F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Overview of OPT
Optional Practical Training is available for degree seeking students. An initial period of 12 months may be awarded by Immigration (USCIS) per degree level. You may be eligible for a new period of OPT only if you move subsequently to a higher degree level. OPT can be used during breaks in study or after completion of your final degree requirement. OPT requires that you pursue employment in your area of study, but does not require a specific employer at the time of filing.
Review the OPT Steps Info Sheet.
Throughly review our OPT Video Playlist and follow along with the OPT PowerPoint.
- Part 1: Introduction and Eligibility for OPT
- Part 2: OPT Checklist
- Part 3: I-765 Guide
- Part 4: OPT Application Requirements
- Part 5: Responsibilities During OPT
UPDATE: Students may now file for OPT online through USCIS. Students must still request the OPT I-20 through ISSP Connect. DO NOT APPLY FOR OPT ONLINE (USCIS) WITHOUT YOUR NEW OPT I-20 ISSUED BY THE ISO. The application with our office comes first.
No more than 90 days of unemployment is permitted during the initial 12 months of post-completion OPT. For students approved for the 24-month STEM extension, the unemployment allowance increases to a total of 150 days throughout the 36 month period of OPT. Exceeding the limit of unemployment constitutes a loss of your legal status. Be sure to report your changes in employment and address to the ISO promptly.
Reporting Requirements while on OPT
Students will report within 10 days of any changes to the following information directly through the SEVP Portal. Students on OPT STEM are required to submit the STEM OPT Report Participation form every 6 months and at the 12-month and 24-month mark.
- Residential Address
- Phone & Email Address
- Employer Information incluiding full address
- Start Date of Employment and End Date(if known)
- Job Title
- Supervisor's Name, Email Address and Phone Number
- Any period of unemployment. You must inform your employer that they are also required to inform the ISO of a loss of employment.
- Date of departure from the U.S. (if students leave prior to the OPT STEM end date)
To apply for OPT you must first obtain a new I-20 from the ISO documenting your eligibility for OPT. You will subsequently submit an online application for employment authorization to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS).
You must be in lawful F-1 status at the time of filing, and your period of OPT may commence only immediately following at least two full and continuous semesters of enrollment, (Fall-Spring or Spring-Fall).
Applications for post-completion OPT must be filed and reach USCIS:
- No earlier than 90 days prior to the completion of study which corresponds to the end date of your I-20. The I-20 can be shortened by the ISO if required to accurately reflect your academic status and eligibility for OPT.
- No later than during the grace period, presuming you have not departed the U.S. once studies are completed.
- Within 30 days of the issuance date on the original OPT-endorsed Form I-20 given to you by the ISO.
NOTE: If you have not completed all coursework for your degree and are unsure that you will complete your degree on time, you should consult the ISO before submitting the application for OPT.
Requesting Start & End Dates of Employment
Students may request OPT to begin on any date from the day after the date of completion of studies up to 60 days after the date of completion of study. Applications for OPT can take three months or more for the USCIS to adjudicate so it is very important to plan accordingly.
Authorized Period of Employment
Students may not begin working until they have received a valid OPT employment authorization card (EAD) issued by the USCIS and the start date has been reached.
Please read the section on Social Security to fulfill the requirements for having an SSN in order to be gainfully employed.
- Post-Completion OPT Student Responsibilities
- OPT Cap-Gap Extension
- 24-month OPT Extension for Science Technology Engineering or Math (STEM)
How to Apply for F-1 OPT
Step One: Read this F-1 OPT webpage carefully and review the OPT Tutorial.
Step Two: Initiate the OPT Request Process. Submit only 1 request. You can return to an incomplete application by logging into ISSP Connect. If you have a job secured, you will also need to complete the OPT Employent Update form.
Step Three: Print the endorsed Forms I-20 from ISSP Connect, and follow instructions listed on the USCIS OPT Website. The OPT I-20 and full application must be in the hands of USCIS no later than 30 days after the OPT I-20's issue date.
IMPORTANT: When filing online have these documents prepared for upload. Do not complete the online application (I-765) until you have the OPT I-20 issued by the ISO in hand.
After receiving your OPT I-20 in hand, students should apply for OPT online via USCIS. This is the fastest and easiest way to apply for OPT.
Open an account at USCIS. Use this portal to complete your I-765.
Remember to select the code (c)(3)(B) Post-Completion OPT
Upload your passport photos, biographical passport page, visa, I-94 and previously issued CPT I-20s and OPT I-20s.
Do not forget to upload a copy of your OPT I-20.
You will also be able to submit the payment online through pay.gov
The U.S. postal service will not forward USCIS correspondence to a new address. If you change your residential address, you must visit the USCIS website to change your address online and provide your application receipt number (see Form AR-11 page on the USCIS website).