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Optional Practical Training

Instructions and information on this page are specific to applications for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training, which is I-765 eligibility code (c)(3)(B). See section What is OPT? below for more information about Pre- and Post-completion OPT.

We recommend you complete the ISS Virtual OPT Workshop before you begin your application and review the expandable sections below as well. Once you have done that, follow the two-step application process:

  1. Request your OPT I-20 from ISS by submitting this form: Optional Practical Training Request Form. Please submit this form to ISS no more than 90 days before your I-20 program end date. Please allow 1 week for processing. The ISS advisor processing your I-20 will email it to you when it is ready.
  2. Submit your complete application to USCIS either online or by mail-- see How to Apply for OPT online or How to Apply for OPT by mail sections below. USCIS now accepts online applications for pre-completion, post-completion, and STEM OPT. While this process is still new and does not increase the speed in which OPT is granted, it offers the benefit of providing applicants with an immediate receipt of their application, helpful instructions and tips from USCIS to avoid common mistakes, and online fee payment. ISS recommends the online application process.

 


While you are on OPT, you will be responsible for maintaining your F-1 status by working in your I-20 major field of study, at least 20 hours/week, and not exceeding 90 days of unemployment. You are also responsible for OPT reporting-- keeping your employment, legal name, and US residential address information up to date in your SEVP Portal account, which you will create once your OPT is approved and active (start date is not in the future). Please see this guide for further information and instructions: The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Portal.


 

What is OPT?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined as “temporary employment for practical training, directly related to a student’s major area of study”.  The maximum amount of time granted to work on OPT is 12 months per degree level plus a possible 24 month extension for those who qualify (see 24 Month STEM Extension). OPT authorization must be obtained from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

You can use OPT before and after completion of your RIT degree in the following circumstances:

Pre-completion

  • During the academic year while coursework is being taken, part-time (20 hours per week or less) only.
  • During the annual vacation period - full or part-time.


Post-completion

  • After completion of all degree requirements, excluding thesis or project - full or part-time.
  • After completion of all degree requirements - full time only.

 

Most students apply for Post-Completion OPT. It is VERY rare for students to apply for Pre-Completion OPT, since CPT is usually available. If you think you instead need to apply for Pre-Completion OPT, please speak with an ISS advisor.

Post-Completion OPT Eligibility

To be eligible for Post-Completion OPT, students must have:

  1. Maintained their F-1 student status for at least one academic year.
  2. Completed all required coursework for their degree (excluding a thesis, dissertation, or equivalent requirement)
  3. Completed no more than 364 days of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  4. Applied within 60 days of completing their program (ISS recommends 90 days prior to program end date)
  5. Not had previous OPT authorization for the same degree level
     

Please contact an ISS advisor regarding eligibility for pre-completion Optional Practical Training.

If I graduate with a bachelor’s degree, work on OPT for 12 months, and then begin a new degree program, am I eligible for another year of OPT?
You are eligible for another year of OPT if you begin a higher level degree. This means you could have a year of OPT after a bachelor’s degree and another year after a Master’s degree. You may not apply for another year of OPT if you do a second Bachelor’s degree.

Do I need to have a job to apply for OPT?
You do not need to have a job offer before applying for OPT. Many student apply for OPT without a job offer in hand. ISS does not necessarily recommend you wait until you have a job offer to apply for OPT, since USCIS processing times vary and your employer may not prefer to wait for the full processing time.

OPT Application Timeline Considerations

 
(click image to expand)

Students may apply up to 90 days before their program end date (graduation date).  Since OPT must be obtained from USCIS, and can take a full three months (or more) to secure, students are encouraged to plan ahead and file applications timely. If an OPT application is received by USCIS more than 60 days after the program completion date, the student will not be eligible for OPT.

Choosing your OPT Start Date
Your OPT start date must be within the 60 day window after your I-20 completion date.

Completion of OPT
If you change to another status, such as another non-immigrant status like H-1B, your OPT authorization ends. In addition, if you begin studies as a full-time student in another degree program, your OPT is terminated.

