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.
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
However, the employment must be paid and the employer must be E-verified.
OPT Application Checklist
What students need in order to send their OPT application to USCIS
- Completed and signed Academic advisors form.
- Form I-765 (app. for Employment Authorization).
- OPT Date Selection Form.
- Check or money order or credit card form for $410.
- 2 passport photos with name and D.O.B. on back.
- Copy of I-20 issued recommending OPT (issued during OPT intake appointment).
- Copies of passport identity page, visa, and I-94.
- Copies of ALL previous I-20s.
- If applicable: Previous EAD or change of status approval notice.
- Form G-1145 E-Notification of Application Acceptance.
- First, attend one of the mandatory OPT workshops offered by ISS staff.
- Complete the best you can Form I-765, OPT Selection Date, the academic advisor form signed and the F-1 Acknowledgment signed. All forms links are available in this handout below.
- Scan your documents and upload them here.
- Collect all the documents listed in the checklist on the back page.
- One of the international student advisors will review the forms and if they are correct, they will contact you to schedule the final appointment. You MUST bring ALL the documents in the checklist on the day of the appointments so that the advisor can help you prepare the packet ready for you to mail it to USCIS.
- Mail your packet to USCIS.
Your ISS advisor will prepare a new I-20 for you as well as provide you with an envelope to mail out your application.
Once you have submitted your application, you will receive a receipt number (EAC Number). This is the number that you will use to check your case status online at USCIS.GOV.
Resources for the OPT application
When can students apply for Optional Practical Training?
Qualified students can apply for pre-completion OPT up to 120 days prior to their desired employment start date.
Students may apply for OPT up to 90 days prior to the end of degree completion and up to 60 days after degree completion. Since it is a lengthened process, Marymount ISS 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.
Students must sign up for an OPT workshop here. ISS 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, ISS will assist them in putting their OPT applications together.
If you already attended a workshop, here is a recorded version of it:
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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.
After one or two weeks from mailing the OPT application, the student will receive a confirmation via text or email (if they submit the form G-1145) stating that the application was received. Attached to the confirmation will be a receipt number, which can be used to track the status of the OPT application.
After four to six weeks, the student will receive an I-797c receipt notice. This notice contains the date of the OPT application receipt and the receipt number. Students must check for errors, if any, they should contact ISS. Students must keep this notice since it is official proof that the OPT application was received.
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.
Please contact your ISS 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.
- 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: ISS cautions against F-1 OPT travel if a new F-1 visa is needed. Please consult your ISS advisor prior to 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, ISS will issue a new I-20 for them. Students must notify ISS of their employer’s name and address using the reporting system. Also, inform ISS about any address or employment changes within 10 days.
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 ISS to print a new I-20 for you.
To report your employer log in to your SEVIS Portal. You will see the following:
Make sure to notify ISSS about your employment.
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 prior to your OPT expiration.
If transferring to another school, please make sure to contact ISS 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.
STEM Optional Practical Training Extension
Qualified students enrolled in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines may be allowed a 24-month STEM extension. However, students applying must already have an employer. The employment must be paid and the employer must be E-verified.
The STEM Optional Practical Training extension can only be requested within 90 days from the current OPT end date. Students must be employed and the employer must be registered on E-Verify. Both the student and employer must fill out the Form I-983 training plan together.
When the STEM OPT EAD is delayed:
- The 24-month STEM extension period begins automatically the day after the initial OPT ends.
- Students are authorized to continue working for 180 days after the initial OPT end date, as long as the STEM OPT application was properly filed on time.
- Together, the employer and the student have to update the I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification).