Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is off-campus employment authorization in a student’s field of study for twelve months after completion of the academic program.
Students in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) majors may also be eligible for an additional 24-month extension of OPT. For more information on the 24-month STEM Extension and application procedures, please see our STEM Extension page.
- The student must be in valid F-1 status at the time of application and have been in full-time status for one academic year preceding the application.
- The student must be in the final semester of their academic program (unless applying for pre-completion OPT).
- The student must have no holds on their student record and no balance owed to the university.
- The student must have attended an OPT workshop within the last year.
- The student must not have been approved for OPT for the same or higher education level previously.
- The student must not have completed 12 months of full-time CPT.
- Students in the STEM fields who wish to apply for the 24-month OPT extension have
additional eligibility requirements. For more information on the 24-month STEM Extension
and application procedures, please see our STEM Extension page.
When to ApplyThe earliest you can apply is 90 days before completion of studies and the latest you can apply is 60 days after completion of studies. The ISSSO strongly recommends you apply three months prior to your requested start date to ensure timely processing of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You do NOT have to have a job offer in order to apply for OPT.
OPT Application Process
- Attend an OPT workshop provided by the International Student and Scholar Services Office. Workshops are offered approximately 90 days prior to the end of each semester. You can sign up here. If you cannot attend a workshop, contact an ISSSO advisor for information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Submit the OPT Request in iStart with your preferred employment start date and receive an I-20 with an OPT recommendation on the second page. Please note that part of the OPT Request is a mandatory quiz on important OPT rules and information. We highly recommend that you attend the workshop prior to attempting the quiz.
- Prepare your application. To e-file using the online application, you will need:
- Completed USCIS online Form I-765. For tips on completing the I-765, click here.
- Passport-style photo. NOTE: Photos must meet U.S. Department of State specifications.
- I-94 showing F-1 status. In most cases, students can retrieve their I-94 from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94. Students who received a change of status to F-1 from within the U.S. should use the I-94 attached to their I-797A Approval Notice.
- Photocopy of previous EAD cards (if applicable).
- Photocopy of passport biographical information page.
- Photocopy of F-1 Visa or Change of Status I-797 receipt if you changed status to F-1 inside the U.S.
- Photocopy of I-20s issued for CPT or previous OPT (if any).
- Payment for the appropriate application fee. Students pay with a card or bank account information at the end of the online form.
- Optional: Meet with an advisor to review your application. Appointments can be scheduled here.
- Submit all application materials including the new signed I-20 with OPT recommendation to USCIS.
Processing Times and Application Status
If you e-file your application, you will receive a receipt number and an electronic copy of your receipt notice in your USCIS account soon after filing. Approximately two weeks after submitting your application, you should receive a paper notice (I-797 Notice of Action) by post mail. This is informing you that USCIS has received your application for processing. Keep these documents. Also take notice of the receipt number located on the upper left hand side of the document. You can use your receipt number to track your case status online.
Once received by USCIS, processing time is approximately 3 months. You can check the status of your case online at the USCIS website.
If USCIS reviews your application and needs additional documents, they will send you a Request for Evidence (RFE). If you receive an RFE, email the ISSSO at email@example.com for advisement.
If it is more than 90 days past the receipt date on your I-797 with no adjudication of your application by USCIS, consult an ISSSO advisor.
Please note that your OPT application cannot be expedited. Students may not begin working without receiving the official EAD Card by mail.
Driver's License and Renewal on OPTPlease note that after your I-20 ends (your graduation date) you can not renew your driver’s license until you have an approved OPT, have received the EAD card, and the EAD start date has passed, unless you are eligible for the one-time extension based on a pending USCIS case. Please be aware that you may have a gap where you are not able to drive after graduation. Please plan in advance. If your I-20 is in need of program shortening, you may want to consider renewing your driver's license first if possible.
Reporting OPT Employment
If you are currently on Post-Completion OPT or the OPT STEM Extension, you are required to report employment and changes in employment within 10 days. Failure to comply with this requirement puts your current and future immigration status at risk. Reporting involves two steps:
Student Responsibilities While on OPT
- You may NOT work until your work start date has passed and you have your EAD card in hand!
- You must be employed no later than 90 days from your work start date (the date on your EAD/OPT card) and report the position on the SEVP Portal and/or in iStart.
- The work must be at least 20.5 hours per week.
- If you cannot find employment, then you must begin volunteer work in your field and the information and a letter from the volunteer site must be presented to the ISSSO. Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns as their primary OPT job. You must be able to provide evidence from the volunteer site that the student is working at least 20.5 hours per week during the period of OPT. Volunteer work generally is not a regularly paid position minus the pay.
- Make sure the ISSSO has a copy of your EAD card and offer letters.
- Total unemployment within 12 months cannot exceed 90 days.
- Document all unemployment activities, interviews, denials, additional testing time or trainings.
- Report to the ISSSO if any of the following occur: (1) Legal name change or marriage (2) address change (3) change in employer (4) loss of employment/less than FT work (5) change of status (6) change in email or phone number
- VERY IMPORTANT!!! While on OPT, students are still under the maintenance of the university and the international office until the OPT end date or change of status occurs. Failure to comply with F-1 regulations, failure to provide updated information or report information as mandated, or failure to respond to university correspondence will result in termination of status and all work must cease.
- You must take caution when traveling and plan accordingly! Do not travel abroad until you have your EAD card and you have secured employment.
- In order to apply for a STEM extension if eligible, your company needs to be E-verified, have a federal EIN number, and be willing to complete an I-983 Training Plan.
Traveling on OPT
CAUTION! You are not advised to travel outside the U.S. on OPT unless you have an approved OPT application, you have received your EAD card AND have secured employment.
If you plan to travel while on OPT (after you graduate) you will need the following:
- Valid visa
- Valid Passport
- I-20 (must be signed for travel by a DSO in the ISSSO within 6 months)
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD card)
- Letter from your employer authorizing you to travel and verifying you will work there
before and after travel. The company letter should:
- Be on company letterhead (includes name of company, address, and phone number)
- Be signed by the employee’s supervisor
- Use the name of the student as presented on the EAD card/I-20 or passport
- Provide the travel dates, employee’s position title, and expected date of return to employment or start date of employment.