Definition of Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training is designed to provide you with an opportunity to gain actual employment experience in your current major field of study for a maximum of one year during per higher degree level (bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate) in your F-1 status. The purpose is to "round off" or complement your academic work.
The work must be directly related to your current major field of study and it must be appropriate for someone having your level of education. The work may be full time or part time during vacations and after you finish your degree or part time during the academic year. The work may occur anywhere in the United States. In order for you to be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training, you (1) must have been in lawful F-1 student status for at least one full academic year and (2) must submit your application in a timely fashion (see next section). Students enrolled in English language training programs are not eligible for practical training.
Importance of the Actual Date you Complete Your Program of Study
Your lawful F-1 status expires 60 days after the date you complete degree requirements and you are expected to leave the country by that date unless you file a timely application for practical training or make other plans to lawfully remain in the U.S. Immigration regulations refer to the date you complete all requirements for a program of study, not to the date you participate in graduation ceremonies and receive a certificate or diploma. The USCIS ignores your graduation ceremony date because it realizes that many students, especially graduate students, may complete requirements for a degree any day during the year. This means that the last day of an academic term may not be the date you complete program requirements. Failure to complete your degree by the date specified in your OPT application will result in the loss of your OPT and the termination of your I-20 form. If you will not be completing your program as originally anticipated, you must apply for an extension of your I-20 form and continue to maintain your registration.
You may file the Form I-765 up to 90 days prior to completing one full academic year in good standing. The Form I-765 must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date the OPT recommendation is made in SEVIS. You must first have a job offer when applying to use OPT for work prior to completing your degree. The work could be full time during annual vacations or following completion of all graduate coursework excluding thesis/master’s project. The work is limited to 20 hours per week if you wish to use your OPT while you are still taking a regular full course load or authorized part time semester. Please note that if you choose to apply for pre-completion OPT, you may not apply for the 17 month OPT extension and you would not be eligible for the cap-gap extension.
You may file the Form I-765 up to 90 days prior to your completion date and no later than 60 days after your completion date. If you file any earlier than 90 days prior to your completion date, your OPT request will be denied. The Form I-765 must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date the OPT recommendation is made in SEVIS. It can take approximately 2-3 months to be approved by USCIS, so please plan accordingly. Employment start date can begin the day after and no later than 60 days after your completion date and is valid for one full year. F-1 status is depended upon full-time employment or volunteer service while on post-completion OPT. You cannot accrue more than 90 days of unemployment while on post-completion OPT.
17 Month Extension OPT
An F-1 student who has completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a STEM CIP (Classification of Instructional Programs) that is approved by DHS for the 17-month extension and is currently engaged in post-completion OPT may apply for the 17-month extension if he or she has a job or job offer from an E-Verify employer. An E-Verify employer is an employer registered and in good standing with the USCIS E-Verify program. You may file the Form I-765 within 90 and 120 days of the expiration date of the current OPT.
Authorization May Not Be Rescinded
Once authorization to engage in Optional Practical Training is granted, it may not easily be rescinded or canceled. This means that, after practical training is authorized by the USCIS, unexpected delays in completing degree requirements, inability to find an appropriate job or loss of a job may result in loss of otherwise eligible time to work or revocation of your OPT. Once permission to work has been given, it is gone regardless of subsequent occurrences.
Actual Date Employment May Begin
You may not begin work until the following requirements are satisfied: (1) you have obtained an EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) from the USCIS (2) the date is reached when the EAD authorizes employment to begin. You may not begin working until you have received your EAD card and it is valid! If you are currently working on CPT and wish to continue working with no interruptions, you should (1) request a start date immediately following your program completion and (2) apply 90 days prior to your program completion to maximize your chances of receiving the OPT card on time.
Employer Name & Address
You must notify the Student Life Office with the name and address of your employer within 10 days of securing employment.
Change of Employer After Optional Practical Training Has Been Authorized
You may change employers after you have begun authorized employment provided he new job is (1) directly related to your major field of study and (2) appropriate for someone having your level of education. Show your EAD card to your new employer when you fill out Form I-9 within 3 days of hire. You must also notify the Student Life Office of the employer name, address, and employment start date within 10 days of hire.
Working at More than One Job
During your authorized full time OPT period, you may have more than one job as long as all jobs meet the requirements of being directly related to your major field of study and appropriate for someone having your level of education. During a part time OPT period your total employment is limited to 20 hours per week.
Travel Outside the U.S.
