OPT Frequently Asked Questions
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 (post-completion).
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 OPT?
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 (post-completion).
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, visit the USCIS Case Status Online page.
Q: Can I begin working as soon as I receive my Receipt Notice?
A: ABSOLUTELY NOT! You must receive the actual EAD card before you begin working. You may only work during dates specified on that card.
Q: If I move after filling out the application, will I get my EAD card?
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 Advisor.
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 another job.
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 time.
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.
For more information, please visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.