Optional Practical Training (OPT)

StudentsInGym.jpgAs an F1 student, you may only work off campus in the U.S. if you have received written work authorization approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Conditions and Limitations

1. The work you do must be directly related to your major field of study and it must be appropriate for someone having your level of education. However, you do not need to have a specific job offer at the time of application.

2. You must have been enrolled as a full-time student in legal immigration status for at least one academic year (two semesters) before your OPT begins.

3. You must apply for post-completion OPT within 90 days before or 60 days after your program end date on your I-20.

4. OPT must begin no later than 60 days after completion date indicated in Item 5 on the I-20 and end no later than 14 months after the completion date.

5. Optional Practical Training authorization is limited to a total of 12 months per each higher degree level (bachelor's, master's and Ph.D.)

6. There are restrictions on when students may utilize part- or full-time OPT.

  • Part-time during the course of study, provided training and other employment (both on and off campus) does not exceed 20 hours per week total.
  • Full-time during the vacation period.
  • Full-time after completion of all requirements for a degree or course of study.

7. You cannot work off-campus under any circumstances until you have been authorized by a designated school official at the International Programs office and USCIS.

Application Process

Your application must be approved by the USCIS before you can begin employment. The process is estimated to take anywhere from 45-90 days from the date of receipt by USCIS (note that 90 days for processing is the norm during busy times of the year). Approval from USCIS comes in the form of a photo ID card called an "Employment Authorization Document" or "EAD" card.

1. Complete Form I-765 online and print on form I-765 enter in item 16 "(c) (3) (B)".

2. Make photcopies of all prior I-20 forms

3. Submit documentation from your academic adviser indicating the current academic status and the expected date of completion of studies.

4. Write a check to the order of "US Department of Homeland Security" in the amount of the fee required for Form I-765 ($380 as of 22 October 2013) Check for current rate

5. Include two (2) passport photos (write your name on the back of each picture)

6. Include a copy of I-94 card (print out from online)

7. Copy of your passport and visa

Once you have all information, contact International Programs at 906-227-2510 or ipo@nmu.edu to schedule an appointment with Tony Tollefson or Angela Maki.