Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an F1 student benefit that you can apply for to request to work in your field of study for up to 12 months.
As 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)
To apply for OPT you must meet the following minimum requirements:
1. 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.
2. You must apply for post-completion OPT within 90 days before or up to 60 days after your program end date on your I-20.
3. 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.
The International Education Services Office must recommend you for OPT and USCIS is the agency that will review and make a decision on your OPT application. The process is estimated to take anywhere from 45-90 days from the date of receipt (Notice of Action) 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 photocopies 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 ($410 as of 02 February 2017) 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 I-94 online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home.
7. Copy of your current passport and visa
1. Your work must be directly related to your major field of study and it must be appropriate for someone having your level of education. No job offer is needed at the time of application.
2. Optional Practical Training authorization is limited to a total of 12 months per each higher degree level (bachelor's, master's and Ph.D.)
3. 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.
4. You cannot work off-campus under any circumstances until you have been authorized by a designated school official at the International Education Services and USCIS.