the student also must be employed at the time of STEM application with an employer who meets these 3 criteria:

  1. The employment is directly related to the student’s STEM major,
  2. The employer is E-verified and provides their E-verify number to GEO,
  3. The employer and student have completed and signed an I-983 Training Plan and submitted it to GEO.

I have changed my STEM OPT employer. What is the procedure for updating this?

In order to add a new employer on a STEM extension, the new employer must meet these three criteria:

  1. The employment is directly related to the student’s STEM major,
  2. The employer is E-verified and provides their E-verify number to GEO,
  3. The employer and student have completed and signed an I-983 Training Plan and submitted it to GEO.

Once GEO has received these items, the employer will be added to the student’s I-20. If the student has stopped working for a prior employer, they must submit a “Final Evaluation” found on page 5 if the I-985 Training Plan and notify GEO of their employment end date.

if my position title changes with the same company do I need to report any changes?

Yes, the I-985 Training Plan should be amended reflecting the position title update and resubmitted to GEO. This, however, will not generate a new I-20.

Can I work multiple jobs with different employers?

For STEM OPT, students can have multiple employers, so long as they meet these three criteria:

  1. The employment is directly related to the student’s STEM major,
  2. The employer is E-verified and provides their E-verify number to GEO,
  3. The employer and student have completed and signed an I-983 Training Plan and submitted it to GEO.