Program Extensions
Once you apply for post completion Optional Practical Training, you are no longer eligible for a program extension for your current degree program. It is particularly important for graduate students to realize that after completing Optional Practical Training their I-20 may not be extended for the purpose of returning to RIT to complete a thesis.

How to Apply for OPT online (recommended)

Do not submit an online application if you have already filed by mail. 

Please use these instructions as a guide. This resource is not offered as legal advice. Your OPT application remains your own, and any errors in your application are YOUR responsibility.

Students who wish to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) must complete a two-part application process:

  1. Request an updated I-20 recommending Post-Completion OPT using this OPT REQUEST FORM. Please submit this form to ISS no more than 90 days before your I-20 program end date. Please allow 1 week for processing. The ISS advisor processing your I-20 will email it to you when it is ready.

  2. Once you receive your OPT I-20, complete the online application following the instructions below. USCIS must receive your application online within 30 days of the creation of the OPT I-20. We strongly recommend that you keep a copy of your complete OPT application for your records.

 

GATHER AND SCAN REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION

  • Passport style photograph. Photos must be taken within the last 30 days and cannot have previously been used for a passport, visa, or other US government-related application. See Department of State’s guidelines.
  • Form I-94: Provide a copy of your most recent I-94 arrival/admission record from CBP's website. Do not include the travel history page, only the I-94 with your name and most recent admission details.
  • One of the following: Previously-issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (scans of both front and back) OR Government-Issued ID (passport) if you have never been issued an EAD. The copy you submit must clearly show your facial features and contain your biographical information.
  • I-20 Recommending OPT- be sure you have signed and dated page 1.
  • Copies of all previously issued Form I-20s (no larger than 6MB per file), including any from previous schools
  • For students applying for post-completion OPT who have had either Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or OPT previously at any degree level or at any school, you need to include evidence documenting your previous CPT and/or OPT authorization. This could include previously issued EAD for OPT or the I-20 that lists CPT authorization.

 

MAKE YOUR USCIS ACCOUNT ONLINE AND COMPLETE YOUR APPLICATION

We recommend using this Completed Form I-765 example (paper version) as a guide when completing an online application. The questions are not in the same order, and if you file online you will not upload a completed I-765. Instead, you will answer the I-765 questions within the online application and theI-765 example we provide will assist you in answering all required questions.

How to Create a USCIS Online Account
Tips for Filing Forms Online

Basis of Eligibility
If you are applying for work authorization that begins after you graduate or once you are course-complete and completing your thesis, capstone, or project, select Post-Completion OPT (c)(3)(B)

Reason for Applying
What is your reason for applying?
Select “Initial Permission to accept employment”  If you lost your EAD and are applying for a new card , select "replacement of lost, stolen, or damaged employment authorization document” NOT DUE to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) error.

Have you previously filed Form I-765?
Select “No” if you have only ever worked on campus or been authorized for CPT, or if you have not previously worked.
Select “Yes” if you have previously applied for OPT or ever submitted the I-765 for work authorization to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Preparer and Interpreter Information
Is someone assisting you with completing this application?
Select “No”

About You
What is your current legal name?
This name should match what is indicated on your passport.  If you do not have a middle name you should leave the box blank; do NOT put N/A.

Have you used any other names since birth?
If No, select “No” and continue to the next section.
If Yes, select “Yes” and provide all other names you have ever used, including aliases, maiden name, and nicknames.

Your Contact Information
How May We Contact You?
Enter your phone number and your mobile phone number (if different).  If the numbers are the same, you can click “this is the same as my daytime telephone number”. Enter your email address (we recommend using a personal email address).

What is your current mailing address?
Enter the mailing address where you wish to receive your EAD Card. The address must be within the US and should be valid for next 3-6 months until your OPT application is approved. If you believe you will change addresses within the next three months we recommend you instead list the address of a trusted friend or family member. If you choose to enter your friend’s or family member’s address, you must also include an “in care of” name. You may list a US Post Office address (PO Box) if you have one. Please do not use the ISS address.

