Optional Practical Training (or, OPT) gives F-1 students one year of eligibility to work in the United States in a job that is directly related to their major area of study. The total amount of time an F-1 student may spend engaging in OPT is 12 months. The vast majority of international students apply for post-completion OPT, which means that the period of employment would start after the student completes and graduates from his or her degree program. The whole OPT application process can take up to 3 months. Please plan accordingly when considering OPT.
- You must have been enrolled full-time in an academic program for at least one academic year before beginning OPT.
- You do not have to have a job offer to apply for OPT; however, you should know how the proposed work you hope to find is related to your major field of study.
- If you are applying for post-completion OPT, you may apply up to 90 days before but no later than 60 days after completing your degree. Your academic advisor will need to certify your expected date of completion (see the Academic Advisor Recommendation for OPT Form above).
- You must have not already used 12 months of full-time CPT.
- You must submit your application while you are still in the United States. You are not eligible to apply for OPT if you have already graduated and have left the United States.
Important OPT Rules:
- You MUST have an OPT EAD Card in your hands to begin work.
- You must work between the start and end dates listed on your OPT EAD Card.
- Employment through OPT will automatically be terminated if you transfer to another school in the US or start a new course of study.
- You only have 90 days of unemployment while on OPT - you must report any employment to your DSO so that he or she can place this information in SEVIS. If you have 90 days consecutively without reporting any employment to your DSO, your SEVIS record will be automatically terminated by the US government.
First Step - Application Assembly:
- Complete Form I-765 and Form G-1145. Please be sure to use the following address on your Form I-765:
C/O Jessa Karki, OIE, 163 South Willard St, PO Box 670, Burlington, VT 05402-0670
- Assemble the following documents:
- Forms I - 765 and G-1145
- All prior Form I-20s (first and third pages)
- Passport (biographical information page)
- F-1 Student Visa
- Copy of Form I-94 (front and back), I-94A, or recent stamp in your passport and I-94 website printout
- Have your academic advisor complete Academic Advisor's Recommendation for OPT (above) indicating the date that you expect to complete your studies.
- Read and sign the Student Acknowledgement of Responsibility.
- Write a check, money order, or cashier's check to the order of U.S. Department of Homeland Security for $410.00 USD. Checks and cashier's checks must be drawn on a US financial institutions. Money orders must pay in US dollars.
- Obtain two passport-style photos. Lightly print your name and Form I-94 number in pencil on the back of each photo.
Second Step - Meet with Your DSO:
- Once you have completed the first step, schedule an individual appointment with the DSO. You must bring all the documents listed in items 1-6.
- The DSO will review your documentation. If all the documents are in order, the DSO will request you for OPT in the SEVIS system.
- The DSO will print out a new Form I-20 with "OPT Requested".
- The DSO will photocopy and piece together the documents for your OPT application. You will be given a complete copy of your OPT application for your records.
- The DSO will send the OPT application to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox.
Tracking Your Application Status
Once you file your application you will be able to track its progress at: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis.