Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Overview for Practical Training in F-1 Status

What is Practical Training?

Practical Training is a legal means by which F-1 students can obtain employment in areas related to their academic field of study for up to 12 months in the US. The objective of practical training is not financial but rather an opportunity to gain practical work experience related to your field of study. Optional Practical Training (OPT) can be done before or after completion of studies.

Practical Training After Completion of Studies

Eligibility

You must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for at least a full academic year, (9 months) currently be in F-1 status, have completed all requirements to receive degree by the end of the semester, and have not used up more than twelve months of full-time curricular or optional practical training.

When to Apply

You are eligible to apply for OPT 90 days prior to completion of studies, and up to 60 days after your program completion date.

How to Apply

  1. Verification from your advisor stating the date you will complete your program.
  2. Make an appointment to see International Student Advisor to determine if you are eligible. If you are eligible, gather materials necessary for submission (see application sheet)
  3. When you have gathered the necessary materials/information, review your application with the International Student Advisor. Make sure you bring all items listed on the application sheet.
  4. The International Student Office will: Review your application, endorse your new I-20, and copy the entire application (you will receive a copy as well)
  5. You should mail the application via certified mail to:

For Express Mail/Courier Deliveries

USCIS
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

For US Postal Service Deliveries

USCIS
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

Note: Once your I-20 has been endorsed and your I-765 has been forwarded to the USCIS, it is very difficult to withdraw or cancel the recommendation. You will not get a refund of any payments made to USCIS.

After you Apply

After approximately 3 weeks you should receive a receipt from the USCIS. The receipt will include a receipt number and the date your application was received. Applications are tracked by using the receipt number, not your name. You can check the status of your application by using the California Service Center’s computer automated system 1-800-375-5283. The best time to call is at night. It will take approximately 45-60 days to obtain your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). If after 90 days from the receipt date you have not received your EAD, contact designated school official (DSO).

For E-notification of acceptance of your application, you can fill out a G-1145 form and the USCIS will email/text you within 24 hours of accepting your form. Please note that this does NOT grant OPT status or benefit. You still need to receive the original EAD card to begin working.

You may also check your status using your receipt number online with the USCIS “Check My Status” tool.

Things to Consider

  • You can receive a job offer before you receive your EAD, but you cannot begin employment until USCIS has issued you an EAD.
  • Travel outside of the country after you have filed your application and before you have received your EAD card can be risky. Please see the OPT travel chart for risk levels and what documents you need to re-enter.
  • You may only be unemployed for an aggregate total of 90 days. This means 90 days only for the whole period of OPT, not just 90 days in a row.
  • You must provide the DSO with the address of your company or organization so that your SEVIS record can be updated. You may also intern or volunteer with a company or organization to avoid being unemployed, but you must still provide us with the contact information for that group.
  • You must leave the country no later than 60 days after you complete your training, which should be no later than 14 months after completing your studies.

24-month STEM Extension

F-1 students on standard optional practical training based on a bachelor’s degree in a qualified STEM field can apply to USCIS for a one-time 24-month extension of post-completion OPT. The student must have a job directly related to the STEM major and the employer must be registered with E-Verify.

  • Earliest date to apply for the 24-month STEM OPT: No more than 90 days before the current OPT expiration date.
  • Latest date to apply: the application for 24-month STEM OPT must be filed before completion of the current OPT period.
  • The student can continue to work for 180 days after the original USCIS Employment Authorization Document (EAD) expires if:
    • Student filed a Form I-765 for the STEM OPT extension.
    • USCIS received the Form I-765 for the extension before the EAD for the original post-completion OPT expired.
  • See the list of majors that are eligible for the STEM OPT Extension (PDF) (the CIP code of your major/s can be found on your Form I-20).
  • Form I-983 must be completed by the student and employer, and must be submitted to the DSO (international student advisor), in order for the new I-20 to be issued.
  • The STEM OPT Extension may be issued for a prior STEM degree obtained by the student. USCIS highly recommends sending transcripts with the STEM OPT application if the extension is based on a prior degree.
  • Please contact your DSO for more information.