OPT Information and Instructions

On April 8, 2008, Department of Homeland Security published an interim final rule that changes several key aspects of F-1 optional practical training (OPT). Included in the new rule is the opportunity for F-1 students in specific areas of study to apply for a 17 month extension of their Optional Practical Training after they are engaged in their 12 month post-completion training. This new rule is referred to as the “17 month Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension”.

What Is OPT? 

Optional Practical Training is the one year of off- campus work permission granted per each level of study obtained in the U.S. Unlike COOP or Curricular Practical Training (CPT), OPT does not have to be included as a required internship or practicum listed in your curriculum.

  • Authorization to work off-campus in your field of study.

  • Each student has a total of 12 months of OPT per each advanced degree level they obtain. (Bachelor’s    Master’s     PhD)

Who is Eligible for OPT?

F-1 students are eligible for Optional Practical Training after maintaining full-time student status for at least one academic year (2 semesters).

  • Students are eligible for OPT: (1) full-time during the summer vacation semester, (2) part-time during the academic year, and, (3) full-time after completion of all course requirements.

  •  Students must complete the OPT within 14 months after completion of the course of study.

  • Students who have engaged in one year or more of full-time COOP/Curricular Practical Training (CPT) are ineligible for Optional Practical Training.

  • Immigration must receive the student’s application for OPT before their completion of degree requirements. i.e. You must apply for OPT before the program completion date.

  • It is not necessary to have an offer of employment before applying for OPT.

Employment While on OPT

  • Working is NOT optional – You may not accrue more than a total of 90 days of unemployment during the initial 12 months of post-completion OPT.

  • If you do accept a job, just remember it should be in your field of study

Applying for OPT

When should you apply for OPT?

  • Applications MUST be submitted and received by the USCIS before graduation date

  • You can apply 120 days (4 months) before graduation or when you want the OPT to begin

What to put as a start date?

  • Think about when you would like to start working or when you think you may be hired for a job. Remember - you tell the USCIS when you want OPT to start and end

  • Before graduation if you have completed all course work and are working on thesis/dissertation

  • After graduation, all the F-1 students have a 60 day grace period.  You can request an OPT start date that begins during this time

For example: Graduate May 8, 2008

                   Grace Period = May 8 – July8. Choose a date between May 8 and July 8.

How long does it take to get OPT?

  • USCIS may take 3-6 months to process an OPT application

Employment Eligibility – Employment Eligibility Document ( EAD)

  • EAD is a laminated card bearing the student’s picture that provides beginning and ending dates of the employment authorization

  • Lots of students who want to work longer in the US apply for H1-B work visas with the company

 Can I go in for training before I get the EAD card?

Sorry, no!

Can I volunteer (unpaid) until my card comes in?

Sorry, no!  The USCIS considers this working.

Travel and OPT 

  • You may not leave the U.S while your OPT application is being processed. Meaning: You cannot travel outside of the U.S. after you have applied for OPT and until the time that you receive your EAD card.

  • You may travel as long as you have:

                                     EAD card; signed I-20; valid F1 visa; valid passport

Grace Period and in US After OPT 

You may remain in the U.S. 60 days after the expiration of your EAD. This is a time for you to travel within the U.S., pack your things, relax, etc. You should not be working or studying during the 60-day grace period.

Reporting Requirements During OPT

All students on OPT are required to report to the Designated School Official (DSO=International Student Advisor):

  • change of name or address

  • name of employer, and any change of name of employer

  • address of employer, and any change of address of employer

  • interruption of such employment

In addition, students with an approved 17-month OPT extension must report to the student's DSO within 10 days of any change of:

  • legal name

  • residential or mailing address

  • employer name

  • employer address, and/or

  • loss of employment.

Must make a validation report to the DSO/International Student Advisor every six months starting from the date the extension begins and ending when the student's F-1 status ends, the student changes educational levels at the same school, the student transfers to another school, or the 17-month OPT extension ends, whichever is first. The validation is a confirmation that the student's name and address, employer name and address, and/or loss of employment is current and accurate. The report is due to the DSO/International Student Advisor within 10 business days of each reporting date.

OPT Applications Procedures 

1. Come to an OPT information session

At the session you will learn about the details of OPT, and receive all the necessary paperwork and application form.

2. Application Materials

  • Form I-765.Under item 16 - indicate (c) (3) (B). Use an address that you know you will be at when the EAD is to arrive.

  • We recommend that you use a reliable address that you will retrieve mail for a 2-3 month period. If you are unsure about your address, you can include our address, which is Center for International Programs, 1500 N Patterson Street,, Valdosta GA 31698. You will be notified by the CIP when your card arrives

  • A photocopy of the front and back of I-94 card

  • A photocopy of the visa page of your passport

  • A photocopy of your I-20 on which the recommendation for OPT is endorsed by the school official ( Will be provided by your International Student Advisor)

  • 2 passport-size photographs

  • Check or Money Order for $380.00 made payable to US Department of Homeland Security

  • Letter from your academic advisor confirming that all academic classes have been completed if you want to start OPT during your thesis or dissertation stage.

  • Cover letter from VSU DSO confirming enrollment and intent to apply for OPT EAD.

3. Make an appointment with an International Student Advisor in the CIP

Your International student advisor will check over the application, issue a new I-20 with the OPT recommendation, and make copies of all necessary documents for your files. After the appointment, the CIP will mail the application to USCIS.

4. Notice of Action

After you apply for OPT, you will receive a Notice of Action in a few weeks. You can check the status of your application by using the SRC number.

5. EAD Card

You will receive the EAD card 2-3 months after you submit the OPT application. If you do not receive the EAD 91 days after the date on your Notice of Action, you can request the CIP to contact immigration on your behalf.

OPT STEM Extension FAQs

Students may be eligible for an OPT extension if they graduated with a degree in one of the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines and meet other eligibility requirements. WHAT ARE THE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS?

1) Student must have a degree in one of the STEM disciplines. For description of those disciplines, as well as additional information, visit USCIS here.

2) You are already be participating in a 12-month period of OPT, working for a U.S. Employer in a job directly related to your major area of study. NOTE: Employer MUST be registered with the E-Verify verification system. E-verify is administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration and electronically verifies the employment authorization of a NEW HIRE. In addition:

  • The employer must agree to report the termination or departure of the student to the VSU DSO or through "any other means or process identified by DHS"

  • An employer must consider a worker to have departed when the employer knows the student has left employment, or if the student has not reported for work for a period of 5 consecutive business days without the employer's consent.

3) How to apply?

  • Notify VSU DSO of your intent to apply for OPT STEM EXTENSION BEFORE the completion of your OPT (BEFORE THE END DATE ON YOUR CURRENT EAD).

  • Request for OPT STEM Extension must be submitted in SEVIS.

  • Form I-765.Under item 16 - indicate (c) (3) (c) and also the Employer's E-Verify account information. Use an address that you know you will be at when the EAD is to arrive.

  • We recommend that you use a reliable address that you will retrieve mail for a 2-3 month period. If you are unsure about your address, you can include our address, which is Center for International Programs, 1500 N Patterson Street,, Valdosta GA 31698. You will be notified by the CIP when your card arrives.

  • A photocopy of the front and back of I-94 card

  • A photocopy of the visa page of your passport

  • A photocopy of your I-20 on which the recommendation for OPT EXTENSION is endorsed by the school official ( Will be provided by your International Student Advisor)

  • 2 passport-size photographs

  • A photocopy of your current Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

  • Check or Money Order for $380.00 made payable to USCIS

  • Letter from your employer indicating authorization and offer of employment. E-verify account information will also be needed for completion of the Form I-765.