Salisbury University - Center for International Education
F-1 Visa Status
Optional Practical Training: OPT Frequently Asked
International students may be eligible to apply for Optional
Practical Training (opportunity for paid off-campus employment
related to student’s major field of study) after they have
maintained F-1 status for one academic year. A student may
engage in practical training in the following cases:
- when school is not in session (during vacation) and if
the student is currently enrolled and intends to register
for the next semester (pre-completion);
- while school is in session, provided that practical
training does not exceed 20 hours a week and the student
maintains a full course of study (pre-completion); or
- after completion of the course of study
Note: Any way a company pays you (rent, airline ticket,
laptop, cash, food, etc.) is a form of payment. You will
have to have the EAD card to accept any form of payment from
any off campus employer.
Q: How soon can I apply for OPT?
A: For pre-completion OPT, after you have maintained F-1 status
for one academic year; for post-completion OPT up to 90 days
before the program end-date and up to 60 days after the program
end-date, provided that it is filed within 30 days of the date
the DSO enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS
Q: What is the latest date I can apply for post-completion
A: The DHS (Department of Homeland Security) must receive your
application 60 days after the program end-date, provided that it
is filed within 30 days of the date the DSO enters the OPT
recommendation into SEVIS
Q: What date should I use as a “program end” date?
A: Your completion of studies (program end) date is the date
when you completed you last requirement for your degree. It is
NOT a graduation date.
Q: How much time am I eligible to work under OPT?
A: Optional Practical Training can be authorized for a total of
12 months at a full-time rate per each educational level. For
example, if a student used 3 months of full-time OPT during a
summer vacation (pre-completion), she or he would only have 9
months eligibility remaining after completion of a degree
Additionally, a new rule makes recipients of bachelor's,
master's, and doctoral degrees in certain STEM (science,
technology, engineering, mathematics) fields eligible for a
one-time 17-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total
eligibility of up to 29 months). To be eligible for the
extension, the student's employer must be registered in
E-Verify, and agree to report to the DSO when the student is
terminated or leaves employment. The student must agree to make
periodic reports to the DSO as well.
Q: Will I be able to recover unused portions of OPT?
A: Probably not, and therefore you need to be really careful
when deciding on dates.
Q: If I would like to work under OPT for one summer
(pre-completion) and then after graduation (post-completion), do
I have to submit a separate application for each period?
Q: Can I change employers while working under OPT?
A: Yes, as long as each position is directly related to your
field of study and corresponding with your educational level.
Q: How long does it take to process the application and
receive the EAD (Employment Authorization Card?
A: Usually, DHS will send you a Notice of Action a couple of
weeks after they received your application. This notice will
either confirm that everything is in order, and will give you an
estimated time for receipt of the EAD card (usually up to 90
days) or it will contain a Request for Evidence. In the second
case, we will have to submit whatever additional documentation
is requested, which will extend your waiting time.
Q: How can I verify that DHS received my application?
A: The International Student Services office will mail the
application for you as a “Return Receipt” service. Once the DHS
receives it, they will sign for it, date it and return to us.
That signed receipt is your verification.
Q: How can I check on the status of my application?
A: Once you receive the Notice of Action, check the EAC number
in the upper left corner. Then, go to the DHS web site at:
Q: Can I begin working as soon as I receive my Receipt
A: ABSOLUTELY NOT! You must receive the actual EAD card before
you begin working. You may only work during dates specified on
Q: If I move after filling out the application, will I get my
A: Probably not. DHS does not allow the US Postal Service to
forward this type of mail. Additionally, the address in the
SEVIS system must be the same as on the I-765 application.
Please discuss mailing options with the International Student
Q: Can I reenter if my request for OPT is pending (before I
receive the EAD card)?
A: Yes, you may reenter to search for employment
This may be a very problematic question. Different ports of
entry address such situations in a variety of ways. Please
discuss other options with the International Student Advisor.
Q: Can I reenter if I left while on OPT?
A: If your OPT has been approved and you depart before you get a
job, your OPT ends and you cannot reenter unless you have a
written job offer. If you have a job, you may travel and reenter
to resume work at the same job or you have a written offer for
Q: What happens if I lose my EAD card?
A: You will have to apply for a replacement card.
Q: If I receive my EAD card, can I cancel it for any reason?
A: No. Once you have been issued the EAD card, it may not be
rescinded, cancelled or deferred.
Q: Does the 60 day grace period apply to OPT?
A: Yes. You may stay in the USA for up to 60 days after the
completion date on your EAD card. You may not work during that
NOTE: Students approved for OPT continue to be in F-1 status,
and therefore must have the I-20 endorsed for travel, a valid
F-1 visa and an EAD card to re-enter. They are also required to
update the International Student Advisor within 10 days of any
address change, legal name change, employer’s name and address
or interruption in employment.
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