What is Optional Practical Training?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of F-1 status whereby students can engage in temporary employment for the purpose of gaining practical experience directly related to his or her major field of study. If you have been in lawful student status for at least 9 consecutive months you may be eligible for 12 months of OPT. OPT is limited to 12 months for the duration of your F-1 status regardless of degrees you have earned or universities you have attended. However, the 12 months can be distributed among one or more programs (e.g. 2 months during a bachelorís program, 4 months after completion of the bachelorís degree, and 6 months after completion of a masterís degree).
When Can I Engage in Optional Practical Training?
OPT is available on a part-time basis (less than 20 hours per week) or on a full-time basis (over 20 hours per week). INS regulations determine eligibility for certain benefits based on your ďcompletion date,Ē which refers to the date you complete all program requirements. The periods in which students can engage in OPT fall into four categories:
Part-time OPT will be deducted from the 12 months of available OPT at one-half the full-time rate (e.g. if a student works part-time OPT for 4 months then only 2 months of full-time OPT will be deducted).
Am I Eligible for Optional Practical Training?
and graduate students in F-1 status may apply for OPT if
they have been in lawful student status for at least 9 consecutive
months (excluding intensive English courses).
must be in good academic standing with Lewis University
to be eligible for OPT. Students who are on a leave of
absence or who have been suspended from their academic programs
are not eligible
are not eligible for OPT if you have exceeded 12 months of
full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or if you
an ESL student.
If you have already completed 12 months of OPT and have begun a new program of study, you may be eligible for OPT in limited circumstances.
How Do I Apply for Optional Practical Training?
You must make an appointment with the ISS Director to apply for OPT. You can apply 120 days prior to completion of your studies; however, INS must receive your application no later than 60 days after completion. It is highly recommended that you apply at least 3 months prior to the proposed employment.
Please bring the following to your appointment:
Personal check or money order for $120 payable to ďImmigration
and Naturalization ServiceĒ.
(2) photographs that meet INS specifications (see attached)
(Note: Print your full name in pencil on the back of each photograph. Do not cut photographs!).
card (available at your appointment).
completed and signed Form I-765, all sections to be completed
by the student (see attached).
Employment Authorization Document (EAD), if you had one.
completed and signed Form I-538, sections 1-8 to be completed
by the student
current I-20 and all previous I-20s.
Passport with Form I-94.
After Your Appointment
Make a copy of your completed application for your records,
then mail the original application by certified mail (return receipt
Northern Regional Service Center
Immigration and Naturalization Service
Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse
100 Centennial Mall North
Lincoln, NE 68501-7129
Please note that INS requires up to 80 days for processing. The actual processing time may vary considerably depending on the current workload at INS. Processing may take longer during peak times in June and December.
If you have completed your studies, it is inadvisable to travel outside the U.S. until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
To travel during OPT you will need your EAD, your I-20 with the OPT endorsement, a recent travel signature (within the last six months), a valid F-1 visa, and a valid passport. You should also carry proof of your employment or a job offer.
Please consult with an ISS advisor prior to traveling outside the U.S.
A Note of Caution
While INS regulations provide you with this employment benefit, working without proper authorization is a serious violation of your status. You must wait until you receive your EAD before beginning your employment. Although the ISS is here to advise you on immigration policy, it is ultimately your responsibility to comply with all INS regulations that apply to your F-1 status.
Words of Advice
Be very cautious about applying for OPT during the academic year or during vacation periods. Except in rare situations, an OPT application cannot be canceled. Any unexpected delays in completing degree requirements or an inability to find employment may result in your loss of authorized OPT. Periods of authorized OPT are deducted from your 12 months of eligibility even if you do not find work.