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F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment benefit for international F-1 visa students to work in the U.S in a job related to the student’s field of study. It is intended to enhance and supplement the formal, classroom education. United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) adjudicates and authorizes OPT.
Program completion date guidelines:
For students who are registered full or part time, and/or students who have Graduate Assistantship positions, the program completion date will automatically default to graduation/commencement date or the last day of classes in the semester of OPT application.
Graduate students who have completed all coursework except their thesis/dissertation, are administratively registered for 1 credit hour, and anticipate completing their degree in one academic year, may apply for post-completion OPT. These students may use their published defense date as the program end date.
The recommended employment start date must be after the student's program completion date and no later than the end of his/her 60 day grace period.
Post-completion Optional Practical Training may be taken during or after a course of study, provided that the following conditions are met:
- Students may apply for Post Completion OPT between 90 days prior to his or her program end date and 60 days after (during the grace period) his or her program end date. All initial OPT applications must be accepted by USCIS no later than 60 days after the student’s program end date. Any applications that reach USCIS after the 60th day will not be accepted.
- The student must complete all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent). Continued enrollment, for the school’s administrative purposes, after all requirements for the degree have been met does not preclude eligibility for optional practical training.
- Passport must be valid for at least six (6) months beyond requested OPT start date.
- The OPT application package should reach the responsible USCIS office within 30 days after the DSO enters the recommendation into SEVIS. We also suggest that you forward your OPT application to USCIS via certified mail (USPS. FedEx, DHL, UPS etc.)
Types of Employment
Students may work part-time (at least 20 hours per week when on post-completion OPT) or full-time.
- Multiple employers: Students may work for more than one employer, but all
employment must be related to the student’s degree program.
- Short-term multiple employers (performing artists): Students, such as musicians and other performing artists may work for multiple short-term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. If requested by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), students must be prepared to provide evidence showing a list of all gigs.
- Work for hire: This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
- Self-employed business owner: Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must work full-time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student’s degree program. A student who is self-employed (including performance majors with regular “gigs”) may be paid or unpaid.
- Employment through an agency: Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
- Unpaid employment: Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. These students must be able to provide evidence from the employer that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.
F-1 students on OPT may not remain unemployed for more than a total of 90 days out of a 12 month OPT period (or a
combined total of 150 days out of a 36 month OPT period with STEM extension).
The days of unemployment will start on the start date of your OPT card, or
the day the OPT is approved (whichever is later) if you are not employed. All
OPT employment must be in a job that is related to the student’s degree
Applying for OPT
Please note: You must allow for at least 15 business days (from the date we receive a complete and correct request) for your application to be reviewed and processed. You will be notified by email when your I-20 is ready for pick up.
Application Steps & Documentation
Collect the following the documents in the order listed below and bring them to your appointment with your International Student Adviser.
- A completed I-765 (this is a fillable PDF document; it is best if you fill it in and then print for legibility).
- Bring copies of all I-20 that have ever been issued to you.
- Bring copies of your passport bio page, visa page, and most recent admission stamp.
- Print and bring a copy of your I-94.
- A signed Statement of Intent.
- The recommended employment start date must be after the student's program completion date and no later than the end of his/her 60 day grace period.
- Please use your MIX e-mail address.
- An OPT recommendation letter on departmental letter head from your Academic Adviser or Department Chair. Please note: the departmental personnel authorized to provide OPT recommendation letters in the College of Engineering below.
You must submit two (2) identical color passport photos of yourself taken within
30 days of the filing of the OPT application. The photos must have a white
to off-white background, be printed on thin paper with a glossy fi
nish, and be unmounted and
touched. Please print your name on the back of the photos in pencil.
- $410 check or money order, made out to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
- The documents you submit will be examined and a new I-20 will be issued with the
recommendation recorded on page 2.
- You may NOT work after the end date on your new I-20 until you have received your Employment
Authorization Document (EAD) Card and the starting date has arrived.
- If you have made a mistake on the USCIS application (I-765) resulting in an error on your EAD, you will need to reapply with USCIS. Depending on when you filed for OPT, this may result in your inability to receive OPT benefits.
- Please allow at least 90 days for the EAD card to be mailed back to you. If you must move before you receive your card in the mail, you must immediately:
- Contact the USCIS office where you filed your application, using the customer service telephone number you will find on your receipt, and provide them with your new address. AND, update your address with ISSS here - Change of Address. Please note: The U.S. Postal Service will NOT forward your EAD card to your new address.
Faculty & Staff Authorized to Sign OPT Recommendations
- Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
Sarah Lowery - Office of Student Services (Room 141 ESB)
Instructions for Students Who Have Applied For or Have Been Granted OPT
IMPORTANT: Please remember that your obligation to strictly comply with the SEVIS rules DOES NOT STOP with the issuance of the OPT/ EAD card. In order for your SEVIS record to be kept up-to-date and your visa status valid throughout the OPT period, you must pay special attention to the following requirements:
- Provide our office with a legible copy of your EAD as soon as you have it.
- If you move to a new address, it is important that you complete and forward a new Change of Address Form to our office. This action must be taken within 10 days of moving to the new address.
- Once you begin working, you must complete the OPT Compliance Form within 10 days.
- If you need to travel outside of the U.S., you must be sure to obtain a travel signature from ISSS. A travel signature from our office is good for up to six months. Please contact our office at least a week in advance in case you need the signature re-validated.
- If you change visa status (e.g. F-1 to F-2), please provide ISSS with a copy of your approval notice.
- If you have completed your OPT and return to your home country, please complete the Exit Form.