Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization after completing their academic studies.
An F-1 student is eligible for Post-Completion OPT if:
- They are maintaining valid F-1 status at the time of application
- They have been lawfully enrolled in a university on a full-time basis for one full academic year
- They are physically present in the United States
- They intend to work or volunteer in a professional development opportunity directly related to their major field of study
OPT Filing Window
Students are able to file their OPT application up 90 days prior to their graduation date, and up to 60-days after their completion date. ISSS advises students to apply as early as possible, as the application submission itself is time-sensitive, and USCIS processing times are quite lengthy (minimum of 90 days).
Requesting Post-Completion OPT
To request Post-Completion OPT, please submit the following to firstname.lastname@example.org
- OPT workshop grades
- OPT Request Form
The first step in applying for OPT is to complete the online OPT Workshop. You must obtain a score of 100% on the quizzes in order to complete the workshop. Once completed, please be sure to print out your grades.
Next, you will need to meet with your academic advisor to fill out an OPT Request Form. On this form, your advisor will confirm your graduation date and recommend you for employment authorization. This form will also ask you to choose a start date for your requested OPT period. This date can be no earlier than your graduation date, and no later than 60 days following graduation.
Once your OPT Request is submitted, ISSS will then recommend you for OPT and provide you with an updated I-20 which will indicate that you are requesting OPT. Please allow 5-7 business days for processing. All requests are processed in the order they are received. Please plan accordingly.
Along with the I-20, you will receive a checklist with instructions on how to submit your OPT application to USCIS online.
Filing Your OPT Application Online
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that F-1 students seeking Post-Completion OPT can now file their I-765 Form online. Online filing allows applicants to submit application documents electronically, pay the filing fee online, and receive an immediate receipt notice upon filing. Online applicants are also able to check the status of their case online, receive notices from USCIS online instead of waiting for them in the mail, and respond to Requests for Evidence more quickly.
*Note: You must first consult with ISSS to obtain a new OPT I-20 BEFORE filing your OPT application online with USCIS. In addition, you should proceed with the online application process very carefully. The online system allows you to submit your application without all required evidence, which can lead to requests for evidence and additional difficulties. This means that you must be very careful to ensure that everything is included before submitting the online application. You must also be sure to submit your online application to USCIS no later than 30 days from the date your I-20 was issued, and prior to the end of your 60-day grace period following graduation.
Steps for Completing the I-765 Application Online
- Create your online USCIS account: https://myaccount.uscis.gov/
- Gather the following documents:
- Digital 2x2 color passport photo that meets USCIS specifications. Photo requirements can be found online at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/how-apply/photos.html
- Copy of your I-20 that includes an OPT recommendation (Please be sure to sign and date your new I-20 on page one before photocopying)
- Copy of passport photo page
- Copy of visa
- Your most recent form I-94 from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
- Copies of the front and back of any previous EAD cards (if applicable)
- Copies of any previous I-20s with CPT or OPT authorization (if applicable)
- A credit card to pay the online filing fee
3. File Form I-765 online
- Complete the “Getting Started” and “About You” sections (For post-completion OPT, please be sure to choose category C3B)
- Upload the documents listed above in the “Evidence” section
- Review and digitally sign your application
- Pay the application fee
- Submit your OPT application
USCIS will issue an online receipt notice as soon as you submit your OPT application packet. Please note that you must remain in the United States until a decision is made on your application. This usually takes about 90 days.
If your OPT application is approved by USCIS, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document in the mail. This card, which is also referred to as the OPT card, authorizes you to work in your field of study for the duration of the dates listed on the card.
In addition, SEVP will email you important account creation information regarding the SEVP Portal. The SEVP Portal is an important tool that allows students on OPT meet their legal reporting requirements in a convenient online portal.
Reporting Requirements While On OPT
Once you receive your OPT card, please scan a copy to email@example.com. ISSS will then issue an updated I-20 which will state that your OPT request was approved.
You are required to report any changes of address or employment within 10 days of the change. All reporting must be submitted via the SEVP Portal. Once your portal account is updated, you will need to email firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm these changes. ISSS will then issue an updated I-20, if necessary.
- OPT employment can be paid or unpaid; however, it must be related to your field of study and should require you to work for a minimum of 20 hours per week.
- You must not accumulate 90 days or more of unemployment, as SEVIS may terminate your record and you will have to leave the United States.
H-1B Cap-Gap Extension
The H-1B Cap-Gap Extension is available to students who are on approved OPT and have a pending or approved change-of-status for an H-1B. The Cap-Gap period falls between the end of a student’s F-1 OPT status and the beginning of their H-1B status. The cap gap extension allows for students on OPT to extend their employment authorization until they transition to the H-1B status on October 1st.
- Post-completion OPT is dependent upon employment. You should not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during Post-Completion OPT.
- If you would like to travel outside the United States after your OPT has been approved, you may do so. Prior to traveling, please check your I-20 to verify that your employment information is correct, and that you have a valid travel endorsement from a DSO. If you do not, you may make any employment changes in the SEVP Portal, and email email@example.com for an updated travel endorsement.
- If you decide not to mail your OPT application, or you decide to end your OPT period for any reason, you must notify ISSS by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Please keep in mind that ISSS cannot authorize CPT after post-completion OPT has been recommended. Thus, if there is any possibility for CPT in your last semester, please plan accordingly.
- Students are allowed to study part-time only while on OPT. If you receive an I-20 to start a new full-time program, your OPT will automatically terminate.