Optional Practical Training (OPT)

The Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a 12-month work authorization for F-1 students. Students are encouraged to apply for post-completion OPT within 90 days of their degree completion. Employment must be related to the student’s field of study.

Quick links:

Eligibility

F-1 students who have been enrolled on a full-time basis for a minimum of one academic year and whose proposed OPT employment will be directly in their field of study may be eligible. If the last semester of study is spent outside the United States, F-1 students may not qualify for OPT.

 

The types of work that are valid as OPT employment include:

  • Regular paid employment for at least 20 hours per week. (You may work for multiple employers, as long as it is directly related to your program of study).
  • Short-term multiple employments, such as in the music and art field.
  • Work-for-hire or services provided by contractual relationships.
  • Self-employed business owner. (You must work full time and show evidence of business licenses.)
  • Employment through an agency.
  • Volunteer or unpaid internship for at least 20 hours a week. This would be an option for someone who doesn’t meet the employment requirements.
  • Qualified students enrolled in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines may be allowed a 24-month
    STEM extension.
    However, the employment must be paid and the employer must be E-verified.

When can students apply for Optional Practical Training?

Qualified students can apply for pre-completion OPT up to 120 days before their desired employment start date.

Students may apply for OPT up to 90 days before the end of degree completion and up to 60 days after degree completion. Since it is a lengthened process, Marymount ISSS recommends applying the earliest possible. This means that the start date you request must fall between the student’s graduation date and no later than 60 days after. Students do not need to have a job starting exactly on that date, but they need to be aware that the dates they select will be noted on their OPT card and will count for the 12-month employment term.

timeline to apply for Optional Practical Training


OPT Workshops

Students must sign up for a mandatory OPT workshop here. We offer several sessions throughout the semester ISSS will go over the OPT process in detail. Attending an OPT workshop is mandatory for students who wish to apply for OPT. After students attend the workshop, ISSS will assist them in putting their OPT applications together.


Application Procedure

Please review the following steps in regards to the OPT application procedure:

PART 1

  1. First, attend one of the mandatory OPT workshops offered by ISSS staff.
  2. Go to the ISSS portal and complete the OPT application review request and submit it to ISSS, This request includes a quiz, a questionnaire and the upload the draft of the I-765, only.
  3. PART 2
    1. After we receive your OPT application review request, one of the ISSS International Student Advisors will review it and if it is correct, then the ISSS Advisor will prepare a new I-20 for you with the OPT recommendation on page 2. You will be contacted to schedule a final appointment for your online application review. You MUST have ALL the documents in the checklist scanned and saved in a folder on your computer the day of the appointment so that the advisor can review them before you upload them in the online USCIS application system.

    PART 3

    1. In order to submit your online application to USCIS, you will have to create an account at https://myaccount.uscis.gov/ Use your personal email and create a password.
    2. To initiate the OPT application click on File a form online, then select Employment Authorization (765). Answer the questions that follow using your answers from the I-765 form draft you completed earlier.

 

You should receive a Receipt Notice of Action immediately. This will prove that you have an application pending with USCIS.  This Notice of Action will include a receipt number (LIN number).  This is the number that you will use to check your case status on the USCIS online account you created at any time.

You will also be asked to upload your USCIS final application and the receipt notice to the ISSS portal.

Disclaimer: The International Student & Scholar Services office is able to provide you with general guidance. However, any advice or printed materials provided to you by our office, as well as the information in the packet, do not constitute legal advice. Additionally, due to the fluid nature of governmental regulations interpretation, USCIS may change its interpretation of the above-mentioned immigration policies, procedures, regulations, and eligibility requirements for benefits at any time. This office will do its best to provide you with the most current guidance. However, it is up to U.S. Immigration authorities to make final determinations for individual eligibility of benefits. If you prefer, you may contact an experienced immigration attorney if you have questions regarding your situation.

Resources for the OPT application

The handouts provided are regularly updated by ISSS. However, we advise that you always check the USCIS website for the latest version of the I-765 form and the most up-to-date information on fees and USCIS application process.





Watch this tutorial on how to complete the form I-765:

OPT Application Checklist

USCIS OPT Application Packet Checklist for the day of your appointment (All documents should be scanned and saved in a folder on your computer for the day of the appointment with ISSS)

    • 1 passport-style photo scanned in JPEG format
    • A $410.00 application fee available in your bank account or credit card for immediate payment to USCIS online
    • Completed Immigration Form I-765
    • Scanned copy of Passport and Visa
    • Scanned copy of I-94 Record: It can be printed from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov.
    • Scanned copy of Previous OPT cards if applicable
    • Scanned copies of All I-20s, even if for a previous F-1 status (We may not send them all, but need them for the application.)
      Scanned copy of OPT I-20

While waiting for your OPT card

The whole application process might take between 3 to 5 months. It is important for students to plan accordingly. Students can check the status application anytime in the USCIS account where they submitted the application.

Students can interview for jobs during this time, but they are not allowed to start working. After three to five months, the student should receive a Notice of Approval Letter I-797 and shortly after the Employment Authorization Document (OPT card). Again, students must check their EAD for errors, if any, they should contact ISS.


Travel

Please contact your ISSS advisor if you plan on traveling outside the United States after you apply for OPT, as traveling outside the U.S. during this time can be risky. We advise against traveling while waiting for your OPT card, especially after you complete all your degree requirements and before you start your employment.

After receiving your EAD card, you will need:

  • A valid I-20 signed within the last 6 months.
  • Passport.
  • Unexpired F-1 visa. If your visa is not valid for re-entry, make preparations to renew your visa while overseas at the U.S. embassy or Consulate.
  • Please Note: ISSS cautions against F-1 OPT travel if a new F-1 visa is needed. Please consult your ISSS advisor before traveling.
  • EAD card.
  • Proof of employment.
    • Proof of employment may include a letter from your employer or any recent pay stubs.
    • Also, a letter from your employer stating that you are expected to return is recommended.

While on OPT: receiving the EAD, employment reporting & unemployment limits

Once students receive their EAD, they must make sure all the information in their EAD (OPT card) is accurate. They should send a copy of the front and back to ISS, ISSS will issue a new I-20 for them. Students must notify ISSS of their employer’s name and address using the reporting system. Also, inform ISSS about any address or employment changes within 10 days.

Employment reporting

The day that the OPT starts, SEVP will send students a link to create a PORTAL account to update their information. They must make sure to update every time they change their addresses or contact information as well as employers.

Make sure to write a solid description of how your employment is related to your field of studies. You may report changes at the SEVP portal and notify ISSS to print a new I-20 for you.

To report your employer login to your SEVIS Portal. You will see the following:
SEVP portal preview - OPT reporting

Make sure to notify ISSS about your employment.

Unemployment

The regulation says students may not accrue more than a combination of 90 days of unemployment while on OPT.

There is a 10 days allowance when changing between employers, this allowance does not count against the 90 days of allowed unemployment. Volunteering and unpaid internships fulfill the employment requirement as long as it is 20 hours a week and related to the student’s field of study.


After the Optional Practical Training ends

Students are allowed a 60 day grace period after their OPT ends. After the grace period ends the student can exit the United States or Begin a new educational program.

  • Transfer SEVIS record within 60 days.
  • Begin a new program within 5 months of the OPT end date.

If you plan on changing your status, you should do so before your OPT expiration.

If transferring to another school, please make sure to contact ISSS so that your records may be electronically transferred prior to the end of your authorized stay.

Be sure to use official Ports of Departure to exit the U.S. and allow time at airports and land crossings to complete exit interviews even if traveling to Mexico and Canada, if you are subject to Special Registration.