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 1 year (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 a student's 60-day grace period. Applications received after the end of the 60-day grace period will not be approved.
The following are estimated application date ranges for timely application processing:
May (spring) graduates: apply February-March
- August (summer) graduates: variable, depending on completion date but generally May/June
- December (fall) graduates: apply September-October
USCIS has also created an Excel spreadsheet that allows users to calculate the amount of OPT available and generate suggested application timelines based on the Program End Date and the desired OPT start date. Click here for the Post-Completion OPT Planning Tool.
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.
- Letter from your academic advisor on RU letterhead or e-mailed directly to the International Student Advisor OR copy of graduation application.
- OPT Request Form.
You will receive two original I-20s from the Office of International Programs. You will receive an email notification when the I-20 is ready for pick-up. 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.
For more information, please attend a CPT & OPT Employment Workshop.
SPRING 2016 WORKSHOPS
- Wednesday, February 3 from 5-6 in WB 1214
- Thursday, February 4 from 5-6 in WB 1214
- Tuesday, February 23 from 5-6 in WB 1214
WHAT DO I DO NEXT?
Mail the following documents directly to USCIS to apply for the EAD (your OPT card). Do NOT submit the application 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. Mail from USCIS is not forwarded by the US Postal Service, so it is best that you do not change your address while waiting for your EAD.
- The I-765 application form .
- Money order or personal checks payable to “Department of Homeland Security” for $380.
- 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.
- One original copy of I-20 with OPT endorsement on page 2.
- Photocopies of all previous I-20s.
- Photocopy of your passport information page (with picture, biographical information, and expiration date).
- Photocopy of all US visas (all types).
- Copy of your I-94.
- If you entered the U.S. after April 2013 you should print a copy of the electronic I-94 record. Click here to print your I-94.
- If you still have the Paper 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 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
US Postal Service deliveries:
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
Express mail (DHL, FedEx) and courier deliveries:
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. Click here to learn more about your responsibilities while on OPT. Please be sure to report any change of address and your OPT employment to the Office of International Programs using the Employment Verification Form.
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:
- Your EAD card
- A travel endorsement signature on your current SEVIS I- 20 from the International Student Advisor
- 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 must apply for a new F-1 visa for re-entry to the US. OIP cannot guarantee re-entry to the USA while on OPT.
WHO QUALIFIES FOR OPT EXTENSION?
For specific criteria and processing information, please visit the USCIS website.
- *STEM Extension - F-1 students authorized for OPT based on a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) 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.
- 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.
Extension applications are accepted only for students currently working on OPT, not from students who are initially applying for post-completion OPT.
*Please note that the STEM Extension is currently under review by DHS and there may be changes to student eligibility. This review has been extended until May 10, 2016. We will update you as more information becomes available.