Optional Practical Training (OPT)
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) permit lawful F-1 students the opportunity to gain practical work experience in their field of study after completing their program of study. This experience is called Optional Practical Training (OPT). By law, OPT must be approved by the Immigration Specialist, at the Center for International Education (CIE)) and submitted to USCIS within 60 days of degree program completion. F-1 visa holders become eligible for another year of OPT when they change to a higher degree level.
Graduating students can apply for OPT 90 days before the completion of their program or within 60 days after the completion of their program at CCSU. Please be aware that it takes approximately 90 days for USCIS to process an OPT application. It is illegal to begin employment before you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card) and you are only permitted to work within the dates specified.
- Valid F-1 status.
- Lawfully enrolled full-time for at least one academic year.
- Used less than one year of full time Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
- Have NOT completed a full year of OPT at your current degree level.
- In the last semester of your degree program or completing your thesis or equivalent.
OPT Application Process:
How to Apply for OPT
- OPT Release Form signed by your Academic Advisor.
- Select tentative OPT start date which must be within 60 days of your program end date.
- Bring all completed forms to OPT workshop.
- Print and complete the required Form I-765 (Only Questions 1-16 apply).
- Check the box: permission to accept employment.
- Question 3: Make sure that your address is valid for the next 120 days. Your receipt notice and Employment Authorization Card will be mailed to this address by USCIS). Note: By law, mail from USCIS will not be forwarded by United States Postal Service; if you move and do not call USCIS to change your address, your mail from USCIS will be returned to USCIS and not forwarded. However, if your address changes, call the USCIS National Customer Service at 1-800-375-5283 to update it.
- Question 10: Is the number on your I-94 (white card in your passport).
- Question 16: Post completion OPT, then use eligibility code c) (3) (B). Question 17: Leave blank.
- Sign Form I-765.
- Make legible copies of :
- Passport pages
- Admission Stamp
- Visa page
- Front and back of I-94
- Copies of all previous Form I-20 from all schools
- Copy of previously issued Employment Authorization Documents
- Two recent passport pictures.
- A check or money order for $380 payable to Department of Homeland Security.
- Keep a copy of all documents submitted to USCIS.
Submitting Your OPT Application to USCIS
Your OPT application and all of the required documentation must be sent to the USCIS Service Center Lockbox facility. Those with addresses in AL, AR, CT, DE, FL, GA, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MS, NH, NJ, NM, NY, PA, PR, RI, VT, VA, US Virgin Islands, WV and DC should send their application to:
- By Courier Service (FedEx/DHL/UPS):
USCIS, Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121
Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
- By U.S. Postal Service (Not Recommended):
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
Tracking your OPT Application
You should receive a 1-797 receipt notice of action within 2-3 weeks of mailing your application to USCIS. The receipt notice has your case/receipt number printed on it with the following format EAC-XX-XXX-XXXXX. You can track the progress of your OPT application at USCIS. Paying your OPT fee by check is another way to keep up with your application progress.
Request for Evidence
In a situation where a student receives a “Blue Colored Paper Request for Evidence”, all you need to do is to respond directly to USCIS with requested information within the time specified.
Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
Once your OPT application has been approved, you will first receive an approval notice and the Employment Authorization Card should arrive by mail in about a week. Check your card to make sure that information such as your name, date of birth, and OPT dates are correct. If not, please send an e-mail to email@example.com
You may work for more than one employer and/or change employers during your period of authorized OPT. The employment you select for your OPT must be directly related to your major field of study. While on OPT, you are still in F-1 status and subject to F-1 regulations.
OPT and Travel
Travel outside the U.S. prior to receipt of the EAD may constitute an abandonment of an OPT application, causing it to be cancelled and prohibiting your re-entry to the U.S.
If you travel during your OPT, you will need:
- A properly endorsed Form I-20 (within the last 6 months)
- Your EAD card
- Letter of Employment:
- on company letterhead and signed by a company official
- stating a brief job description showing relation to your current major
- stating dates of employment: beginning & ending (must match EAD)
- stating the number of hours per week: full or part time
Upon expiration of your EAD/OPT, you have a 60-day grace period during which you must depart the US, obtain a new Form I-20 for further study, extend the duration of your OPT or secure another immigration status.
Note: Beginning a new full time degree program of study and transferring of your SEVIS record to another school during OPT automatically voids OPT.
Manditory OPT Requirements
- Must have employer name and address
- Employer name change.
- Loss of employment
- Address change.
- Change of status
- Transfer to another program
H-1B Cap-Gap Extension
For students on OPT with H1B applications approved/ pending:
- Inform the Immigration Specialist at CIE about Cap-Gap eligibility.
- Provide I-797 Receipt or Approval Notice from USCIS.
- Information will be sent to SEVP on student’s behalf.
17 Month OPT Extension
OPT can be extended for an additional 17 months. To be eligible for the 17 month OPT extension, you must have completed a degree in Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM degrees) and major is included on the STEM degree program list. For more information, see the link attached: Stem List.
- Eligibility Requirements:
- Have valid F-1 status.
- Be a STEM student.
- A copy of your diploma.
- Your employer name as listed in E-Verify.
- Your employer’s E-Verify Company Identification Number.
- Form I-765
- Item 16 Eligibility Category: OPT-17 month extension input “(c)(3)(C)”
- Complete information requested in “Item 17”
- Two passport pictures
- OPT 17-Month Extension Form
- $380 Fee: check or money order payable to Department of Homeland Security
- Copy of previous Employment Authorization Card.
- Submit paperwork to International Student and Scholar Services.
- A new Form I-20 will be issued to you with new OPT dates.
- Upon USCIS’s approval of your request for OPT, you will be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
- If filed in a timely manner, you can continue working for up to 180 days before the arrival of your new EAD card.
OPT takes about three (3) months to process.
Apply during your last semester.
90 Days Rule: There should not be an accumulation of 90 days of unemployment during 12 month period of OPT.
Work in field of major.
Can work for one/more employer.
Can start your own business in field of study with proper business documents and work full time.
Volunteer with proper documentation (At least 20 hours/week).
- Required to report:
Employer name and address within 10 days of employment.
Employer name change.
Your Address change.
- OPT Extension
Employer must have E-Verify number.
Check eligibility on STEM list.
New OPT application.
Copy of diploma.
- H1B Cap-Gap Extension (for students on OPT with H1B applications approved/ pending).
Inform Immigration Specialist at CIE about Cap-Gap eligibility.
Provide I-797 Receipt or Approval Notice from USCIS.
Information will be sent to SEVP on student’s behalf.