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University of Wyoming International Students and Scholars

Department 3228

1000 E. University Avenue

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307-766-5193


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Optional Practical Training

What is Optional Practical Training?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a temporary employment benefit contained in the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations governing the F-1 visa category.  Students who have maintained their status will have an opportunity to obtain work experience directly related to their major area of study in order to enhance their educational experience in the United States. 

Three kinds of OPT are available: Pre-completion OPT; Post-completion OPT; and OPT extension for certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) degree holders.  There is a maximum total period of 12 months of OPT (Pre and Post) per educational level.  A student becomes eligible for another 12 months of OPT when they complete the program of study in a higher educational level.

Pre-Completion OPT

Pre-Completion OPT is available for student's prior to the completion of the degree program. If you are applying for your OPT in the same semester that you will finish your required coursework, then you must complete the POST-COMPLETION OPT application.

While Pre-Completion OPT sounds like a great option, there are some drawbacks that will limit your options for employment and reduce future Post-Completion OPT. In general we will instead advise student to look into campus jobs or CPT Internship options in place of the Pre-Completion OPT.

Please read the document below for information about pre-completion OPT.  If you believe this is the best option for you, please contact ISS for more information and application materials.

Definition and Eligibility for OPT

Tips and SEVIS Requirements while on Pre-Completion OPT

Post-Completion OPT

1. Post-Completion OPT Filing Instructions

2. Complete the OPT Application Workshop Online

3. OPT Application Review Request

4. Submit Your OPT Application Online to USCIS


Passport Photos: ISS recommends you have your passport photos taken at UW WyoOne, Walmart, FedEx Kinkos, or the UPS Store. Make sure your photos follow the Passport Photo Standards.


STEM OPT Filing Instructions

OPT Application Review Request

Submit Your STEM OPT Extension Application Online to USCIS

OPT Extension Information, Updates and Application Slides

Companies Who Sponsor H1-B Visas

OPT Extension is available only to those who have completed a degree in a STEM major.  To see if your major is on the list, look for your major code printed on your I-20 (example: 14.0107).  check the list of STEM-designated majors to see if the major code is listed. If your major code is not on the list, you do not qualify for OPT extension.


Information and forms for post-completion OPT are below.  Please read all information and fill out all forms before scheduling your appointment.

For official DHS resources regarding OPT Extension, see the below links:

I-983 Training Plan Completion Tutorial

STEM OPT Hub - DHS Study in the States

USCIS STEM OPT Information

OPT and Covid-19 FAQ

I have tested positive for COVID-19, or am self-isolating because I believe I have COVID-19. Should I contact ISS?

YES! You are not required to, but we want to make sure that you taking care of and would greatly appreciate you letting us know if there is anything that we can do for you. You should follow all instructions from your healthcare provider with regard to caring for yourself and notifying your employer if appropriate.

If I have to take time off of work to self-isolate or recover from COVID-19, do those days count as unemployment day?

It depends. Most companies offer sick leave to their employees. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are offering sick days or time off for those who might be infected or have tested positive so that they can stay home and recover without infecting other at work. You should ask your company about these policies if they have not already made you aware. As long as you are still considered as “employed” during your time off, these day are not counted toward your unemployment days on OPT.


My company/office has closed due to COVID-19. OR I have been laid off temporarily. OR I have been furloughed from work. Does this impact my OPT?

It depends. You need to ask your employer if you are still employed. If you are still employed during this time by the company, then you do not need to report end of employment to ISS. If you have actually been terminated from your job, you must report this to ISS and you will begin accruing unemployment days on OPT.


I am still employed, but am not working, or not working at least 20 hours per week. Is this ok?

USCIS has not made an official statement about this. They have not given permission to violate any of the OPT requirements such as being employed in your field or working at least 20 hours per week. USCIS has been asked to clarify if exceptions will be made for those on OPT who are not able to work at least 20 hours per week during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Should I try to find additional work if I am not working at least 20 hours per week?

Yes. Because USCIS has not made an official statement about exceptions to the hours per week rule, you should try to find additional work to make up the 20 hours per week. Remember that you can do paid or unpaid (post-completion OPT only) work, but the work MUST still be directly related to your major field of study and you must report this work to ISS via the online reporting survey at the ISS OPT webpage so that can be entered into SEVIS. Some options might include online tutoring or teaching in your field. Those on STEM OPT extension must also submit the Form I-983 for each employer and your employment MUST be paid.


I am still employed, but am working from home now, or remotely. Do I have to do anything?

No. You do not have to report any additional information based on you working from home or remotely.

If I am furloughed, laid off, or terminated from my job and cannot find other work that fits my OPT, will my OPT be extended so that I can make up that time lost?
No. At this time there has been no announcement, and very little discussion, about this being considered.

If I have lost my job, been laid off, or had my hours cut, can I work anywhere else to earn money or make up my hours?
You can add additional jobs, but ALL employment MUST be directly related to your major field of study, and all employment must be reported to UW ISS via the online reporting survey at the ISS OPT webpage so that it can be entered into SEVIS. Those on STEM OPT extension must also submit the Form I-983 for each employer.

I am at the end of my OPT, or my unemployment days and I am trying to leave the US but I cannot find flights. What can I do?
International visitors are encouraged to contact their country’s embassy or consulate in the US. Many embassies/consulates are collecting information for their citizens who are trying to return home but have not been able to secure a flight. To our knowledge, most of them are working to help find flights or provide other assistance to their citizens in the US. See also the answer to the following two questions.

If my OPT ends, or I cannot find a job within my unemployment days allowed, but I cannot leave the US because of travel restrictions, no flights, etc will I be considered in overstay of my visa?
Yes. At this time, there is no exception to the 60-day grace period at the end of your OPT, of the regulation requiring you to leave if you exceed the number of unemployment days allowed. DHS has been asked about this and asked to clarify if any exceptions will be made. No answer has been given yet.

If I cannot leave the US, and want to avoid being in visa overstay, what can I do?
You have a couple of options:

1. If the timing works out, you could apply to begin a new degree program either at UW or at another school, allowing us to update your SEVIS record and extend your legal stay in the US. For those ending OPT, you have a 60-day grace period to be admitted and notify ISS to update your SEVIS record. For those who will exceed their unemployment days allowed, you must be admitted and notify ISS to update your SEVIS record before the last day of unemployment allowed.

2. You could apply to change status. The simplest would be to apply for a change of status to B visitor status. UW has an immigration attorney in the College of Law who is available to assist students with this process. You may be able to apply for change of status to other visa statuses as well. Please contact ISS with questions and we will connect you with the attorney if appropriate. There are benefits and limitations regarding change of status and this should be seriously considered before taking action.

Can I apply for unemployment benefits if I am fired or laid off from work?
Unemployment rules vary from state to state. We recommend that you contact the unemployment office for the state where you are currently working. Your employer/human resources office may also have information for you regarding the unemployment rules for your state.

If I am able to receive unemployment benefits, will this impact future applications due to the public charge guidance?
No. Unemployment benefits are considered earned benefits, not public benefits. Receiving unemployment benefits should not impact future status applications.

Will I receive one of the stimulus payments that are going to be sent by the US government?
At this time, this is not clear. Generally, these payments are for US citizens and US permanent residents (those who hold green cards). There is some question as to whether non-citizens who are considered residents for tax purposes will receive the payment or not. There has not been a clarification on this yet.

Contact Us

University of Wyoming International Students and Scholars

Department 3228

1000 E. University Avenue

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307-766-5193


Find us on Facebook (Link opens a new window)

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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