Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Eligibility

  • Maintaining a valid F-1 status and must have been a full-time student for one academic year
  • Apply for OPT no more than 90 days before your program end date and no later than 55 days after your program end date.
  • No offer letter is required for the OPT application
  • Must not have worked 12 months or more of full-time CPT in that degree level

Regulations

  • OPT may be authorized for a maximum of 12 months of full-time employment after each higher education degree (ex. Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate).
  • Must obtain a job in your most recent field of study
  • Cannot exceed 90 days of unemployment during the 12 month OPT authorized period
    • Obtaining a volunteer (unpaid) role in your field of study for 20 hours/week or more can be considered employment.
  • If you are planning to apply for the STEM 24 month extension in the future, please note that your employer must be enrolled in the E-verify program in order to continue working with them.

Application process

Complete the following documents and bring all to an appointment with an OISS advisor.

  1. Check or money order payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" for $410
  2.  12 month OPT Recommendation Form‌ signed by academic advisor
  3. Completed and signed Form I-765(typed)
    1. For #3 please list the OISS address:
      1. c/o OISS 2115 Summit Avenue, Mail #5014, St. Paul, MN 55105
    2. For #16 please list (c) (3) (B)
  4. 2 NEW passport photos - print your name and I-94 number on the back of each photo
  5. Copies of passport, I-94, visa
  6. Copies of previous I-20s with CPT, if any
  7. Previous EAD, if any
  8. Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (optional)

OISS will prepare the OPT package for you to mail during your OISS appointment.  It’s advisable that you send the document immediately after leaving the OISS office and use Priority mail to ensure that your package arrives at USCIS safely and timely.

OISS will notify you after receiving any communication about your OPT application.  You can track the progress on-line here.

You may begin work only after receiving your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and the dates on your EAD are effective.

Note that you have a 60-day grace period after your OPT expires to stay in the U.S., transfer to another school or change status (employment not allowed during this period).

Report any changes to OISS while on OPT (address, employer, termination)

You must notify OISS through this form within 10 days if any of the following changes occur:

  1. Legal Name
  2. Residential address (post office box not acceptable)
  3. New employer name and address
  4. Ending OPT early due to change of status (H-1B) or leaving the U.S.

Travel on OPT

Bring the following documents with you when traveling outside the U.S. on OPT

  • Valid passport
  • Valid U.S. F-1 visa to re-enter the U.S.*
  • OPT I-20 with a travel signature by an OISS advisor within the last 6 months
  • EAD and letter of employment**

*A valid U.S. F-1 visa is not required to re-enter the U.S. if you travel to Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands for 30 days or less (excluding Cuba).  Citizens of Syria, Sudan and Iran must always have a valid visa.  Canadian citizens do not require a visa.

**If you leave the U.S. before you receive your EAD card, you can request OISS to mail this to you while abroad or scan/email you a copy. 

Counting days of unemployment while traveling

Unemployed:  Time spent traveling abroad while unemployed counts towards the 90 days of unemployment. 

Employed:  Traveling outside the U.S. while employed (either during a period of leave authorized by an employer or as part of your employment) does not count as unemployment.

Taking Courses/Starting a New Degree

Taking courses while on OPT

You can take courses while on OPT as long as you are part-time and are not seeking a degree.  If you are seeking a new degree, you will need to cancel your OPT and receive a new I-20 to pursue full-time study in the new degree program.  

Starting a New Degree

In order to start a new degree, you will need to receive admission and contact OISS to transfer out your SEVIS record if the degree is at a new school.  On the transfer release date (new school) or the date a new I-20 is created (St. Thomas only), your OPT will end regardless if your EAD is valid into the future.  Students on OPT who intend to continue in F-1 status must be admitted to a new academic program and obtain an I-20 before the 60th day following the end of your OPT. Please note that if you transfer to a new school, you are allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to 5 months between the time your OPT ends and the new program of studies is to begin as long as you have already received your new I-20; if the time period is greater than 5 months, you will be required to leave the U.S. and can only re-enter within 30 days of the start of your new program of study.

Cancel OPT or change dates

Cancelling OPT 

Before approval:  You can cancel/withdraw your OPT application after it’s mailed and before it’s approved.  This will allow you to save any OPT time for a later date if you’re unable to graduate or change your mind.  Note:  You will lose your OPT filing fee of $410 if the application is already mailed.  Please contact OISS for assistance. 

After approval:  Once your OPT application has been approved, cancelling your OPT will make you lose the entire approved period.

Changing Dates

You may only request to change your dates before your OPT application has been approved.  Please contact OISS for assistance with this.  There is no guarantee that USCIS will approve OPT based on the new dates requested.