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International Student & Scholar Services

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training for F-1 students is intended to provide hands-on practical work experience complementary to the academic program. An F-1 student is eligible for a maximum of 12 months. However, if a student begins a new academic program at a higher level (e.g., master’s after bachelor’s degree, or Ph.D. after master’s), the student is eligible for another 12 months of OPT.

Eligibility Requirements
Types of OPT
Reporting Requirements While on OPT
Limited Periods of Unemployment to Maintain Status
OPT Filing Window
Selecting OPT Dates
Duration of Employment Authorization
Application Process
After Applying
Travel Information
H-1B Cap-Gap Extension of Duration of Status (D/S) and OPT Work Authorization until October 1
Special Notes about your OPT

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for Optional Practical Training, you must:

  • have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year;
  • currently be maintaining a full-time program of study and valid F-1 status; and
  • work in a job directly related to your major field of study.

Please note that students in English language training programs are not eligible for practical training. If you are uncertain whether you meet the eligibility requirements, please meet with an ISSS (International Student and Scholar Services) adviser.

Types of OPT

OPT is available in the following cases:

  • part time or full time during the student’s annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session, if the student intends to register for the following semester
  • part time while school is in session
  • part time or full time after completion of graduate course work requirements excluding a thesis or dissertation
  • full time after completion of the course of study

Reporting Requirements While on OPT

Students on OPT are required to report to ISSS any change of name or address, or any interruption of such employment within 10 days. Such reporting should be done using the OPT Reporting form.

Limited Periods of Unemployment to Maintain Status

During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT carried out under the post-completion OPT authorization.

OPT Filing Window

A student will be able to file the OPT application up to 90 days before the degree completion date and up to 60 days after the degree completion date. However, the OPT application must be submitted to the USCIS within 30 days of the date on which ISSS issues an OPT I-20.

Selecting OPT Dates

Pre-Completion: List the dates you actually intend to work. Your start date should be the earliest date that you could possibly begin work. Your end date should be the latest day that you could possibly work.

Post-Completion: If you are applying for post-completion OPT, you are given a 60-day grace period following the completion date of your studies. Therefore, for post-completion OPT, the beginning date must be within the 60-day grace period. For Ph.D. Students: You may request your post-completion OPT to begin as early as your thesis submission/defense date or as late as your graduating semester end date.

Duration of Employment Authorization

Employment authorization will begin on the date requested or the date the employment authorization is adjudicated, whichever is later.

Application Process

Step One

Complete the online Optional Practical Training (OPT) Workshop.  Once complete, print your final grade and submit with the additional documents listed below in Step 2 to the ISSS office.  Instructions for printing your grades can be found in the resources section of the workshop.

Step Two

Request an I-20 recommending OPT from ISSS. You may request an OPT I-20 by submitting the following documents to the ISSS office:

  1. Optional Practical Training Request (completed by you and signed by your academic advisor)
  2. Completed Form I-765
  3. Your printed OPT workshop grades

Form I-765 Instructions: 

After reviewing the documents above, an ISSS adviser will prepare an I-20 recommending OPT.

Step Three

Pick up the OPT I-20 at the ISSS office after 5-7 business days; you will receive an email when the document is ready.

Step Four

Follow the Checklist that will be attached to your OPT I-20; be sure to read carefully.

OPT Checklist


After Applying

  • Once you have received your EAD/OPT card, you must submit a copy to the ISSS office. You can either scan and email it to, or bring it to the ISSS office and we will scan a copy to your records.
  • Once you have secured employment, you must report your employment information using the OPT Reporting form. You should also use this form to report any change of legal name, residential or mailing address, change of employer, and/or loss of employment.
  • Students on OPT are required to report to ISSS any change of name or address, or any interruption of such employment, within 10 days.

Travel Information

It is important to consult an ISSS advisor prior to leaving the U.S., as immigration regulations can change at any time. Currently, the following documents are required to return to the U.S.

  • Post-Completion OPT:
    • a valid passport
    • a valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport (except Canadian and Bermudian citizens)
    • your OPT I-20 endorsed for reentry by an ISSS adviser within the last 12 months
    • your valid EAD card for OPT
    • evidence of employment such as a job offer or employment verification letter
    If you do not have all of these documents listed above or plan to leave the U.S. while your OPT application is pending with USCIS, you should consult an ISSS adviser before traveling abroad. For more information, see:

Please note: Your EAD will have a notation, “not valid for reentry to U.S.”  This is printed on all EAD cards issued for OPT and simply means that the card alone is not sufficient for reentry to the U.S.

Pre-Completion OPT: You can travel and return to the U.S. with a valid passport, valid F-1 visa stamp and your OPT I-20 endorsed by an ISSS adviser within the last six months. You do not need evidence of a job or a valid EAD issued by USCIS to return to the U.S.

H-1B Cap-Gap Extension of Duration of Status (D/S) and OPT Work Authorization until October 1

The cap-gap extension of status applies to all F-1 students in all fields of study with pending H-1B petitions (whether the 12 month card or STEM extension) during the current fiscal year.  For further details regarding your Cap Gap eligibility, visit our FAQ on the Cap-Gap for F-1 Students Finishing OPT.

Special Notes about your OPT

  • We will likely shorten your program end date on your I-20 to match the date of your graduation.
  • If you later decide not to mail your OPT application (Form I-765 plus supporting documentation) to USCIS for any reason, you must notify an ISSS advisor immediately so that we may timely cancel your OPT recommendation in SEVIS. Failure to inform an ISSS advisor that you are not applying for OPT can cause problems in the future.
  • Please email ( or fax (321) 728-4570 a copy of your EAD OPT card to ISSS immediately upon receipt.
  • Please keep in mind that ISSS will not authorize CPT after post-completion OPT has been recommended. Thus, if there is any possibility for CPT in your last semester, please plan accordingly.
  • While OPT is pending, we strongly advise you against changing the address listed on Form 1-765 as USClS has not been able to process change of address notifications properly. Changing your address while OPT is still pending may result in filing a new OPT application with a new fee. We suggest to use the address of someone who can receive mail on your behalf—remember to put “c/o”, followed by the person’s name and address, on Line 3 of Form I-765. The U.S. Postal Service will not forward USCIS mail.
  • If you receive a Request for Evidence (RFE), please inform ISSS immediately.
  • Your OPT will be automatically terminated when you receive an I-20 to study at another educational level or transfer to another school.
  • If you find any errors by USCIS on your OPT/EAD card, please inform ISSS immediately.
  • Immediately inform ISSS of any immigration status change.
  • Note: You must either pick up your OPT recommended I-20 in person at the ISSS Office, or you can request to receive the I-20 via the shipment method
  • Students are allowed to study PART-TIME ONLY while on OPT; if you receive a new I-20, your OPT will automatically terminate.

Friends are no longer able to pick up other friends immigration documentation.

NOTE: Certain science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degree holders may be eligible for an additional 24-months of OPT. For Further information, please refer to OPT Extension for STEM Degree Holders and complete the OPT STEM Extension Request form.