Optional Practical training (OPT) is an opportunity for F-1 Students to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off-campus. The experience is limited to a total of 12 months in a field directly related to the student’s course of study. OPT is normally sought after students complete their degree. (ELI students are not eligible for OPT).
To apply for OPT; you should contact your ADSO/DSO during the semester in which you plan to complete your studies. Your ADSO/DSO will provide you with the applications/forms needed to process your request. You must submit your completed application to your ADSO/DSO at least THREE weeks BEFORE graduation (or the posted deadline). It is NOT necessary to have a job offer before applying for OPT.
Upon approval of OPT, the USCIS will send employment authorization documents (EAD) valid for one year. You must work full-time, and you may change employers as you like, but you may not take any classes while on OPT. Once the year of authorized practical training has expired, you have 60 days to depart the Untied States unless you have changed your immigration status to another status (ex. H-1 status, permanent residency, or received a new I-20).
If denied, a student must return to his/her home country, apply for a change of status, or obtain an I-20 for a new degree program.
- DO NOT begin work until you receive your Employee Authorization Card (EAD). It usually takes USCIS 2-4 months to process an OPT application.
- You are encouraged not to travel while your OPT application is pending. Travel is considered risky even after your OPT has been approved.
- You must notify your DSO where you are working. You will be asked to have your employer complete an Employer Information form each time you change jobs.
- Your earnings are subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes. Students must file a tax return on or before April 15 each year. The return will determine if any of the withheld taxes can be refunded.
- You are strongly encouraged to maintain health insurance as long as you are in the United States.
- Keep all old I-20s and any letters from the USCIS or INS for your records. Be sure to use only the newest I-20.
- You are not required to complete all 12 months of OPT. However, you must return to your home country should you stop work before your OPT term expires.
- You may remain in the U.S. for 60 days after the expiration of your EAD card. Use this time to pack, travel within the U.S. and relax! You should not be working or studying during the sixty-day period.
- You must report any change of name, address or employment to your ADSO/DSO within 10 days of the change.
Please remember that you are still considered an F-1 Student while on OPT. Therefore, the same rules and regulations apply. Please keep the following in mind:
- You must have a valid travel signature on your I-20 if you decide to travel outside the U.S. (Your I-20 will reflect that you are pursuing OPT.)
- You must carry a valid passport, visa, I-20, I-94 AND EAD card at all times.
- You must notify your DSO of any change of name or address within 10 days.
- You must notify your DSO of your place of employment.
- You must notify your DSO if you change jobs or if your employment ends before the OPT expiration date and you do not intend to find another job.
- You must complete the practical training within 14 months after completion of your course of study.
- You must hold an EAD card before you begin work.