Q. Where can I learn more about OPT?
A. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has information about Practical Training.
Q. What forms do I need to apply for OPT?
A. The forms are available online
How to apply for Pre-completion OPT:
How to apply:
Q. How much OPT am I eligible for?
A. If you have not been authorized for any previous practical training
at the same degree level or at a higher level, you are eligible for up to twelve
months, once you have completed one academic year of your program of study.
Previous curricular practical training will not affect the 12 months unless the
curricular training was full time and for more than twelve months.
Q. May I apply for less than 12 months of OPT?
A. Yes, but… you must be sure that you will not want more than
the period that is less than 12 months. You cannot apply for additional time
after the degree completion date deadline has passed.
Q. May I obtain 12 months of OPT after each degree?
A. Yes. A student is eligible for 12 months of practical training
for EACH change to a higher educational level. So a student in F-1 status who enters
as a Bachelor’s degree student is eligible for up to 12 months practical training
upon completion of the Bachelor’s and then ANOTHER 12 months upon completion of
the next higher degree (Master’s).
Q. How long does it take for the OIE to process my OPT application?
A. The designated school officer
(DSO) will work with you to put together your application. You should plan on two
meetings with the DSO. Once your package is complete (including a new I-20), you
are responsible for mailng the application to the USCIS (United States Customs &
Immigration Services) Lockbox in Dallas, Texas.
Q. How long will the application approval process at USCIS take?
A. Processing time is highly variable and difficult to predict.
It can take anywhere from a few weeks to twelve weeks and sometimes longer.
Therefore, you are urged to apply early to allow sufficient time for you to receive
your EAD card. You can contact USCIS about your application 90 days after they have
begun the adjudication process.
Q. What about the OPT application fee?
A. The USCIS application fee for OPT is $380.00
Q. What if I apply for practical training and end up not using it? Perhaps
I won't be able to find a job, or perhaps I decide to go back to school. What happens
A. Applying for practical training is a two-step process. You must
first make a request to the DSO, and then mail your application to USCIS to obtain
an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. Once your DSO requests employment
authorization on your behalf, it is not possible to cancel the practical training
authorization. Therefore, any unused time will be lost.
Q. I have a job offer but my EAD card has not arrived yet. Can I begin work?
Q. Can I work at any job with OPT authorization?
A. No! OPT authorization is only for employment related
to your field of study. Working in an unrelated job is a serious violation of your
F-1 status. Do not put your legal status at risk.
Q. Can I work part-time?
A. For post-completion OPT, you can work no less than 20 hours
Q. What if I receive my EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) but
cannot find a job? Will I lose my OPT?
A. During post-completion OPT, a student (including STEM students)
may not be unemployed for an aggregate of more than 90 days. If a student receives
a 17-month STEM OPT extension, the limit on unemployment is raised to an aggregate
of no more than 120 days, applied to the entire 29-month period of post-completion
Q. Once I receive my EAD card, is there anything else I should do?
A. Yes, please bring in your EAD card to the OIE so that a photocopy
can be made for your file. Please Note: Employment cannot begin until the date authorized
for practical training on the EAD and you have received your EAD card.
B. You must report your employer's information to the OIE so they
can enter it into your SEVIS record. You are only permitted a TOTAL of 90 days of
unemployment while on OPT, therefore, it is essential that you notify the OIE of
a new job or the termination of employment within ten days of that change.
Q. I have already received my EAD card. I will not graduate as expected.
My OPT end date is later than the ending date on my I-20. Do I need to file for
an extension since my OPT end date is after my new graduation date?
A. Yes! You must file for an extension if you will not graduate
before the program of study completion date on page 1, section 5 on your SEVIS I-20.
The OPT end date is only related to the OPT employment authorization. These are
two separate issues.
Q. Do I need a job offer to obtain practical training?
A. No. Proof of employment is not required to obtain practical
Q. What about change of address or change of name while I am on post-completion
A. While on OPT post graduation, students must continue to report
any name or address changes within 10 days to the OIE because the school continues
to maintain the F-1 record until OPT ends.
Q. I may be moving while my application is pending. Can I give the OIE as
my mailing address?
A. Yes. US Citizenship and Immigration Services will mail EAD cards
to an office address at a university. If you will be moving before you receive your
EAD card then you will want to have the card sent to you at a friend or relative’s
address or at the OIE address.
To use a friend or relative's address, complete form I-765, by showing your mailing
address like this:
c/o (the name of your relative or friend)
City, State Zip Code
To use the OIE office address show the mailing address like this:
c/o Office of International Education
P.O. Box 5005
Randolph Macon College
Ashland, VA 23005 - 5505
Q. I am planning to travel outside of the United States. The signature on my
I-20 is eight months old. Do I need a new signature?
A. Yes, while you are on OPT you need a travel signature on page
3 of your I-20 that is less than 6 months old on the day of your re-entry.
Q. What if I want to travel outside the United States during OPT?
A. The OIE strongly advises against travelling outside the U.S.
while your application is pending. The Port of Entry may deny your entry because
you abandoned your petition.
However, once the EAD card for OPT is issued to the F-1 student, and the student
decides to travel abroad, the student can only re-enter the United States to resume
employment. The F-1 student does not need to have already begun actual employment
before leaving, as long as the student has a job offer to which to return.
The best general advice is that an F-1 student on OPT, who has received the EAD
card, and has to travel abroad should make sure that there is documentation from
his or her employer confirming the employment or the job offer. Otherwise the student
assumes a risk that he/she may not be allowed to re-enter the United States.
Please note: If you will need to obtain a new F-1 visa, such travel may
be risky. There have been cases where students who had completed their degree program
were denied a new visa and not permitted to reenter the United States. Even if your
visa is still valid, USCIS regulations state that re-entry is permitted only
to “resume authorized employment.” Therefore, students who do not yet
have jobs take a risk if they travel outside the U.S.