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Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined in the regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." You are eligible to receive a total of 12 months of Optional Practical Training for each higher degree.

Eligibility

You are eligible to apply for OPT if you meet all the following conditions.

  • Must have been enrolled as a full-time student for at least one academic year
  • Are completing your associate degree
  • Are in lawful F-1 status

Job Offer

An offer of employment is not required for Optional Practical Training. Employment during OPT must be at least 20 hours per week and must be directly related to the program of study. However, 90 days of unemployment on OPT results in a student being out of status. The total period of authorization for Optional Practical Training cannot be more than the equivalent of 12 months of full-time work.

Click here for details about OPT employment options.

When to apply for post-degree practical training

You can submit your application to the USCIS up to 90 days before you complete your course of study or up to 60 days after your program end date. Processing time at USCIS varies and is usually about three months, so students are encouraged to apply early. If you apply after your program end date, you may not get the full 12 months of authorized employment.

Program End Date

Your program end date is the date you complete all the requirements for your degree.

Starting Work

You may not begin work until you receive the EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) or before the beginning date listed on your EAD.

Travel Outside the U.S.

If USCIS has approved your OPT, you will be expected to have your EAD in hand to re-enter the United States and your valid I-20 endorsed for travel, passport and visa. It is also recommended that you carry proof of employment to avoid delays upon re-entry into the United States.

If you exceed the limits (90 days) on unemployment while outside the United States, you will not be eligible to re-enter the United States in F-1 status.

Notification Responsibilities

You are required by Immigration to report​ a change of contact or employment information to the Multicultural Center within 10 days. You must also notify us of any change in employment.

How to Apply

  • Submit to the Multicultural Center a complete OPT Application Packet.
  • The Multicultural Center will review your application and prepare a recommendation to the USCIS. This may take up to 10 working days.

Submitting your application packet  

  • Current Degree Plan showing completion of coursework
  • $410 certified bank check or money order payable to Department of Homeland Security
  • Completed Form I-765 form. Respond to question 16 by writing "(C)(3)(B) for post-completion OPT"
  • Copy of all I-20s you have been issued. A new I-20 will be issued to complete the packet. USCIS will not return your I-20, so we advise that you send only a copy.
  • Photocopy of both sides of your I-94 card
  • Two color photos with a white background taken no earlier than 30 days before submission to the USCIS. (A photographer familiar with passport photos can help you.) Lightly print your name, date of birth and SEVIS I.D. number, if known, on the back of each photo with a pencil.
  • Photocopy of your valid passport identity, expiration and Visa pages, and any previous EAD cards
  • Schedule an appointment with our International Student Advisor to review your packet.

You are responsible for making two sets of copies of all documents before mailing originals to the USCIS via Certified or Registered Mail. One set will remain at the Multicultural Center, and you should keep the second set for your files.

  • Send to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox at the following address:
    ​For U.S. Postal Service Deliveries:
    USCIS
    P.O. Box 660867
    Dallas, TX 75266
    For Express Mail and Courier Deliveries:
    USCIS
    ATTN: I-539
    2501 S. State Highway 121 Business
    Suite 400
    Lewisville, TX 75067