Optional practical training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is hands-on, temporary employment directly related to your academic major. You become eligible for OPT once you have been enrolled full-time and maintained your status for at least one academic year.
You can receive up to 12 months of OPT authorization before or after you graduate. However, any periods of OPT that you work before you complete your program will be deducted from the OPT you qualify for after graduation. For example, if you work OPT part-time (20 hours a week or less) for two months before you complete your program, it counts as a one-month deduction from your post-graduation OPT eligibility.
OPT Application Process
Step 1: Make an appointment with your OISS advisor and bring these items to your meeting:
- Form I-765 (Please review the guidelines for completing the Form I-765 for assistance).
- All I-20(s).
- Valid passport.
- Visa page.
- Form I-94.
- Completed OISS Optional Practical Training Recommendation Form.
- Completed OISS OPT Reporting Acknowledgement Form.
After reviewing your application materials, your OISS advisor will prepare a SEVIS I-20 recommending OPT.
Step 2: Send the documents listed below to the USCIS Lockbox or file online for approval to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You cannot begin legally working until the EAD has been issued by USCIS. The OPT application must be received by USCIS within 30 days after your OPT I-20 was issued.
- Completed Form I-765
- Check or money order payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security covering the required filing fee ($410). You can also pay by credit card by using Form G-1450.
- Photocopy of Form I-20 with your OISS advisor's recommendation for OPT
- Photocopy of Form I-94 (front and back)
- Photocopy of passport and visa (photo page and expiration pages must be clear in copy)
- Two passport-style photos taken within the last 30 days against a white background:
- Full face, front view, eyes open without glasses
- Full head from top of hair to bottom of chin
- Head height should measure 1 inch to 1-3/8 inches
- Head should be centered in the frame
- Eye height should be between 1-1/8 and 1-3/8 inches from the bottom of the photo
- No shadows on face or background
- Write your name lightly in pencil on the back
Step 3: Make a copy of all of your documents, then mail the completed documents by certified mail. Review filing locations at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765 to confirm the address where your application should be sent.
You can also elect to file your OPT application electronically. Visit https://www.uscis.gov/i-765 and follow the instructions.
Do not file your I-765 by mail or electronically before an OISS Adviser provides you with a new I-20 recommending OPT. Your failure to follow this may result in USCIS denying your OPT application.
If you have provided suitable identification (photo and bio page of passport, new visa stamp with photo or previous EAD with photo) with your application, your EAD will be sent by mail to the address you provided on Form I-765. If USCIS is not able to make an accurate identity match, your EAD will be sent to the USCIS office in Detroit or Port Huron and you will be notified where to pick it up.
Step 4: Submit a photocopy of your EAD to OISS, which is required by USCIS.
Please make sure you meet all reporting requirements for your OPT.
Frequently Asked Questions
When can I participate in OPT?
- During your annual vacation and when school is not in session, as long as you register for the next academic term (part-time or full-time)
- While school is in session (part-time)
- After completing your graduate course requirements, excluding a thesis or dissertation (part-time or full-time)
- After completing your course of study at the undergraduate or graduate level (full-time)
When can I apply?
Requests for OPT must be approved in advance by your OISS advisor and submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It generally takes USCIS about three months to process applications, so apply as soon as you are eligible. If you are planning to do OPT after completing your degree program, you can apply as early as the beginning of the semester in which you'll graduate.
How much OPT am I eligible for if I complete two degrees in the U.S. (i.e. a Bachelor's and a Master's degree)?
If you begin a new academic program at a higher level after completing your first program (such as entering a master's program after receiving a bachelor's degree), you will be eligible for another 12 months of OPT.
Can I travel outside the U.S. while on OPT?
If you travel outside the U.S. while on OPT after graduation, you will need a signature from your OISS advisor on your I-20 to re-enter the country.
What if I transfer to another school while on OPT?
If you transfer to another school, your OPT is canceled upon your release date.
What should I do if I change my name, move, or change jobs during OPT?
You must report any changes to your name, address or employment to OISS within 10 days while on OPT. You can report these changes through the OPT Reporting Portal.