Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined in the Federal Regulations as temporary employment directly related to a student's field of study.  During OPT, a student remains in F-1 status.  The end result of the OPT request process is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

To be eligible for OPT, the student must:

  • Be in legal F-1 immigration status.
  • Be a full-time student for at least one academic year.

Post-completion OPT applications are typically denied by USCIS if the Level of Education indicated in item #4 on the I-20 is “non-degree.”

The standard OPT period is a cumulative maximum of 12 months.

Part-time OPT is deducted from the 12-month limit at 50%.

An F-1 may become eligible for another 12 months of OPT if he/she advances to a higher educational level.

Some students may be eligible for an extension of their OPT based on a STEM Degree.

If you wish to apply for OPT, meet with your Academic Advisor to request an OPT recommendation letter.  A MFTI international advisor will review your documents, and then send your OPT recommendation to SEVIS electronically to generate a new I-20.

Send your complete application and required documents to USCIS.
USCIS will send you a notice for the receipt of your I-765 EAD (OPT) application.  Once you have received your receipt notice, you can track the status of your individual case using the case status search feature of the USCIS Web site.  You may elect to receive email alerts about your case status from this Web site.
USCIS will approve or deny your OPT.  If approved, they will mail your EAD to you.  We have found that this is a 1-3 months average processing time.  Approximate processing times for the various applications and petitions that the immigration service centers adjudicate are published on the case status section of the USCIS Web site.

There are two kinds of OPT, Pre-completion and Post-completion. To understand which type to request, you need to figure out your completion date.

The completion date is generally established as the last day of the last month of the final term in which you will register to complete academic requirements.

During pre-completion OPT, employment begins and ends before the completion of the academic program.

Earliest time to apply:

  • If a student has not completed a full academic year: 90 days before completion of full academic year
  • If student has completed a full academic year: 90 days before OPT start date

There are three types of Pre-completion OPT:

  • Type 1: During the student's annual vacation.
    • Student must intend to register for the next term.
    • OPT may be part- or full-time.
  • Type 2: While school is in session.
    • Student must be registered full-time.
    • OPT may be part-time only.
  • Type 3: After completion of all course requirements (excluding thesis/dissertation).
    • If Type C OPT is part-time, student must be registered full-time.
    • If Type C OPT is full-time, student need not be registered.
    • During post-completion OPT, employment begins after completion of academic program.

Earliest time to apply:

  • Up to 90 days before program end date.

Deadline for Application to be Received by USCIS:

  • Up to 60 days after program end date.
  • Within 30 days of date DSO recommends in SEVIS. You can judge this by the date in Item #10 on page 1 of your OPT recommendation I-20.
  • If you plan to travel outside the U.S. after your completion date, you must submit the I-765 first (even if you plan to return within 60 days) and obtain the Receipt Notice in order to re-enter.

Documents Needed to Request a New I-20 with OPT Recommendation from the International Center

To apply for OPT, you must provide the following documents to your international advisor:

  • OPT request form, completed and signed.
  • Legible copies of immigration documents.
  • Copies of all I-20’s from your CURRENT degree level (pages 1 and 2) (not those of your dependents).
  • Copies of paper or print-out of electronic Form I-94.
  • Any previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Once you have your OPT I-20 Course Completion Certificate and compiled all of the required documentation for an OPT I-20, you may submit your request to your international advisor.

Once you've requested an OPT recommendation through MFTI and received your new I-20, you will need to prepare and submit the following list of items to USCIS:

  • G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance.
  • Base Fee for I-765, payable to US Department of Homeland Security.  Personal check, cashiers check or money order is acceptable.  If you use a personal check, please be sure to wait for the check to be cashed before closing your bank account.  Please only include the I-765 filing fee and do not include the biometrics fee with the application.
  • Two full-face passport-style photos.  The photos must be identical and in color with a plain background.  They must be no more than 30 days old when the I-765 is filed at USCIS.  Put photos in an envelope.  You should attach the fee and the photo envelope on top of the entire application (on the upper left-hand corner).  Please do not staple the fee and the photos.  Use a pencil to gently write your name and I-94 number on the back of your photo.
  • Original USCIS Form I-765.
  • Photocopy of the new I-20 with OPT recommendation.
  • Photocopies of all your previous I-20s from your current degree level.
  • Photocopy of paper or print-out of electronic Form I-94.
  • Photocopy of previous EAD, if applicable.
  • Photocopy of most recent F-1 visa page (except Canadians) OR approval of change of status to F-1 (I-797) if applicable.
  • Photocopy of your passport pages showing your biographical information and its expiration date. Keep in mind that if the photo in the passport is not clear or varies widely from your current appearance, a clear copy of another form of identification, such as a state-issued drivers license or identification card will also have to be sent.

Refer to the Department of Homeland Security’s website for the correct mailing address.  The address you wish your EAD card sent determines where the application should be mailed.  Mail your application using a trackable method and keep record of your application’s delivery.  Ensure your application is received by USCIS less than 30 days after your OPT I-20’s issuance date.  We recommend you make a copy of the application for your own records before mailing to USCIS.  NOTE: The International Center advises against using the “e-file” option because it makes you subject to additional requirements.

In the past few years there have been many changes that may affect international students who plan to leave and re-enter the U.S.  The U.S. Department of State and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) bureau of Department of Homeland Security have increased the level of review that international visitors face at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad, at airports, and at border crossing posts with Canada and Mexico.

For additional information, MFTI suggests you consult the ICE webpage relating to OPT.