OPT Information For F-1 Students
Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study.
OPT - Overview
Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides F-1 students with an opportunity for hands-on work experience related to the academic field of study. There are 3 types of OPT.
OPT authorization that begins after completion of your academic program is called “post-completion” OPT. This is the most common type of OPT.
– You must apply for OPT based on your last semester. You must apply for graduation prior submitting your OPT application. If you are not able to complete your program as expected, contact your advisor at firstname.lastname@example.org
OPT that begins and ends while you are still enrolled in your course of study, before your program end date, is called “pre-completion” OPT. Pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 months of OPT eligibility, and most students prefer to save OPT for after program completion. You may start the OPT application process up to 90 days before your requested employment start date. For more information and instructions, please make an appointment with an international student advisor.
STEM OPT Extension
Students in their 12-month OPT authorization period, with a qualifying STEM degree and working for an E-Verify registered employer, may apply for an extension of their OPT.
If you are interested in applying for a STEM OPT extension, please read and follow the instruction here.
Eligibility for OPT
- You have maintained F-1 status.
- You have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year (two semesters).
- You have not exceeded 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
- You have not previously completed 12 months of OPT at the same degree level.
OPT Post completion - When to apply?
- You can request your I-20 from ISS as early as 90 days before program completion and as late as 40 days after you’ve completed your program. The sooner you apply, the more flexibility you have with a start date that best fits your case.
- It takes USCIS 90 – 150 days to process your OPT application-therefore applying early is recommended
- It takes ISSO about 10-15 business days to process your OPT I20 request most of the academic year.
Steps to Apply
You cannot apply for OPT with USCIS without asking ISSO for an OPT I-20.
Please follow the Post-Completion OPT Application Process here
After Submitting Application to USCIS
- If you are applying for Post-Completion OPT, once you get your receipt notice,check your USCIS case status online using your I-797 receipt number at uscis.gov or through your USCIS Online Account.
- Your approval notice and EAD (OPT card) should arrive within 90-120. Often processing times reach or exceed 90 days, so we recommend applying as early as possible. Please visit USCIS Processing Times website for the most up-to-date processing times for OPT/STEM applications.
- If you have an OPT/STEM application that has been pending for longer than the normal processing time, it is advisable to contact USCIS and submit a case inquiry on the USCIS website. You can also seek assistance by reaching out to the USCIS Contact Center. Additionally, you can find instructions on how to submit a case Assistance here (Read the requirements instruction carefully)
- The ISSO does not recommend traveling between the completion date and the approval of the OPT application.
RFEs, Returned, or Denied Applications
If you receive a “Request for Evidence” (RFE), returned application, or denied application, contact ISS immediately. It may be necessary for ISS to provide a new I-20 before you can respond to the USCIS inquiry or resubmit your OPT application.
Congratulations! Your Post-Completion OPT is approved. Now what?
F-1 students on APPROVED POST OPT are required to report their employment information and any changes in their personal information and employment information, on the SEVP Portal within 10 days from the day of the change(s).
On your EAD card, your unemployment period begins after your OPT start date. You have a total of 90 days of unemployment throughout your post-completion OPT.
If you exhaust all of your unemployment days, you will be considered out of status. There is no additional grace period, and it is recommended to leave the U.S. before your unemployment period ends.
- Set up your SEVP Portal. You will get an invitation via email on your OPT start date (You will receive an error message if you try to log in to report earlier than your start )
To login you must create an account and set a password.
- You can visit the SEVP Portal OPT Reporting page for more
- Check frequently the websites below to learn more about maintaining your F-1 status while on Post-completion OPT and the reporting employment requirements:
more information about OPT.
- Keep your EAD in a safe place.
- Please email ISS a copy of your EAD.
- Read all the information on this page including FAQ.
Can I Apply for Post-Completion OPT while outside the US?
No, you must be in the US in order to be able to apply for OPT.
Can I submit my OPT application by mail and through the USCIS Online tool?
No, please do not submit two OPT applications, this could result in a denial of your application.
What is my immigration status while my OPT is pending?
You are still an F-1 Student while your OPT application is pending. OPT is a benefit of F-1 status, it is not a new visa type or status.
When do my 90 days of unemployment begin?
Your 90 days of unemployment begin counting on the approved OPT start date.