Is your current mailing address the same as your physical address?
Check either "Yes" or "No." Check "Yes" if your mailing address (where you would like your notices/EAD card from USCIS to be sent to) is the same as your physical address (where you live). Check "No" if it is not the same. If you check "No," you must then write your current address you live at in the  “Where in the United States do you live?”  question that will appear on your screen.

Describe Yourself
What is your gender?
Mark the box that best describes you.

What is your marital status? 
Mark the box that best describes you.

When and Where Were You Born?
What is your city, town or village of birth? What is your state or province of birth? What is your country of birth?
Fill in your place of birth information.

What is your date of birth?
Ensure you've written the date of your birth in MONTH/DAY/YEAR format. For example, if you were born May 07, 1990, you would enter 05/07/1990.

Your Immigration Information
What is your country of citizenship or nationality?
Type the name of the country or countries where you are currently a citizen or national. If you are a citizen or national of more than one country, select + Add Country to add all of the countries where you hold citizenship.

What is your Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record Number (if any)?
This information can be found on your most recent I-94 record under Admission Number. You can access your most recent I-94 at here.

When did you last arrive in the United States?
List your arrival date, place of arrival, and status at arrival per your most recent I-94 record. If your ‘status’ listed says anything other than F-1, please call VIS for information about getting this information corrected.

What is the passport number of your most recently issued passport?
Enter the passport number, found on the biography page of your currently-valid passport.

What is your travel document number (if any)?
Leave this blank.

What is the expiration date of your passport or travel document?
This information can be found on the biography page of your passport. Your passport should have at least 6 months' validity remaining from the date of your application to USCIS. Please speak with an ISS advisor before applying if your passport has expired or will expire within the next 6 months.

What country issued your passport or travel document?
This information can be found on the biography page of your passport.

What is your current immigration status or category?
Select “F-1 - Student, Academic or Language Program”

What is your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Number (if any)?
Use the SEVIS number listed in the top left corner of your most recently issued I-20. Use the "Additional Information" section to include all previously used SEVIS numbers.

Other Information
What is your A-number?
Either list your A-number (if you have one; most students applying for OPT do not have one) or select “I do not have or know my A-number”.

What is your USCIS Online Account Number?
Either list your account number (if you have one) or select “I do not have or know my USCIS online account number”.

Has the Social Security Administration (SSA) ever officially issued a Social Security card to you?
If Yes, list your social security number in the box provided

If No, select that you would like an SSN card, select “yes” to consent of disclosure” then list your parents’ birth names.

Evidence
In this section you will be able to upload the supporting documents you previously gathered in preparation for completing the I-765 form.

  • 2 x 2 photo: You can use the Department of State’s photo composition tools to upload a photo that meets all the requirements.
  • Form I-94: You can find your most recent I-94 on CBP’s website by selecting “Get Most Recent I-94”. Do not upload your travel history.
  • Employment Authorization Document: If you have never been issued an EAD before, you should upload your passport or US visa to fulfill this requirement.
  • Previously authorized CPT or OPT: If you have ever been authorized for CPT or OPT previously, upload your I-20s that show those authorizations.  If you have never been authorized for CPT or OPT before, you can skip this section.
  • Form I-20: Upload your I-20 recommending OPT that was recently issued by an ISS advisor. You cannot apply for OPT without the I-20 recommending OPT.

 

Additional Information
Include any other additional information you have received that should be included in your OPT application.

  • Example #1: If you have a previous SEVIS number: 
    • Section: Select "About You"
    • Page: Select "Your immigration information"
    • Question: Select "What is your Student and Exchange Visitor Information (SEVIS) Number (if any)?" 
    • Additional information: Enter your previous SEVIS ID number, degree level, and program dates. A previous SEVIS ID is a SEVIS ID other than what is on your most recently issued I-20. For example:
      • Previous SEVIS ID number: N0012345678
      • Program Dates: 09/05/2015 - 05/15/2017
      • Degree Level: High School
  • Example #2: If you have previous CPT or OPT authorization:
    • Section: Select "Evidence"
    • Page: "Previously authorized CPT or OPT"
    • Question: "Previously authorized CPT or OPT";
    • Additional Information: Enter the SEVIS ID, degree level, type of authorization, full- or part-time status, and dates. For example: 
      • SEVIS ID N0123456789
      • Master's
      • Previous CPT Authorization:
        • Part-Time,  01/15/2018 - 05/15/2018
        • Full-Time, 12 / 20 /2017 -  01 / 14 /2017
        •  

