Leaf Pattern Design
Optional Practical Training
(OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment authorization which allows F-1 students to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience. You may be entitled to up to 12 months of optional practical training per educational level. If a student begins a new academic program at a higher level, the student is eligible for another 12 months of OPT.  There is a filing fee of $410 to receive authorization for OPT. 
 
Please note that Optional Practical Training requires authorization from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which typically takes 3-6 months to obtain. We recommend that you apply no less than 90 days prior to graduation.


 

Post-completion OPT

  • OPT done after completion of the course of study

  • Apply for post-completion OPT up to 90 days before or no later than 60 days after the program end date. 

  • Finish OPT within 14 months after the completion of your academic program.

Here are the details:

Timing to Apply

December Graduates

Early Application (recommended): Mid- September (actual date will be no sooner than 90 days before your program end date) Last day to submit application: Mid- February (actual date will be 60 days after your program end date)

 May Graduates

Early Application (recommended): Mid-February (actual date will be no sooner than 90 days before your program end date) Last day to submit application: Mid-July (actual date will be 60 days after your program end date)

Eligibility and Information

  • Must:

    • Be a full-time student for one academic school year before the OPT is to begin.

    • Obtain employment directly related to the student's major area of study

  • Can engage in OPT for up to a total of 12 months from your approved start date.

  • A job offer is not required to be eligible for or to apply for OPT but the student is expected to work or be actively seeking employment after the OPT approval card (EAD) is issued.  Students may only accrue 90 days of unemployment during post-completion OPT. 

  • Employment does NOT have to be paid employment to be considered “employed” for OPT.  Even if the work is unpaid, one must work a minimum of 20 hours/week and obtain proof of employment such as a letter from the employer.  Please be aware of US labor laws that require pay for certain types of work.  

  • Do not begin work until you have received the employment authorization card in the mail. Any employment outside the dates authorized on the Form I-20 is illegal work, and places you outside of legal status in the United States. Your legal status as an F-1 student is terminated if you work without authorization.

  • Please note that you must stop on-campus employment after your program completion date unless you have received your EAD card with a valid start date and the on-campus employment is directly related to your course of study.

OPT Application Process Checklist

  • Read through this information webpage in its entirety.

  • Meet with your DSO to answer questions about the application process.

  • Submit the OPT Request Form (found at the bottom of this page) to your DSO.

  • Complete the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. The form I-765 and instructions are available on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. You can file online on this site or print the latest paper version here.

  • We recommend using a PowerPoint presentation created by University of California Berkeley as a guiding document when completing the I-765.  

  • Gather all immigration documents and other supporting materials to submit with the application for employment authorization, including the following: 

    • Completed I-765 application 

    • Form I-94:  provide your most recent I-94 form.  You can print it out at: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/recent-search   

    • Photocopies of the following passport pages: 

      • Photo page

      • F-1 visa page

      • Renewal page (if original has expired)

      • Pages showing amendments such as name changes, corrections, etc. (if applicable)

    • Photocopy of I-20 printed with the OPT endorsement (signed) You will keep the original.

    • Photocopies of all I-20 forms that have been issued.

    • Photocopies of any previous employment authorization documents (EAD)-if applicable.

    • Two identical 2x2 color passport photographs taken within 30 days.  These can usually be taken at a local store.  For details, please see: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/photos.html

    • Pay I-765 fee (check or Money Order payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security).  The current fee is listed on the USCIS website (see link above).

  • Obtain your updated I-20 showing the OPT endorsement, which you will submit with the application. 

  • Please note: USCIS must receive your complete OPT application within 30 days of the date your new I-20 was printed endorsing OPT, and no earlier than 90 days prior to the program end date on your I-20. If USCIS receives your OPT application outside of the approved time line your request will be denied.

  • Mail the application and supporting documents with the USCIS Service Center (address listed below) at the cost of the student, or file online here.

 

USCIS Chicago Lockbox

U.S. Postal Service (USPS)

Attn: I-765 C03

P.O. Box 805373

Chicago, IL 60680-5374

 

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries: 

USCIS

Attn: I-765 CO3 (Box 805373)

131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor

Chicago, IL 60603-5517

OPT LC3: Complications

If You Do Not Receive Receipt Notice within 4 Weeks

  • There are a few possible reasons your Receipt Notice has not arrived:

    • USCIS did not mail it yet. They may take up to 6 weeks to put a Receipt Notice in the mail after your application is received. If you signed up for text alerts, you will be notified when the receipt has been mailed. 

