Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment benefit contained in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations governing the F-1 visa category. Students who have maintained their status will have an opportunity to obtain work experience in their fields of study in order to enhance their educational experience in the United States. Upon completion of a degree program, a student may be recommended for OPT for the remainder of time for which they are eligible. This will be for a period of 12 months if the student has not engaged in full-time CPT for 12 months during their course of study. Students are eligible for OPT after the completion of each higher degree obtained. The application process involves two steps, the first to be completed by International Students and Scholars and the second by USCIS. Both must be completed according to the following deadlines:
- Graduate Students- may apply for OPT during the semester prior to the completion of all required coursework, or the official commencement date. It is recommended that you apply for OPT when you have completed most of your thesis/dissertation requirements as it is hard to complete these requirements while working full time.
- Undergraduate Students - may apply for OPT during the semester prior to graduation (commencement) with a letter from the Degree Analyst (Registration and Records) showing expected graduation date.
- Please note: All OPT applications MUST be received by USCIS prior to completion/commencement date; therefore, OPT applications are due in International Students & Scholars no later than TWO WEEKS prior to the completion/commencement date. Once your graduation/completion date has passed, you forfeit your OPT benefit.
- The F-1 student must have been "lawfully enrolled" as a full-time student for one full academic year. However, a student may submit the OPT application up to 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year provided that the employment will not begin until the completion of the full academic year.
- Time spent in a study abroad program during a student's course of study can be counted towards the one academic year requirement, as long as the student had previously studied for one year in F-1 status in the U.S. prior to engaging in the study abroad program.
- The training must be directly related to the student's field of student and commensurate with the student's educational level.
- The training may occur during or after the program of study.
- The training may be part-time during the student's studies or full-time during vacations and holiday. OPT after course completion must be full-time.
- No job offer is required.
- The training is limited to a maximum of 12 months within the 14-month period following the completion of study after each level of education.
Application and Authorization Procedures:
To obtain the ISS recommendation for Optional Practical Training (OPT) you must make an appointment with the Immigration Coordinator and be able to submit the following documents for processing:
- A completed USCIS Form I-538 (Section A Only)(Obtain from ISS, Cheney International Center Suite 5). Note: Item # 7 write in "will seek full time employment in my major field of study" if it hasn't been done for you, your desired beginning and ending dates, for number of hours write "40" for full-time - "20" for part-time.
- A completed USCIS Form I-765 (Obtain from ISS, Cheney International Center Suite 5). Note: Item # 16 will be "(C) (3) (i)" and is already completed for you.
- Graduate Students: a letter from your academic advisor verifying the completion of all required coursework and anticipated graduation/completion date.
- Undergraduate Students: a letter from Registration and Records (Degree Analyst) verifying your anticipated graduation date.
- A new SEVIS I-20 will be issued during your appointment to authorize OPT in SEVIS. You must sign the new I-20 before a copy can be sent to USCIS with your application.
- Please bring your passport, I-94, and any other immigration documents that you may have so that copies can be made for your application. Your student ID and/or Driver's License may be required for additional identification.
- Two (2) Passport style photos according to the attached requirements, taken within the last 30 days.
- The filing fee of $380.00 (A check or money order made out to USCIS. They do not accept cash.)
International Students and Scholars will mail the application and supporting documentation for your employment authorization to the Northern Service Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.
It is preferred to have the EAD sent directly from the Service Center in Lincoln to International Students & Scholars. If you move, the U. S. postal service will not automatically forward the cards to a forwarding address. They will be returned to the USCIS and you will have to change your address with USCIS, then wait for your EAD card to be re-mailed. We have found this to take a considerable amount of time, and may delay your ability to employed until you receive the EAD card. ISS will notify you when your EAD card has arrived and it can be picked up at our office or we will mail it to where you are.
Remember, you may not begin employment until after you have received the EAD card, and after the beginning date noted on the EAD card.