REVIEW APPLICATION, SUBMIT APPLICATION, AND PAY FEE
Once you review your application and no errors or incomplete fields pop up, you can submit, confirm you can read and understand English, and then digitally sign your application. You will then be taken to pay.gov to pay the application fee. You can pay with credit card, debit card, or US checking or savings account. No biometrics fee is required, only the I-765 application fee.

How to Apply for OPT by Mail (not recommended)

Paper applications mailed to the Chicago lockbox will continue to be accepted and processed by USCIS.

Please use these instructions as a guide. This resource is not offered as legal advice. Your OPT application remains your own, and any errors in your applicaiton are YOUR responsibility.

If you have filed a paper OPT application you may also create an online USCIS account. Instructions for adding paper OPT application to online USCIS account.

Students who wish to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) must complete a two-part application process:

  1. Request an updated I-20 recommending Optional Practical Training from International Student Services. The OPT I-20 is requested by submitting the OPT REQUEST FORM. Please submit this form to ISS no more than 90 days before your I-20 program end date. Please allow 1 week for processing. The ISS advisor processing your I-20 will email it to you when it is ready.

  2. Once students have received the OPT I-20 they mail the following required application materials to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the order below. The application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the creation of the OPT I-20.

    PLEASE NOTE: We strongly recommend that you keep a copy of your complete OPT application for your records.

** COMPLETE THE ISS VIRTUAL OPT WORKSHOP **

Payment to the Department of Homeland Security.  Please check the current filing fee at https://www.uscis.gov/forms/our-fees You may submit a bank check, personal check, or money order with the correct fee.

  • NOTE: USCIS requires an updated edition of the Form I-765 dated 08/25/2020 for applications postmarked on or after August 25, 2020. 
  • A NOTE ABOUT FEES: USCIS filing fees can change.Before submitting an application for Optional Practical Training please be sure to check the All Forms page (under Form Details) of the USCIS website. In addition, please note that the biometric fee is not required for OPT applications. If you include this fee with your application it will be returned to you for re-filing.
  • USCIS Fee Calculator


The following example of a correctly written check is provided as a guide:

(DO NOT SIGN THE BACK OF YOUR CHECK)

Two photos of you. Please read the following SPECIFICATIONS
It is very important to include current photos that have not been previously used for your passport and/or visa.
You must write your name and I-94 number on the back of the pictures in pen. Please be careful that the ink doesn't smear.

The following businesses are able to provide the correct photographs:
1. RIT Digital Den - Monroe Hall, 585-475-2505 (no appointment necessary)
2. Walmart Super Center – 1200 Marketplace Drive, 585-292-6000
3. CVS Pharmacy – 1431 Mt. Hope Ave, 585-271-5031
4. Clix – 1425 Jefferson Road, 585-292-1660
5. Rowe Photo - 1755 East Avenue (this location only), 585-442-3140

Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance available online at https://www.uscis.gov/forms
(G-1145 not required if applying online with USCIS.)

Completed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This form should be completed online and printed rather than filled out by hand. It is available online at https://www.uscis.gov/forms

Please follow this example of a completed Form I-765
NOTE: Be sure to open the form in Adobe; do not try to fill in the form within your web browser.

Please sign Form I-765 with blue ink

Your U.S. Mailing Address - Part 2, 5.a. - 5.e.
You must provide your U.S. physical address in this section. The OPT receipt, Approval Notice, and Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be mailed to this address. Please note that the address you list must match your address in SEVIS. Your address in the RIT SIS system is the address listed in SEVIS. If your SIS address is not correct, please correct it before applying for OPT.
 
