Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is benefit given to F-1 students that allows you to work off–campus in a job related to your field of study. This training must be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) and requires an application process and fee.
You are given a benefit of OPT for a total of 12 months per educational level. This does not accumulate or carry-over to higher educational levels. OPT is further categorized into (3) types -
- Pre-completion - training completed prior to the completion of your program
- Post-completion - training completed after the completion of all course requirements excluding thesis or equivalent
- NOTE - students needing to complete a thesis or special project may do so while on post-compmletion OPT
- STEM extension - students with a science - technology - engineering - or - mathematics degree may be elgibile for an addtional 17 months of OPT
How to apply
1 - Download and print the OPT checklist
2 - Prepare the items noted on the checklist - make sure that you have all items to ensure a smooth and successful application I would strongly encourage attending the OPT information sessions to be scheduled each semester.
3- Once you have gathered all of the items noted on the checklist - make an appointment with the ISSO. You must bring all of the following items to the appointment
- Your completed F-1 OPT request form (NOTE - this form is used for advising purposes only and is not sent to USCIS)
- Your completed form I-765 signed in blue ink (NOTE - I will review this form prior to actual application submission)
- Copies of all previously issued I20's from all schools attended
- Copy of your passport (picture & signature page only)
- Copy of your visa stamp (not required for Canadian students)
- Copy of either your paper I94 (front & back) or your electronic I94
- Two (2) U.S. passport style photos taken within the last six months (this is very important - failure to provide correct and current photos could result in significant delays to your application
- Check or money order made payable to USCIS for $380
4 - During our appointment I will review your application and discuss your requested start date for OPT. Once finalized I will make your OPT recommendation in SEVIS and provide you with your new I-20 showing the OPT recommendation on page 3. I will provide you a copy of this document to include with your application. You will keep the original.
5 - MAIL your OPT application to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox within 30 days of my recommendation - failure to mail this within 30 days will result in denial of your application.
6 - REVIEW your responsibilities while on OPT
Other Reminders while on OPT:
You must continue to report any change of address to the ISSO within 10 days of your move. Failure to do so may place your status in jeopardy.
You must report your employer information and any changes in employment while on OPT
Employment may not begin until your EAD card has been received.
- You may only begin working once USCIS approves your OPT and only during the validity period approved
OPT will allow you to work only in a job related to your major area of study and you must work at least 20 hours per week.
Once authorized – you may accept employment anywhere in the United States – provided the employment is within your field of study.
While on OPT – you must get your I-20 signed every six months
If you transfer to another University to enter another degree program – your OPT authorization will automatically be terminated.
Review the FAQ’s on travel while on OPT.
Optional Practical Training - Instructions (updated 2/2013)
F-1 OPT Request Form - this form has been revised and will be completed the student and the academic advisor
USCIS Application for Employment Authorization
Form I-765 (updated 2/28/2011)
Form I-765 Instructions (updated 2/28/2011)