    • Your Receipt Notice was “returned undeliverable.” This means the Post Office was unable to deliver the letter to your address and they mailed it back to USCIS. USCIS keeps it for a short time and then destroys it.

    • The Receipt Notice was lost permanently before delivery (e.g. delivered to the wrong address) or after delivery (e.g. accidentally discarded as junk mail).

  • To try and recover your receipt notice after you have waited four weeks, start with these steps:

    • First do what you can to determine whether the Receipt Notice has already been delivered. Double check your stacks of mail and ask roommates, neighbors, the apartment complex manager, etc.

    • Email lockboxsupport@dhs.gov to inquire about the status of your receipt notice. Include your name, date of birth, and date your I-765 was delivered to USCIS.

    • Call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at (800)375-5283 and ask for your receipt number. If you are able to obtain it, enter it on the USCIS.gov website under Case Status on the left-hand side. You can often gain helpful information this way.

  • You may find that one or both of the above steps solve your problem. For example:

    • USCIS might tell you the Receipt Notice was not mailed yet and to wait a little longer.

    • The Receipt Notice might have been returned undeliverable and USCIS still has it. Check that USCIS has the correct address on file, and if so, ask them to re-send it.

  • Contact your DSO in the following circumstances:

    • You followed the instructions above and have not received an email reply after a week and you were unsuccessful in obtaining the receipt number by phone.

    • You find out the receipt notice cannot be re-sent and you would like advice on international travel.

    • The address on file with USCIS is no longer correct.

 

If You Receive Notice from USCIS that Something Is Wrong

  • If any of the following happen, call or email your DSO immediately for advice:

  • You receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) in the mail or see in Case Status Online that an RFE was sent.

  • You receive your I-765 application back in the mail or see in Case Status Online that it was rejected and/or returned.

    • Either of the above are an indication that something is seriously wrong with your OPT application. No progress will be made on your application until USCIS receives the necessary documentation from you.

    • The allowable time period to respond to an RFE or rejected application is limited and will be indicated on the materials from USCIS. If you fail to respond by the deadline, your application will be denied.

If Your Application is Denied

  • If your I-765 is denied, the duration of your legal F-1 status reverts to being defined as the lasting through the I-20 end date plus 60 days grace period

  • If you are still within the grace period, you may stay in the U.S. for the remainder of the 60 days

  • If the grace period has already elapsed, you should depart the U.S. without delay

  • The chances for successfully appealing an I-765 denial are low. If you believe you were denied in error, contact your DSO or private immigration attorney at once.

  • If you receive your denial before your 60-day grace period (since I-20 program end date) is over, you may be able re-apply for OPT.

  •  

If Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Does Not Arrive
USCIS will send the EAD using regular, first-class mail. From the time Case Status Online indicates your request was approved, you should expect to wait a week or more for delivery of the EAD.
If you suspect a problem in the delivery of your EAD:

  • First take any possible steps to determine whether the EAD has already been delivered to your address. Double check your stacks of mail and ask roommates, neighbors, the apartment complex manager, etc.

  • Call the USCIS customer service number and ask if your EAD was “returned undeliverable,” meaning sent back to USCIS. Keep detailed records of your conversation with the customer service agent, including the date you called, any number the agent gave you, and the advice you were given.

  • Email your DSO with a detailed account of the situation and steps you have already taken, including notes from your conversation with USCIS customer service. Your DSO will respond with advice.

 
Please be aware there is usually little, if anything, your DSO can do to intervene in cases of an EAD not delivered. You may ultimately need to apply for a replacement of the lost card and pay the fee again.
If your EAD was returned undeliverable or lost in the mail, you can expect significant delay in obtaining the card. If you have a job offer, you may wish to contact your employer to make arrangements for delaying your start date. Remember, you may not work until you have the EAD in hand, even if the Case Status Online shows your case was approved.
 

If There is a Mistake on Your EAD
If there is any problem on your EAD, email a scanned copy of the card with a description of the exact problem (name misspelled, wrong dates, etc.) to your DSO and they will respond with advice.

  • Remember, the dates on the card determine when you are authorized to work, even if they are not the dates for which you intended to apply.

  • If, for any reason, USCIS approves the I-765 after the OPT start date you requested, the start date will be set as the date the application was approved. USCIS will not adjust the end date; therefore, your OPT period will be less than 12 months. This is unfortunate, but not a mistake. There is no remedy possible in this situation.