Students in OPT are still in F-1 student status and must present (l) Form I-20, endorsed for travel by an International Student Advisor within the last six months, (2) the Employment Authorization Document (EAD card), (3) a valid F-1 visa and passport (if required), and (4) proof of your job if you are traveling after your OPT has been authorized. If your OPT has been approved and you depart before you get a job, your OPT ends and you cannot reenter the US. While it is possible, we do not recommend unnecessary travel outside of the U.S. during the time when an OPT application is pending as you may miss important communication from the USCIS regarding the processing of your case.
Change of Address Requirement
The immigration laws require all F-1 students to notify their school within 10 days of a change of address. This rule applies to all F-1 students, including those in their OPT period following degree completion. Notify the Student Life Office and the Registrar’s office of any change in your local address or home country address. If you move while your OPT application is pending, you must also directly notify USCIS by calling the phone number listed on your receipt notice. Please be advised that federal mail, such as your OPT card and receipt notice, cannot be forwarded in the US mail. If you file a forwarding order with the US post office and do not notify USCIS and the school of your address change; your receipt notice and OPT card will be returned to USCIS. You may have to file another application to replace your OPT card and pay the fee again. If you are uncertain of how long you will remain at your current address, use the following on your OPT application form I-765: C/O Student Life Office, Sacred Heart University, 5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield, CT 06825.
Termination of Practical Training
Your OPT will automatically be terminated if you transfer to another school or begin study at another educational level. Your OPT will automatically be terminated if you change your non-immigrant status to another category (such as H-1B). Please notify the Student Life Office if you end your OPT prior to your authorized end date. Failure to complete your degree by the date specified in your OPT application is grounds for termination of your OPT.
Request for Further Evidence
If you receive a Request for Further Evidence from the US Immigration Service while your OPT is pending, you must bring or fax the notice to the Student Life Office and consult with an International Student Advisor prior to responding to the request. Failure to do so may lead to the denial of your OPT application.
Please make sure your passport is valid and has a validity period of at least 6 months prior to filing for OPT. If your passport is valid for less than 6 months, please apply at your consulate for a renewal and include proof of having applied for the renewal in your OPT application.
Helpful hints for filling out Form I-765
- I am applying for: (Check appropriate box)
- Question 10: Your I-94 Number is printed on your I-94 card. Do not include your SHU student ID number.
- Question 11: Answer “Yes” if you have ever had a non-immigrant status that allowed employment, such as H-1B or L-1, or if you have had any other employment card issued by the USCIS, such as F-1 economic hardship. If you answer yes, attach documentation showing your work authorization. Answer “No” if you have only worked on-campus or with Curricular Practical Training.
- Question 14: enter the status you had when you last entered the U.S.
- Question 15: enter: F-1 Student
- Question 16:
(c) (3) (A) – If you are applying for pre-completion OPT
(c) (3) (B) – If you are applying for post-completion OPT
(c) (3) (C) – If you are applying for 17-month OPT extension
- Sign, include your phone number, and date under "Your Certification". Leave blank the last section unless someone else is preparing the I-765 form for you.
Application and Authorization Procedures | bring to the Student Life office
- For OPT following degree completion: proof of graduation signed by your Academic Advisor.
- For OPT prior to degree completion: job offer letter.
- Academic Advisor Recommendation Form giving your completion date.
- OPT Advisor Form
- Completed form I-765 form. The USCIS will mail your employment card to the address you give on the Form I-765.
- $380 filing fee, make a check or money order payable to “US Department of Homeland Security.” Do not send cash!
- Two identical color photos; passport style must be 2” by 2”. Photos must be in color with a full face, frontal view on a white to off-white background.
- Do not staple your photographs to your application.
- Do not cut your photos or glue/tape them to application.
- Copy of any additional I-20 forms (for example school transfers, extension, new program)
- Copy of form I-797, if you had a change of status to F-1
- Copy of both sides of your I-94 card. Please be sure the red ink stamp is legible on the copy. The new electronic I-94 record can be obtained online.
- Copy from your passport: photo page, information page, expiration date and F-1 visa.
- For 17 month extension OPT, copy of current EAD card and USCIS Approval letter. Also, must provide a copy of your school transcript.
- Zero balance with the University Bursar
- There must be no adverse "holds" on your student account (such as delinquent payments, noncompliance with immunization, or judicial sanctions).
Upon the fulfillment of all application requirements, the International Student Advisor will recommend OPT and issue you a new I-20 form, which you will need to sign prior to your application being mailed.