International Student Service Center
FAQ FOR OPT
- What forms do I need to apply for practical training?
- How much practical training time am I eligible for?
- May I apply for less than 10 months of practical training?
- How long does it take for the ISSC to process my OPT application?
- How is my application processed by US Citizenship and Immigration Services?
- How long will the application approval process at USCIS take?
- May I apply in person at a USCIS District Office?
- How much is the USCIS fee?
- What is the deadline for sending in my application to the USCIS Vermont Service Center?
- 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 then?
- I have a job offer but my EAD card has not arrived yet. Can I begin work?
- Can I work at any job with OPT authorization?
- Once I receive my EAD card, is there anything else I should do?
- Do I need a job offer to obtain practical training?
- What about change of address or change of name while I am on post-completion OPT?
- I may be moving while my application is pending. Can I give the mailing address for a friend?
- 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?
- What if I want to travel outside the United States during practical training?
Q. What forms do I need to apply for practical training?
A. You will need a letter from the Continuing Eduacation Department indicating that the courses you are registered for are the last courses that you need to complete your degree. There are additional items that must be sent to the USCIS Vermont Processing Center. You will be provided with a checklist of those items at the time you pick up your application.
Q. How much practical training time am I eligible for?
A. If you have not been authorized for any previous practical training, you are eligible for up to ten months, once you have completed one full-time academic year of your program of study.
Q. May I apply for less than 10 months of practical training?
A. Yes, but… you must be sure that you will not want more than the period that is less than 10 months. It is no longer possible to apply after the completion date deadline.
Q. How is my application processed by US Citizenship and Immigration Services?
A. To apply for your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card, you must mail your completed application and all required attachments to the USCIS Service Center in Vermont.
PLEASE NOTE: DO NOT MAIL YOUR OPT APPLICATION UNTIL YOU RECEIVE YOUR SEVIS I-20 WITH THE OPT INDICATED ON THE 3rd PAGE.
Q. How long will the application approval process at USCIS take?
A. Processing time at the USCIS Vermont Service Center is highly variable and difficult to predict. It can take up to twelve weeks and sometimes longer. Therefore, you are urged to apply early to allow sufficient time for you to receive your EAD card. Check the processing dates by Vermont USCIS.
Q. May I apply in person at a USCIS District Office?
A. No. OPT applications are only processed by mail at the USCIS processing center. The EAD Card is then mailed to the applicant after it is processed.
Q. What is the deadline for sending in my application to the USCIS Vermont Service Center?
A. You can apply for OPT as early as 120 days before completing your studies. You can no longer apply for OPT after you have completed your studies - last day of your classes. (Be advised if your OPT application arrives at the Vermont Service Center even one day after the date that you have completed your studies your application will be denied).
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 then?
A. Applying for practical training is a two-step process. You must first obtain your certified OPT I-20 from ISSC, and then mail your application along with all the required documents to USCIS to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. Once USCIS approves your OPT application, it is not possible to cancel the practical training authorization. Therefore, any unused time will be lost.
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. Once I receive my EAD card, is there anything else I should do?
A. Yes, please bring in your EAD card to the ISSC 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 your EAD card “in hand”.
A. While on OPT post graduation, students must continue to report any name or address changes to the ISSC, because the school continues to maintain the F-1 record until OPT ends. You can obtain a “changes of address” form from the ISSC.
A. Yes. 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. 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
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 practical training?
A. 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, have an approved EAD card and gainful employment, 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. Students are strongly encouraged to discuss their travel plans with the staff of the International Student Service Center before they travel.