Information About Your Eligibility Category - Part 2, 27
you will mark either:
(c)(3)(A) for pre-completion OPT, or
(c)(3)(B) for post-completion OPT.
 
A photo copy of the new SEVIS OPT I-20 issued by an ISS staff member with the recommendation for OPT on page 2. This I-20 must have your signature on it.

Photocopies of all previous I-20s.
Please make single sided copies and do not staple.

A print out of your I-94 number* from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home or a copy of both sides of your I-94 card, if you have one.

* I-765 instructions require you to submit your OPT from within the US. If you cannot, please discuss with an International Student Advisor. There are a number of risks for OPT application denial if you apply while outside the US, and other options may be more appropriate for you. Please remember that you are responsible for shipping your application to USCIS.

Photocopies of the picture page of your passport (recommended validity of six months), the page with the visa, and the page with dates of extension of your passport if applicable.

Please check USCIS Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765 for the correct address. Follow instructions for Foreign Students and send it to the Chicago Lockbox.


Please send your application using certified mail with a return receipt so that you have a tracking number and proof that USCIS received your application. You may also use a courier service like FedEx or UPS.

 

 

After You Have Applied for OPT

How long will it take for my case to be approved?
USCIS case processing times vary. Check current processing time estimates at the USCIS Check Case Processing Times page. Enter form I-765 then Potomac Service Center (all OPT applications are processed by this service center). Click "Get Processing Time", then scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the specific estimated processing time for F-1 applicants. You may submit a case inquiry to USCIS only if your receipt date is before the "Receipt date for a case inquiry" listed on that page. Most cases are processed within normal processing times (the estimated time ranges on this page). We know the hardest part is waiting for your EAD, but please be patient! Most OPT applications are approved without issue, but they just take time.

 

How can I check the status of my case with USCIS?
If you want to check the status of your case, you can visit the USCIS Case Status page and enter your case number (found on your I-797 receipt number). You may sign up for an account on that page to request email updates

 

Can my OPT application be expedited?
No. Most OPT applicants are not eligible to request that USCIS expedite their case—those requests require that very specific, very strict criteria be met.

 

When do I need to contact ISS about my OPT application or EAD card?

  • If you notice any errors in your name (spelling, order, missing name) on your I-797 receipt notice
  • If you submitted a G-1145 and you have not received an e-notification (text message and/or email) within 3-4 weeks since your application was mailed, or you received an e-notification but have not received your mailed I797 receipt notice and it’s been more than a month since your application was mailed.
  • If your plans about OPT change:  
    • you want to leave the US instead of working on OPT
    • you want to pursue another degree
    • you want to change your status from F-1 to something else
    • you need to return to RIT to take more credits (i.e. you will not be course-complete by your OPT start date)
  • If your application is still pending and you have truly unavoidable travel plans outside the U.S.
  • If you find out that you are no longer eligible for OPT

 

My job is starting soon and I don’t have my EAD card yet. Can I start work?
You may NOT begin working before you receive your EAD from USCIS and are within the authorized dates on the card. Working before your OPT has been authorized constitutes illegal employment that will jeopardize your legal status in the US. You must be patient, and you must wait until you have your EAD in hand to begin your work. If USCIS is not able to approve your case by your requested OPT start date, they will push out your approved start date. Typically we see the date of approval as the new approved OPT start date. 

When do I do my first OPT reporting?
Please report your information on the SEVP portal within ten days of your employment start date. The portal provides students the opportunity to view and update certain information found in their SEVIS records, including their address, Page 2 of 2 telephone number, and OPT employment information. Within two weeks of your approved OPT start date you will receive an email from Do-Not-Reply.SEVP@ice.dhs.gov with instructions on how to create a portal account. Submit a new report each time you have periods of unemployment, a change in employment information, residential address change, or a change in your name. You must report using the SEVP portal within 10 days of any change.

 

If I am unable to find paid employment, is it possible to work on-campus as a volunteer?
While current regulations allow work as an unpaid volunteer or intern while on OPT, it is not an option to volunteer or work without pay at RIT.

Reporting Requirements While on OPT

Please visit our OPT Reporting page for details on OPT reporting requirements and procedures.

