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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

AM I ELIGIBLE FOR OPT?

To be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT), you must be an F-1 student who has been enrolled full-time for at least one full academic year. NOTE: Summer Semester does not count towards the one full academic year requirement. You must be in good academic standing at the time of the application. OPT employment MUST be directly related to your program of study and appropriate for your education level.

HOW MUCH OPT CAN I USE?

Students are eligible for a cumulative maximum of 12 months of OPT for each new degree level. For post-completion OPT, only full-time employment can be requested. Once an application for OPT has been submitted to USCIS and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued, it is difficult to change or cancel.

WHEN SHOULD I APPLY?

Applications for post-completion OPT should be submitted approximately 90 days before the projected start date.  OPT applications must be received by USCIS BEFORE the end of your grace period.  The following are estimated application date ranges for timely application processing:
May graduates: apply February-March
August graduates: variable, depending on completion date but generally May/June
December graduates: apply September-October

HOW DO I APPLY?

Submit the following documents to OIP in order to receive a new I-20 with OPT recommendation, which is required for the OPT application.

  1. Letter from your academic advisor on RU letterhead or e-mailed directly to the International Student Advisor OR copy of graduation application.
  2. OPT Request Form.

You can pick up two original I-20s three (3) full business days after you submit the above documents. One original copy is for you to mail to USCIS with your OPT application; and the other one is for you to keep with your passport and other important travel documents. 

USCIS must receive the OPT application no more than 30 days after the OPT recommendation has been issued.  Please submit your application as soon as possible after receiving the recommendation.  Applications received later than 30 days after the OPT recommendation may not be approved.

WHAT DO I DO NEXT?

Mail the following documents directly to USCIS to apply for EAD—OPT card or submit the application by e-File.  If you choose to e-File, do NOT submit the electronic form until after you have received your new I-20 with a recommendation for OPT.

USCIS will mail your EAD card to your home address. If you move and change your address before you receive your EAD card, you must call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 to update your address. 

  1. The I-765 application form - Instructions for Electronic Filing Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization).   
  2. Money order or personal checks payable to “Department of Homeland Security” for $380.  If you e-file, you will pay on-line with a credit card.
  3. Two “passport”- style color photos with a white background taken no earlier than 30 days before submission to USCIS. The photos should show a full-frontal facial position. The photo should not be larger than 2 x 2 inches, with the distance from the top of the head to just below the chin about 1 1/4 inches. Lightly print your name and “Roosevelt University” on the back of each photo in pencil.
  4. One original copy of I-20 with OPT endorsement on page 3, and copies of all previous I-20s. 
  5. Copy of your passport information page (with picture, biographical information, and expiration date).
  6. Copy of all US visas (all types).
  7. Copy of your I-94.  
    • If you still have the Form I-94 arrival/departure card that was issued when you entered the U.S., copy the front and back of the card indicating F-1
    • If you entered the U.S. after April 2013 you should print a copy of the electronic I-94 record - click here to learn how to find your I-94.
  8. If you have been issued an EAD for previous USCIS work authorization send a copy of your most recent EAD, front and back 

Mail application and all supporting documents to the USCIS Phoenix Lockbox

U.S. Postal Service deliveries:
USCIS   
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

Express mail (DHL, FedEx) and courier deliveries:
USCIS    
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S; Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Remember, USCIS must receive the OPT application no more than 30 days after the OPT recommendation has been issued.  Please send the application in as soon as you have received the recommendation.

WHEN CAN I START MY OPT EMPLOYMENT?

You must have your EAD card to begin employment.  You  cannot begin working until the start date listed on the EAD card and may not work after the end date on the EAD card.  During OPT you may not be unemployed for an aggregate of more than 90 days. Please be sure to report your employment including the date you begin work and your employers name and address to the Office of International Programs.

OPT TRAVEL ADVISORY

Traveling outside of the US while your OPT is pending can be a risky affair with no certainty that you will be allowed back in. After you have received your EAD card there is still a risk of not being permitted back into the US, especially if you are not employed. If travel is necessary, you should carry all of the following documentation with you when traveling:

  1. Your EAD card
  2. A travel endorsement signature on your current SEVIS I- 20 from the International Student Advisor
  3. A letter from your employer confirming your OPT status and stating the purpose of your travel.

Note: If you do not possess a current, valid visa at the time of travel, you may encounter difficulty obtaining a new visa for re-entry to the US. OIP cannot guarantee re-entry to the US while on OPT.

WHO QUALIFIES FOR OPT EXTENSION?

For specific criteria and processing information, please visit the USCIS website: Questions and Answers: Extension of Optional Practical Training Program for Qualified Students.  

  • "Cap-Gap" - If your employer files a petition  to change your immigration status to H-1B, you may qualify for an extension to cover the"gap" from the end of your EAD to the start of your H-1B employment on October 1. Your EAD must be valid at the time the H-1B petition is filed.  This extension is automatically granted to students who are qualified; however, you may want to request a new copy of your I-20 showing the extension.
  • STEM Extension - F-1 students authorized for OPT based on a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field that can apply to USCIS 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, your employer must be registered in E-Verify and must agree to report to the DSO when the student is terminated or leaves employment. You must apply for the STEM OPT extension before your current OPT expires. Click here to complete the request form for a STEM Extension.
Extension applications are accepted only for students currently working on OPT, not from students who are initially applying for post-completion OPT.