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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) Application Guide

Eligibility - You must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for at least a full academic year, currently be in F-1 status, have completed all requirements for the award of your degree, per degree level. The major you will be graduating with must be on your current SEVIS I-20 for at least one academic year. You are eligible for a maximum of twelve months optional practical training employment while in F-1 status degree level. You may obtain another 12 months when you enroll in another degree level.

Application Deadline - You must apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), 90 days prior to the completion of studies. OPT is authorized according to the Office of International Affairs' (OIA) recommendation. Remember, you may not begin employment until you have been issued an EAD by the USCIS.

Procedure - The OIA cannot authorize OPT following completion of your studies. Your first step in obtaining an EAD is to qualify for a certification from the OIA recommending you for practical training.

Step 1 - Submit to the OIA the documentation listed below within the period of 90 days prior to completion of studies . However, as you must first obtain OIA’s endorsement, which may require 3 working days - and complications at the last minute may further delay processing - you should make every effort to abide by our earlier deadline. The USCIS processing center has informed us that they will not adjudicate applications received more than 90 days before completion of studies. You may apply without a job offer.

  1. Completed Undergraduate OPT application (-DOC   -PDF) or Graduate OPT application (-DOC   -PDF).
  2. Completed Form I -765. (In Section 20, please enter (C)(3)(B). This form MUST BE typed and signed by student.
  3. Completed  Form G-1145 (Must be typed)
  4. Your current SEVIS I-20
  5. Photocopy of the picture page of your passport
  6. Photocopy of your visa
  7. I-94 Printout.  You may download your I-94 information by going to I-94 Retrieval.

Once the following documents are submitted to the Office of International Affairs, the OIA will review the student's application to determine the student's eligibility for OPT. If the student is eligible for OPT, the OIA will issue the student an I-20 recommending post-completion OPT.

It will take the Office of International Affairs staff approximately 3 business days to finish processing a student's OPT application. The OIA will email the student informing them that they may pick up their OPT application from the office.

Step 2 - Once the student picks up their I-20 and other application documents from the Office of International Affairs, the student will then need to mail their application to the USCIS Service Center. We suggest that you mail your application to the USCIS by certified mail, return receipt requested. This will provide you with proof that your application was received timely in the event that the application is lost. We also recommend that you photocopy the entire application before you mail it so that you have a copy for your records. So that the documents do not get lost, put the photos in a small envelope and label as “photos” and staple all pages together, being careful not to staple the photos. Please make sure your application includes all of the following documents:

  1. Completed Form G-1145
  2. Completed Form I-765
  3. I-94 Printout
  4. Copy of the I-20 issued by the OIA requesting your post-completion OPT
  5. Photocopy of the picture page of your passport
  6. Photocopy of your visa
  7. Two identical passport photos (photos should be no larger than 2" x 2") (lightly write your full name and I-94 number on the back of the photos in pencil)
  8. $410 personal check or money order made payable to the "United States Department of Homeland Security"

Mail your application to:
USCIS TSC
P.O.Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

You must bring the completed application to the OIA if you would like it to be reviewed before you mail it to the USCIS.

Step 3 - The USCIS will send the EAD card to the address indicated on the Form I-765, which must be your current address.

Processing time - Currently, the entire process for receiving employment authorization is taking more than 90 days.

Special Considerations - Regulations allow you to change employers during the period of authorized practical training, as long as the new employment continues to be directly related to your field of study and commensurate with your educational level.

Once the OIA has annotated your SEVIS I-20AB by recommending optional practical training, there is no provision for withdrawing or canceling the recommendation. Also, the notation on the SEVIS I-20 recommending optional practical training will be viewed by the Office of International Affairs and indicate that you have been granted practical training following completion of your studies.

Note: You are not allowed to work until you receive the EAD from USCIS.

You are considered to be maintaining your F-1 status for 60 days following the expiration date of your practical training, which is the time allowed you to either depart from the United States or change to another status. If you want to begin a new full-time program of study at any point during or following authorized practical training, you must follow the procedures for continuation from one educational level to another at UL Lafayette, if applicable, or for transfer of schools.

All students on OPT have 90 days from the start date on their EAD card (you must have the card in your possession) to find employment within their major. It can be either paid employment or volunteer employment.

If you leave the U.S. during your authorized period of practical training, you may return for the remainder of the authorized period provided you have:

  1. A SEVIS I-20AB that has been re-certified.
  2. A valid F-1 entry visa and a valid passport.
  3. An EAD that is not expired.
  4. A letter from your current employer.

If you leave the U.S. after you complete your studies but before you receive the EAD from the USCIS Service Center, you will abandon your application and have no provision for employment authorization. You will not be permitted to return to the United States with F-1 student status.

The advisor of the OIA encourages you to contact him/her if you have questions about the procedure or if you receive any correspondence about your application.