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International Student Service Center


Q. What forms do I need to apply for practical training?
A. You will need to have the academic advisor form completed by the Advisement Office 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 USCIS and you will be provided with a checklist of those items at the time you pick up your application. You can also view our website for additional information.

Q. How much practical training time am I eligible for?
A. If you have not been authorized for any previous practical training, Optional practical training is limited to a total of 12 months. Students in certain “STEM” (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields may be eligible for a one-time extension of 24 months of post completion OPT.  There is a separate application for filing for this extension.  Please speak with an advisor from the ISSC if you feel you may qualify for the extension. 

Q. May I apply for less than 12 months of practical training?
A. Yes, but you must be sure that you will not want more than the period that is less than 12 months. It is no longer possible to apply after the completion date deadline.

Q. May I obtain 12 months of practical training after each degree?
A. Yes. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued new regulations for OPT that took effect on January 1, 2003. A student is now 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 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 ISSC to process my OPT application?
A. Presently it is taking 7 business days for the ISSC to process OPT applications.

Q. How is my application processed by U.S. 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 USCIS.


Q. How long will the application approval process at USCIS take?
A. Processing time at the USCIS 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.

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. How much is the USCIS fee?
A. The USCIS application fee for OPT is $380.00. Starting December 23, 2016, the application fee will be $410.

Q. What is the deadline for sending in my application to the USCIS?
A.  A student in F-1 status may apply up to 90 days before the completion date or semester end date and up to 60 days after their completion date.  Students MUST apply within 30 days of the creation of the OPT I-20 with OPT recommendation.  Program completion refers to the date that you have finished all coursework and any project/thesis/dissertation for your degree. It is not your graduation date.

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. I have a job offer but my EAD card has not arrived yet. Can I begin work?
A. NO!

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”.

Q. Do I need a job offer to obtain practical training?
A. No. Proof of employment is not required to obtain practical training.

Q. What about change of address or change of name while I am on post-completion OPT?
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.

Q. I may be moving while my application is pending. Can I give the mailing address for a friend?

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:

Your Name
c/o (the name of your relative or friend)

Street Address
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.

Traveling during the "Cap Gap"

According to SEVP, a student on OPT who has his/her OPT automatically extended by USCIS because of an approved H1B application, would not qualify for an F-1 visa unless the student has a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD). If a student in this “Cap Gap”, whose EAD card is no longer valid, chooses for whatever reason to leave the U.S., he/she would have to apply for the H1B and would not be allowed to re-enter the US until after September 1st.

Q. What Should I do once I find an employer?
A. Due to a recent policy change within SEVP/ICE international students on OPT are now required to report to their international student office the name and address of their employer while the student is participating in OPT.  [214.2(f)(5)(i)]

Upon beginning employment you MUST complete the OPT Employment Reporting Form.

Q I heard the regulations regarding OPT changed in April 2008, where can I find out about these changes?
A. For information regarding these changes please visit our new opt regulations page