OPT Travel Information

  • Please note that travel while OPT is pending can be difficult.  If you travel outside of the country before your program end date but while OPT is pending, please bring all updated documentation.  If you are outside of the U.S. and there is a problem with your OPT, you will not be able to return to correct the problem.  We do not recommend that you leave the U.S. after graduation unless you have your EAD card.

  • If you leave the U.S. and wish to return after the program completion date of your program, you must apply for OPT BEFORE leaving the United States.  If you leave before applying, you are no longer eligible to apply or re-enter the US with your current F-1 documents.

  • To reenter during the OPT application process, you must show special documentation to return. If your post-completion OPT has been approved (EAD card has been issued by USCIS) and you have a job or a job offer, you may leave and re-enter the U.S. in order to begin or resume employment. 

  • Here is the warning from the ICE website: "traveling during this time (while OPT is pending) should be undertaken with caution. USCIS may send you a request for evidence while you are away, however, so you would want to make sure you have provided a correct U.S. address both to your DSO and on the application and would be able to send in requested documents. Also, if USCIS approves your OPT application, you will be expected to have your EAD in hand to re-enter the United States. Like a request for further information, USCIS can only send the EAD to your U.S. address."

 

Travel after OPT is approved

  • After USCIS has issued an EAD card for post-completion OPT, in order to have the best chance of re-entering the U.S. without problems, you should be sure you have the following documents:

  • Passport (valid for six months after you plan to re-enter the U.S.)

  • Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport (this requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens)

  • I-20 (with a valid travel signature no older than six months*)

  • EAD card

  • Evidence that you already have a job in the U.S. or that you have a job offer.

  • If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa, you should also be sure to have your EAD card and evidence that you already have a job in the U.S. or that you have a job offer in addition to the usual documents required for a visa application.


* Regulations state that during post-completion OPT, the travel signature should be no older than six months. We recommend that while on post-completion OPT that you get a valid travel signature every six months. Please plan accordingly if you need to mail your I-20 to campus for a new signature and leave enough time for your I-20 to be returned prior to your travel dates.

For more information, see U.S. Department of Homeland Security FAQ for Travel (https://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel)

Approval

Once you receive notice that your OPT has been approved

  1. You cannot begin work until you have received via mail your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This document is evidence for your employer(s) that you have authorization to begin employment within the dates of your OPT approval. 

    1. Once you receive your EAD card, any employment or activity in which you participate must be directly related to your major field of study.  It is also your responsibility to keep your employer information up to date and that you keep all employment records to verify your employment.

  2. You will receive an email from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program with instructions to create an account with the SEVP Portal. While utilizing your OPT approval you are required to report your employer and dates of employment information for each of your practical training sites/employers. The SEVP Portal allows you to make this update once your account has been created (read instructions here). You can change jobs and employers while on approved OPT and you must report new or updated information within 10 days of the change. You must also report any change of address or phone number in this portal. Not reporting updates within 10 days is considered a violation of your F-1 status while on OPT. Accurately documenting your employment information minimizes the number of accrued unemployment dates (see #4 below). 
     

  3. Your OPT approval is an authorization to work and gain practical experience connected to your Denver Seminary I-20 and degree. If you are interested in pursuing a new degree or enrolling in classes at another institution, you should discuss this with your DSO to learn any relevant requirement or steps to take. Your OPT will be invalidated if you start a new program of study or transfer your SEVIS record to a new school.
     

  4. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT period. If you exceed 90 days of unemployment you fail to maintain your F-1 visa status and begin to accrue days of unlawful presence in the United States. 
     

    • Remember, employment does not have to be paid during OPT. If you have an opportunity for unpaid employment related to your major of study, while you continue searching for a paid job, you can accept this opportunity and report it as employment to avoid accruing unemployment dates. If you have any questions about the eligibility of an employment opportunity under OPT, please contact your DSO.  

    • If you engage in unauthorized employment or violate your F-1 status in other ways, your OPT will be cancelled.
       

  5. If circumstances warrant cancellation of your OPT, you must contact your DSO and provide your last day of employment and your next plans.                                        

  6. You are permitted to remain in the U.S. for a grace period of sixty (60) days following the end date of your OPT.  You may not work during this period unless your immigration status is changed to a classification that permits employment

Application