What does the program end date on my I-20 mean?
The program end date marks the end of study and the transition to the OPT phase of F-1 status.
You must stop working after the I-20 program end date if you are employed on-campus.
Will I need a travel signature even while on OPT?
Yes, The travel signature is valid for six months (not one year) during OPT.
Do I need to worry about USCIS processing my OPT application within the 60-day grace period?
You may legally stay in the U.S. as long as your OPT application is pending with USCIS.
The 60-day departure deadline/grace period after graduation is not applicable to students with pending OPT applications with USCIS. (The 60-day grace period moves to the end of the OPT year as long as you do not exceed the allowed unemployment days). However, your application for post-completion OPT must be received by USCIS by the end of the grace period – be sure to apply early so that you have plenty of time to resolve potential errors.
Can I apply for jobs before I have OPT approval?
You can apply for jobs and accept job offers, but you cannot begin the actual OPT activity until you have your OPT approval/EAD card.
What are the reporting requirements while on post-completion OPT?
F-1 students on APPROVED POST OPT are required to report their employment information and any changes in their personal information, employment information, and employment relation to the major area of study on both SEVP Portal within 10 days from the day of the change(s). Your unemployment days start after your OPT start date on your EAD card. You get a total of 90 days of unemployment for the duration of post-completion OPT.
Set up your SEVP Portal.
You can visit the SEVP Portal OPT Reporting page for more information.
What happens if students violate the OPT 90 days unemployment rule?
Exceeding the OPT 90 days unemployment means that you are not in compliance with the 90 days OPT unemployment rule. This can result in serious immigration consequences such as losing your immigration status, becoming ineligible for other employment-based immigration categories, and being denied visa applications in the future.
Do I need to update ISSO when I make edits or changes in the SEVP Portal?
No, you do not need to update ISSO after you make changes in the SEVP Portal. Keep in mind that you must report a change of address, contact information, and employer information within 10 days of the change.
If I update my employment information on SEVP, do I need to request a new I-20 every time?
No, you generally do not need to request a new I-20 every time you update your employment information on SEVP. However, if you need an updated I-20 for travel or for a change of status application, you should submit a request for an updated I-20 with a travel endorsement on the ISSO Virtual Assistance page. It’s important to note that travel signatures while on OPT/STEM OPT are valid for 6 months.
Can I travel outside of the US while my OPT application is being processed by USCIS?
You may travel abroad while your OPT application is being processed. However, USCIS does not recommend it due to the risks that may be associated with it:
- USCIS sometimes returns, denies, or sends a request for more information regarding OPT applications. These requests are sent by postal mail, so it might be difficult for you to respond if you are not inside the U.S. It is your application, so ISS does not have the authority to respond for you.
After your OPT application is approved, you must also have proof of employment and your EAD in order to reenter the U.S. If the OPT application is approved while you are abroad, and if you do not yet have proof of employment or your EAD, this could jeopardize your return to the U.S.When travelling, be sure to have a valid passport, F-1 visa stamp, I-20 signed by an International Student Advisor, unexpired EAD card and an employer verification letter which should include your job title, job description, the start and end dates of your job.
Please review all travel and re-entry information on the main Travel and Re-Entry page.
What should I do if I never received my approved Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card?
There are several options you can consider:
- If more than 30 business days have passed since your package was delivered to USCIS or since USCIS cashed your filing fee check(s) but you have not received a receipt notice, you may email the USCIS Lockbox at email@example.com. See our When to Contact a USCIS Lockbox Tip Sheetfor more information.
- Contact USCIS: Reach out to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to inquire about the status of your EAD card. You can contact them through their customer service line or by submitting an e-Request-. Provide them with your receipt number or any other relevant information to help locate your case.
- Case Inquiry with USCIS: Submit a case inquiry with USCIS through the USCIS website or by calling their customer service line the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283. They will investigate the matter and provide you with an update on the status of your EAD card.
- Resubmit Form I-765: If a considerable amount of time has passed and you have not received your EAD card, you may consider resubmitting Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) with USCIS. Include all necessary supporting documents and fees. Contact your advisor in our office and make an appointment via our main webpage.
- Remember to keep copies of any correspondence, receipts, or documents related to your EAD application for future reference. It’s crucial to address this issue promptly to avoid any negative impacts on your ability to work legally in the United States.