Skip to Content

Optional Practical Training

Spring 2019 application appointments begin on Tuesday, February 19, 2019.

Summer 2019 application appointments begin on Wednesday, May 10, 2019.

Fall 2019 application appointments begin on Friday, September 13, 2019. 

OPT Appointments (Applying for OPT)

You MUST CALL to schedule an OPT Appointment when applying for OPT. If you schedule an appointment online to apply for OPT the appointment will be canceled. Please make sure you review the following information before you call to schedule an appointment.

As an F-1 student, you may apply to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authorization for 12 months of temporary employment known as Optional Practical Training (OPT). The employment should be directly related to your major area of study and can only be used once per degree level. To be eligible for OPT, you must be in legal F-1 status at the time of application and have completed one academic year (Fall/Spring semesters) as a full-time student. OPT can be authorized at the following times:

Pre Completion OPT

Pre Completion OPT- Before completion of your studies must comply with one of three situations:

  1. Part-time (20 hours a week or less) during the fall or spring semesters
  2. Full or part-time during summer vacation if you are currently enrolled and intend to register for the following semester
  3. Full-time during fall or spring if you have completed all coursework and are in the thesis, dissertation or comprehensive exams only phase of your degree.

Post Completion OPT

Post Completion OPT- After completion of your studies (most students choose this option)
IMPORTANT! If choosing this option,

  1. Your OPT application must be received by the DHS service center no later than 60 days after your program completion date.
  2.  However, it is strongly recommended to apply 90 days before you complete your studies. 
  3. Your 12 months of OPT must be completed within 14 months of the date of completion of your studies.

To apply for OPT:

  1. Review OPT Overview PowerPoint  
  2. Complete the OPT Application Packet (includes - Completion of Degree Form and Statement of Responsibility Form)
  3. Complete and bring Form I-765 - Application for Employment Authorization, (save a copy in your email or USB so that the advisor can review the I-765 application before printing); Review template for OPT Form I-765
  4. Use this Form G-1145 for E-notification from USCIS (PLEASE NOTE: getting an e-Notification doesn't necessarily mean that we received your receipt, approval letter or OPT EAD card yet, allow 5 to 7 business days for our office to receive your documents)
  5. For passport photo requirements, review information on link below: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/photos.html.
    1. The instructions to USCIS Form I-765, however, state that the photos submitted in connection with that form must have been taken within 30 days of filing the form.
  6. Make sure you check and submit the OPT Checklist form before setting up an appointment

FAQ and Resources

Expand or Collapse all.
  • REMEMBER:  ALWAYS GET YOUR I-20 SIGNED FOR TRAVEL, EVEN ON OPT.

    • Before you graduate:  If you have just applied for OPT but are still within your program of study you may travel as normal.
       
    • Can I Travel if my OPT is pending?
      •  Yes, but traveling during this time should be undertaken with caution. USCIS may send you a request for evidence while you are away, however, so you would want to make sure you have provided a correct U.S. address both to your DSO and on the application and would be able to send in requested documents. Also, if USCIS approves your OPT application, you will be expected to have your EAD in hand to re-enter the United States. Like a request for further information, USCIS can only send the EAD to your U.S. address.
    • Can I reenter the U.S. if I left on OPT?
      • If USCIS has approved your OPT you will be expected to have your EAD in hand to re-enter the United States, in addition to your travel signature Form I-20, valid passport and visa, and a letter of employment if you have one. If you exceed the limits on unemployment while outside the United States, you will not be eligible to re-enter the United States in F-1 status.
        *If your Visa is expired, you should take caution when traveling. Some F-1 students have difficulty getting a new F-1 visa from the embassy in their country while on OPT. If you do travel make sure to have your employers letter indicating that you are expected to return.

    Refer to the following website for more information on travel re-entry on an F-1 visa.

  • Fixing EAD errors made by the Potomac Service Center

    If your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card was approved by the Potomac Service Center (PSC) and contains incorrect information that you believe is due to USCIS error, please follow the instructions below:

    • Submit a letter that explains the error. Include the EAD card containing the incorrect information,documents showing that USCIS made an error (such as a copy of the application you sent to USCIS with your correct information, a copy of your birth certificate, with your correct name). 
    • Send your letter and supporting documents to the Potomac Service Center at 

    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

    Potomac Service Center

    2200 Potomac Center Drive, Stop 2425

    Arlington, VA 20598-2425

    If USCIS made an error, you do not need to submit a new Form I-765 or pay a new filing fee. 

    Fixing EAD errors made by the applicant, or name changes

    If an EAD approved by the PSC contains incorrect information that is not due to a USCIS error (e.g. the applicant made an error on the application, or has had a name change they want to be reflected on the EAD), the individual will have to apply and pay for a replacement EAD. The USCIS EAD webpage instructs:

    If your EAD contains incorrect information that is not due to a USCIS error, you must submit:

    • A new Form 1-765,
    • The filing fee, if required (or a request for a fee waiver),
    • Any documents specified in the form instructions, and 
    • The card containing the error. 

     

    • For F-1 students currently maintaining status under the H-1B “Cap-Gap” extension, lengthy H-1B processing times are more likely to result in a lapse in work authorization as H-1B visa approvals become less likely to arrive via mail by October 1.
    • Students in F-1 status who have been pursuing employment through valid Optional Practical Training (OPT) must stop their employment in the United States after October 1 until their H-1B petitions are approved.
    • Travel outside the U.S. after an H-1B petition is filed is not recommended for any applicant requesting an initial change of status to H-1B classification.
    • Travel during this timeframe may revoke Cap-Gap privileges, including legal work status for F-1/OPT students and could give rise to a determination by USCIS that the candidate abandoned their H-1B petition.