Optional Practical Training Form (Student)
Instructions to complete the form
- It is strongly recommended that you first meet with an ISSS Advisor to discuss the OPT application process and make sure you are aware of your status maintenance responsibilities during OPT.
- When you are ready to apply for OPT, you will need to complete the eForm and upload all the documents described in Page 2.
- Once you submit your eForm, your Academic Advisor will receive an email to confirm your program completion date. ISSS cannot process your request until your advisor has completed this. We will be notified when that happens.
- After ISSS has reviewed your eForm, we will create a new I-20 recommending you for OPT. We will email you when your new I-20 is ready to be picked up. You will be responsible for mailing your application to USCIS.
You can click the links below to see a preview of the form.
You cannot submit the preview form. If you would like to submit the actual form, click here.
What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
- Temporary employment for practical training available at each degree level.
- Employment is directly related to the student’s major area of study.
- Requires adjudication (approval) from a USCIS Service Center.
What types of employment are permitted by OPT?
- Regular paid employment.
- Payment by multiple short-term employers.
- Work for hire (a service based on a contractual relationship).
- Self-employed business owner.
- Employment through an agency.
- Volunteers or unpaid interns (REMEMBER THIS OPTION!). Unpaid employment is considered employment on OPT, as long as the unpaid employment is directly related to the academic major listed on the student’s I-20 and employment is for at least 20 hours per week. However, please keep in mind that volunteering to do work that other individuals normally get paid to do may be a violation of labor laws. If in doubt, please consult an International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) advisor.
What must I do to be eligible to apply for OPT?
- Maintain valid F-1 status.
- Make normal progress towards degree requirements.
- Have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year.
- Have not been authorized for 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
- Have not already used 12 months of full-time OPT at the same or higher degree level.
When should I apply for OPT?
- Cannot apply earlier than 90 days before, or later than 60 days after, your program completion date.
- Completion date can be your graduation date or date of defense.
- Often takes USCIS up to 3 months to process the application.
- All post-completion OPT must be completed within 14 months from your program end date.
- Cancellation of an OPT application is very complicated. Make sure you are ready to apply and your course work will be completed.
- Consider renewing your driver’s license before applying for OPT, if you have additional time on your I-20. You may not be permitted to renew your driver’s license while your OPT is pending (but can after it is approved).
What should I do while my application for OPT is pending?
- You can check the status of your OPT application and current processing times through the USCIS website. You will receive a Receipt Notice/Number from USCIS within 2-3 weeks.
- Please contact an ISSS Advisor if your application has been pending for 120 days or more!
Can I travel while my OPT is pending?
- ISSS does not recommend travelling outside the U.S. while your OPT is pending.
- Once your OPT is approved, make sure you have the following documents to re-enter the U.S. after travelling:
- Updated I-20 that shows your post-completion OPT as “approved” rather than “pending” with a travel signature less than 6 months old on the second page
- Passport valid at least 6 months into the future
- Unexpired visa
- EAD card
- Letter from your employer with the dates you will be out of the country
- While out of the country, you can apply for a new visa if your current one is expired, but keep in mind you must still demonstrate non-immigrant intent.
How can I maintain my status after my OPT has been approved?
- During post-completion OPT, your F-1 status is contingent upon employment. You must be employed for at least 20 hours per week in a job directly related to the major listed on your I-20.
- You must submit an OPT reporting eForm every 3 months or within 10 days of any changes to your employer or physical address.
- Each day without a job reported to ISSS counts as a day of unemployment, including weekends.
- You may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during OPT. Note: During periods of unemployment, weekends count toward the 90-day unemployment limit. Weekends are not counted toward the 90-day unemployment limit for students who are employed throughout the week.