Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT is training that is directly related to an F-1 academic student’s major area of study. It is intended to provide students with practical experience in their field of study during or upon completion of a degree program.

Who is eligible for OPT?
An F-1 academic student who has attended an SEVP-certified college or university on a full-time basis for at least one academic year may be authorized up to 12 months of OPT per program level. However, F-1 students who have completed one year or more of full-time curricular practical training are not eligible for OPT for that degree.

What is pre-completion OPT?
Pre-completion OPT is OPT authorized to be worked before the student’s program end date. Students with approved pre-completion OPT may work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) while school is in session. Students who are eligible to register for the following semester may work full or part time during vacation periods.

What is post-completion OPT?
Post-completion OPT is OPT that begins after the student’s program end date. It is for full time employment only.

How Much Time Am I Allowed on Practical Training?

  • You are eligible for a maximum of 12 months of full-time Optional Practical Training during or following each advancing degree level. Part-time Pre-completion OPT accrues at a rate of 50%, e.g., 6 months of part-time OPT count as 3 months of the total of 12 months you are allowed.
  • If you are a student in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) you are eligible to apply for a one-time extension of 24 additional months.
  • If you are the beneficiaries of a timely-filed H-1B petition; you are eligible for an OPT extension or a work authorization extension (if on post-completion OPT at the time of filing) or an extension of your F-1 status (if in legal F-1 status at the time of filing). This extension is applicable until the effective date of your H-1B (October 1 of the year in which the petition was filed).
  • If you have used full time Curricular Practical Training for one year or more, you are no longer eligible for OPT.

***Use of part-time CPT does not affect eligibility for OPT.

OPT Application Instructions

STEP 1: Make an appointment with your international student advisor for an OPT recommendation and an updated Form I-20 showing the recommendation. You will submit that Form I-20 with Form I-765 (application for employment authorization.)

STEP 2: Gather the following documents and bring them to your appointment.

Originals of:
1. Signed and completed Form I-765.
Fill out the form in BLUE ink. If you complete the form online, sign it in BLUE ink
The following is a short list of hints for filling out the I-765:
Line 1: Make sure that your last name is spelled out in all capital letters . But your first name should be spelled out with only the first letter in caps. (For example: SMITH, John)
Line 3: We recommend that you use the OIS address because USCIS will not forward mail if you move. Also, the postal service may not deliver your card if your name is not on the mailbox.

C/O OIS
215 N. 3rd Street
1st Floor
Camden, NJ 08102

Line 10: This is your I-94 number – the white card in your passport, include 11 digits total.
Line 11: Complete this only if you have applied for OPT before (or TN visas or previous H-1B visas); CPT does not apply – you can check NO if you have only done CPT and on-campus employment.
Line 12 and 13: This information is found on your I-94 card.
Line 14 and 15: Write “student”.
Line 16: “(C) (3) (A)” – Pre-completion practical training
“(C) (3) (B)” – Post-Completion Optional Practical Training
“(C) (3) (C)” – 24-month extension for STEM Students
2.  A check or money order for $410 made payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security." If your name and current address are not on the form of payment, write them on the upper left side of the check. Remember to also write “I-765 fee" on the memo line of check. Furthermore, for identification purposes, please write your SEVIS ID number and your phone # on the check.
3. Two identical 2x2 passport photographs taken within 30 days of filing this application. In case your photos get separated from your application, the Vermont Service Center requests you write your name & SEVIS ID number on the back of both photographs.
4Academic Official’s Certification for OPT form (with the top section completed by you).

Photocopies of:
1. All I-20s you have ever had–including the new one with the requested OPT on page 3 (copy pages 1 and 3 of all SEVIS I-20s and pages 3 and 4 of all non-SEVIS I-20s)
2.  Passport copies (1) all pages that contain biographical information; (2) the page that has your picture; (3) the page showing passport expiration date (these 3 items may or may not be on the same page)
3.  A copy of your most recent visa.
4.  Your Form I-94, front and back (and any previous I-94s given to you since your last arrival in the U.S., this would only apply to people who have changed their status since their last arrival)
5. Copies of any/all previous EAD cards (front and back) that have been issued to you.

