Optional Practical Training

To be eligible for any of the Employment Options listed below, you must currently be on an F-1 visa and have studied at least nine months in the United States at a higher education institution on a valid non-immigrant visa (e.g., F, J, H, E, L, M)


 

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

Am I eligible for OPT?

When can I apply?

How do I apply for OPT?

Do I need a job offer in order to apply?

When can I start work under OPT?

What are the reporting requirements for students and employers while on OPT?

What are the requirements while on OPT?

Can I change employers if I have OPT?

Can I travel outside of the US if I have OPT?

Can I return to school after completing OPT?

If I have OPT for one year and return to school, could I have another year of OPT?


What is Optional Practical Training?
OPT is defined in the regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study". You need to apply for OPT through Intercultural and International Student Services. For an application to apply and for more information, please contact our office.

Am I eligible for OPT?

A person who has been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year is eligible for OPT. Eligible F-1 students may engage in optional training under any of the following conditions:

  • After completion of a course of study. OPT is approved for full-time employment only for a maximum of 12 months. The current 12-month limit on OPT will be extended by 17 months, for a total of 29 months for certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) degree holders ONLY. In order to qualify for the 17-month extension, you must be employed by an employer enrolled in E-Verify. Please see our office for details.
  • Before completion of studies if you are engaged in thesis or dissertation research; this is usually for graduate students.

    PLEASE NOTE: Application for OPT is 90 days before graduation or within the 60 day grace period after graduation. Please see our office for details.

    When can I apply?

    How do I apply for OPT?

    You need to apply for OPT through Intercultural and International Student Services. For an application to apply and more information please contact our office.

    Do I need a job offer in order to apply?

    You do not need a job offer to apply, but you are expected to work or be seeking employment in your field of study. It is advisable to obtain a job offer before submitting your request for OPT. It is difficult to recover all or part of a period of OPT once an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card has been issued.

    When can I start work under OPT?

    When you receive the EAD and the beginning date of employment authorization (shown on the EAD) has arrived. Please see sample.

    What are the reporting requirements for students and employers while on OPT?

    All students on OPT must report to Intercultural and International Student Services at CSB/SJU:

    • Any change in name or address
    • The name and address of their employer
    • Any change to the name and address of the employer
    • Any interruption of such employment

    What are the requirements while on OPT?

    Students on post-completion OPT may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment under the initial 12-month period of OPT. Students granted a 17-month OPT extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 120 days of unemployment during the total 29-month OPT period.

    Can I change employers if I have OPT?

    Yes. You may work for more than one employer and/or change employers as long as the work is related to your field of study and education level.

    Can I travel outside of the US if I have OPT?

    Yes, you may travel outside the USA and then be readmitted to resume your employment for the remainder of the period authorized on your EAD. Your I-20 must be endorsed within the preceding 6 months, you must have a valid F-1 visa, a valid passport or travel document and your EAD must be unexpired. It is also wise to carry a letter from your employer, confirming that you are working.

    Can I return to school after completing OPT?

    Yes. You will need a new I-20 for the next program of study, and complete the USCIS procedure for moving to a "new level of studies" or the procedure for school transfer. Please contact me for advice if necessary.

    If I have OPT for one year and return to school, could I have another year of OPT?

    Yes, but it must be a different degree level.


    OPT Procedure

    Required Documentation:

    • Complete OPT  Pre-Application Form.
    • New I-20 with endorsement by Director of Intercultural and International Student Services.
    • Form I-765.
    • A copy of your Form I-94, front and back, copy of previous I-20s.
    • Two “natural COLOR” photos.
    • A copy of your passport photo page, or your visa if it contains a photo of you. If your visa does not include a photo and you have a driver’s license with a photo, make a photo copy.
    • A copy of your previous EAD, if you have ever had one before. If you are applying for a renewal or replacement, check the box above Item 1 on the I-765 to indicate whether you are applying for “Replacement” or “Renewal of my permission to accept employment.”

    Reporting requirements while on OPT:

    • Please click here for reporting requirements while on OPT.

    Additional Information

    Application Fee: The cost of filling the I-765 is $380. Personal checks or money orders must be in the exact amount payable to US Department of Homeland Security. Personal checks are preferable to money orders, because they can more easily be traced in case of problems.

    Processing:

    • You can check the status of your OPT petition by typing your receipt number from your receipt (I-797c) in this link.
      If an EAD application has been in process for more than 90 days and no decision has been made, you may obtain work authorization by appearing in person at your local USCIS district office. You must bring proof of identity and any notices that you have received from USCIS in connection with your application for employment authorization. If you do not receive your EAD within 90 days of the date your Notice of Action gives as the “Received Date,” contact your Intercultural and International Student Services.

    You may apply for full-time OPT 90 days before completion of your course of study or within the 60 day grace period after graduation. Please remember there is a 12 month maximum timeframe except for STEM eligible students.