Types of OPT Employment

Paid employment:
A student may work full time or part time (at least 20 hours per week).

Multiple employers:
A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the degree program.

Short-term multiple employers:
Often photographers and other types of artists work for multiple short term employers. These student should maintain a list of all employers and the dates of their employment.

Work for hire:
Students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the length of the contract and the name and address of the contracting company. Please note this type of employment is NOT allowed on STEM.

Self-employed business owner:
Students on OPT may start a business, but the work must be full time. The student must have the proper business licenses and the business must be directly related to the student’s degree program. Please note this type of employment is NOT allowed on STEM.

Unpaid employment:
Students may work as interns or volunteers as long as they work at least 20 hours per week. Please note this type of employment is NOT allowed on STEM.

Traveling Abroad While on OPT

ISS does not recommend travel outside the U.S. while your OPT application is pending. After you graduate you will NOT be allowed to re-enter the US without your OPT card in addition to your valid passport, current F-1 visa stamp, I-20 signed within the past six months, and a job offer. Before you graduate, you will be able to return to the US without your OPT card, but ISS recommends carrying proof of your registration (upon request the Registrar's Office will issue you a document called an Official Verification of Enrollment). If you need to travel before receiving your EAD card, please talk with an ISS advisor before leaving the US.

Insurance While on OPT

Please note that once you stop enrolling at RIT, you are no longer automatically enrolled in the Student Accident and Sickness Insurance Program. Unless you have an employer who will enroll you in their plan, we recommend that you purchase coverage.

While ISS does not endorse any particular health insurance plan, we are aware of the following providers that have F-1 OPT health insurance options. These companies are members of our professional organization, NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

If your OPT application is returned or you receive a Request for Evidence (RFE)

Please contact ISS immediately for assistance.

If your OPT application is being resubmitted it is critical that it be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date ISS issued your OPT I-20.

H-1B Cap Gap Extension of OPT

H-1B is a visa status that allows students to work full-time. If a student’s employer files for an H-1B and it is approved, the student will change their status from F-1 to H-1B on October 1. F-1 students whose OPT expires before October 1 (of any year) and who have an H-1B application pending with USCIS may be eligible for a Cap-Gap Extension. If the H-1B petition is pending and OPT expires prior to June 1, students should contact ISS to request a temporary extension. ISS will require a copy of the pending H-1B receipt notice or proof of timely filing. If documentation is accurate, ISS can extend OPT until June 1. If the H-1B petition has been approved and the OPT expires prior to October 1, students should contact ISS to request a new I-20 with a Cap-Gap Extension. ISS will require a copy of the H-1B approval notice. Cap-Gap Extensions that are not automatically added by USCIS can be manually added by an ISS Advisor.

For more general information about H-1B or Cap-Gap Extensions, students should contact International Student Services. For more extensive information, students should contact their employer’s immigration attorney.

Replacing an EAD (OPT Card)

If your EAD is Lost Stolen or Destroyed
If your EAD is lost, stolen or destroyed, you may request a replacement EAD by filing a new USCIS application, filing fee, and documents required for a new OPT application. Please refer to the section "How to Apply for OPT online", above. If you did not receive an EAD that USCIS mailed, you can submit an inquiry on non-delivery of a card at this page: https://egov.uscis.gov/e-request/Intro.do 

If Your EAD Contains Incorrect Information
If your EAD contains incorrect information that is not due to a USCIS error, you must submit:

  • A new online OPT application with USCIS
  • The filing fee
  • Any documents specified in the form instructions, and
  • The card containing the error

If your EAD contains incorrect information because of a USCIS error, the Service Center will make the appropriate correction at no cost to you. In this case, you will do not need to submit a new Form I-765 and filing fee. Instead, you will submit:

  • The original card containing the error
  • A detailed explanation of the error, and
  • Supporting documentation on the correct information

An ISS advisor will be able to help you in submitting a request for a corrected EAD that is required due to a USCIS error.

Requests for corrected EADs must be submitted to the Service Center that approved your Optional Practical Training.

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