STEP 3: Mail your application:

For US Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

For Express Mail and Courier Deliveries:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
ATTN: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business, Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

 

You may request an E-Notification that your application has been accepted by attaching USCIS Form G-1145, "E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance" to the I-765 form. The E-Notification of application acceptance is NOT the official USCIS receipt notice.

The application must be filed within 30 days of the date your international student advisor enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.

Step 4: In approximately two to three weeks, USCIS will send you a Form I-797 Notice of Action indicating that they have received your application and your case will be decided within 90 days. You may hear before that time. It will have a tracking number for your application and will look something like EAC-11-222-3333. You may check the status of your application on line at www.USCIS.gov . Look for the case status on line link (enter the EAC# in the manner above).
Step 5: If approved, USCIS will send your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card to the OIS or to the address provided on the I-765. If USCIS has a question regarding your application before approval, it will send you a "Request for Evidence." We recommend contacting the OIS so that we may advise you on how to respond.

RESPONSIBILITIES WHILE ON OPT

While on Post-Completion OPT, you are still an F-1 Student Visa Holder and you are still a Rutgers University student for visa purposes. This means that you are responsible for communicating the following information to the OIS during your time of OPT:

  • You must update and submit your local and international addresses on the OPT Update Data Form

  • You must update and submit your employer information on the OPT Update Data Form

  • If you have changed your visa status, you must fax, email or mail OIS the copies of your Approval Notice from USCIS indicating your new visa status or your I-94 card and visa stamp indicating the new visa status. This must be done within 10 days of receiving the documents from USCIS or re-entering the US. OIS will then COMPLETE your SEVIS record.

  • Finally, when you have completed your OPT or if you leave the US and do not intend to return to use the remainder of your OPT, please email the OIS within 10 days of leaving the US or finishing OPT.

OPT Application Deadlines

Pre-completion OPT applications can be filed up to 120 days before the proposed OPT start date if the student has completed a full academic year in F-1 status. If not, the student may only file the I-765 for pre-completion OPT up to 90 days before the end of the full academic year. The application must be filed within 30 days of the date your international student advisor enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.

Post-completion OPT applications can be filed up to 90 days before the degree completion date and up to 60days after the degree completion date, provided that it is filed within 30 days of the date your international student advisor enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.  Graduate students (Masters/PhDs) may apply after completion of all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent).
Applications for the 24 month STEM extension must be filed before the current EAD expires.
STEM based OPT extension applications must reach the USCIS before the post-completion OPT end date. The application for extension can be filed up to 90 days prior to the end date of the OPT.

H-1B Cap-Gap extensions must be requested before the program end date or the end date of the OPT (whichever is the case) if the student is the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition.

OPT Reminders

Your OPT employment must be directly related to your field of study and cannot begin until you have the EAD card in hand (and the start date has arrived).

USCIS will send a receipt notice once it has received your application. Use the receipt number and URL of the USCIS case status website to track the status of your OPT application.
 
You will need to continue to update your DSO with address changes and changes in employment while on post-completion OPT.

Effect of periods of unemployment while on Post-Completion OPT: During any initial 12-month period of post-completion OPT, no student (including STEM students) may be unemployed for an aggregate of more than 90 days. If a STEM student receives a 24 month extension, the limit on unemployment is raised to an aggregate of 120 days, applied to the entire 29-month period on which the student is on post-completion OPT.

Three Travel Warnings: (1) traveling abroad between the time you submit your OPT application and the time you receive the USCIS receipt notice, or if your OPT has expired and you are waiting for a STEM extension EAD could result in the loss of OPT and denial of readmission to the U.S., (2) while on post-completion OPT or an extension, regulations allow you to re-enter the U.S. to resume employment, (3) if you will need to apply for an F-1 visa to return to the U.S. while on OPT, please note that this may be a high risk visa application and the chances of denial could be greater than normal.