If you are here on an F-1 visa (I-20), and you want to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) following your program of study you must apply BEFORE you complete your program and receive the authorization before you leave the country for any vacation time.
Since it can take anywhere from 2 to 6 months for the authorization approval to arrive from immigration, this means that you should apply 3 – 4 months before you complete your program.
If you do not apply for OPT you have 60 days from the day you COMPLETE your studies to do ONE of the following three things: (Once again, the day you complete your program is the day you finish all requirements for the degree, not the completion date on the I-20 or visa):
Leave the country,
Apply for a change to another immigration status, or
Obtain a new I-20 from a new school or a new UNM program and begin attendance in that program in the next possible semester.
NOTE: Please note that you cannot work on campus after completion of your program unless you have received OPT authorization from immigration. This 60-day deadline is final and non-negotiable. Please check the expiration date on your I-20. If your I-20 will expire this semester and you plan to continue studying at UNM you must apply for an extension.
Information about how to apply for practical training is here. Please read the handouts and then call 277-4032 to schedule an appointment.
Your I-20 cannot be signed once you have graduated unless you have applied for OPT. This means that you should not plan any short trips to Mexico or anywhere outside the US after completing your program unless you have either received OPT work authorization, you will return to your home country directly from the country you plan on visiting, or you will return to the US on a tourist visa from the country you plan on visiting.