Optional Practical Training
Definition of Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT is designed to provide you with an opportunity to gain actual employment experience in your field of study in order to complement your academic work.
F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled for one full academic year and who are in good standing may apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for OPT work authorization. OPT employment may occur anywhere in the United States. Employment while on OPT must be directly related to your major field of study and appropriate for someone with your level of education.
If you had a change to your academic program information that is not yet reflected on your I-20, this must be updated prior to applying for OPT. Undergraduate students must have declared an academic concentration before OPT can be requested.
o after completion of course requirements, excluding a thesis/dissertation or final project
o after completion of all academic program requirements
17-Month STEM OPT Extension:
o Available following the standard 12 month period of post-completion OPT for certain students with a degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) field (more information provided later in this handout)
*You are not required to have a job offer before applying for Post-Completion OPT.
You are strongly advised to submit your OPT application to USCIS during the 90 days prior to your program completion date. Although not advisable due to the lengthy application processing time, you may submit your application up to 60 days following the completion of your academic program. You must be in the U.S. at the time you submit your application to USCIS.
Amount of OPT
F-1 students may be authorized for up to 12 months of OPT per each higher educational level (e.g. from a Bachelor’s degree to Master's degree). Any OPT you engage in prior to your program completion will be deducted from the total OPT available for that degree level.
Authorization for OPT May Not be Rescinded
Once authorization to engage in OPT is granted, it cannot be rescinded or canceled. Situations such as unexpected delays in completing degree requirements, inability to find an appropriate job or loss of a job may result in a reduction of the total time you have available for work.
90-Day Unemployment Rule
Once approved for Post-Completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment.
· Students approved for the initial 12-month period of Post-Completion OPT may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during the 12-month period.
· Students granted a 17-month STEM Extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 120 days of unemployment during the entire period (up to 29 months) of OPT.
Unpaid Volunteer Positions
· A legitimate volunteer position (unpaid, without any form of compensation and that has never in the past been filled by a paid intern or employee) is considered employment during Post-Completion OPT provided your work totals at least 20 hours a week and is directly related to your field of study/commensurate with your level of education.
While on OPT, you are permitted to have multiple employers and to change employers provided each new job is directly related to your major field of study and commensurate with your level of education.
Reporting Requirements While on OPT
While on OPT, you are required to report to the DSO at Ohio Northern University any change in name, residential address, employer name/address and dates of employment, or periods of unemployment within 10 days of a change. Please utilize the OPT Information Update Form.
Travel Outside the U.S.
If you travel outside the U.S. after completion of studies, you must re-enter in F-1 status; otherwise your OPT authorization will end. Students engaged in Post-Completion OPT must present to the inspecting officer at the U.S. port of entry:
- a Form I-20, endorsed for travel by the DSO within the last six months;
- a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD);
- a valid F-1 visa (unless Canadian); and
- a letter from your employer with either a job offer or confirmation of current employment (if returning to the U.S. after the employment start date listed on the EAD).
**Students who do not meet these requirements may be denied re‑entry into the U.S. We encourage you to consult with the DSO when contemplating travel outside the U.S. during OPT.
H-1B Cap Gap Extension
Duration of F-1 status and work authorization will be extended for a student approved for OPT, who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. This applies to all students on Post-Completion OPT, not just STEM Extension students. The extension of F-1 status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf.
OPT APPLICATION AND AUTHORIZATION PROCEDURES
1. The OPT application process can take 3-4 months. Please contact the DSO at Ohio Northern University well in advance of your program completion date, so the DSO can determine if you meet OPT eligibility requirements.
2. Attend an OPT workshop and read all handouts.
3. Schedule an appointment with the DSO. This is REQUIRED to apply for OPT.
Bring the following documents to your consultation/appointment:
· Completed Form I‑765 (access online: https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-765.pdf )
· Current Form I-20
· Unexpired passport
· Copy of I-94
** Be prepared to indicate your desired specific employment start date (mm/dd/yy)
4. Upon the fulfillment of all application requirements, the DSO will create a new Form I-20 with a recommendation for OPT on page 3. Please allow 2 business days for processing before picking up your new I-20 at the Academic Affairs Office.
5. Mail your OPT to the USCIS Phoenix lockbox. Write “I-765 for F-1 OPT” in the lower left hand corner of the envelope.
For U.S. Postal Service Deliveries:
USCIS Service Center
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
For Courier/Express Deliveries:
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
Checklist of Documents to be Included in Your OPT Application:
- Completed original I-765 [#16, the eligibility category for F-1 practical training, is (c) (3) (B) for Post-Completion OPT; or (c) (3)(C) for a 17 month STEM OPT extension with an E-Verify registered employer]
- Sign the I-765 without crossing over the lines. Stay in the white space only. Sign small!
- Two photographs: taken within 30 days; white background; 1½”x 1½” or 2”x 2” in size (do not cut to size); name and alien # number written lightly on the back (Alien # is located on the I-94 card).
- Personal check for $380.00 payable to “US Department of Homeland Security”
- Photocopy of the Form I-20 with OPT recommendation (will be generated by an DSO)
- Photocopies of all previously issued I-20s
- Photocopy of the passport biographical page(s) showing the passport expiration date
- Photocopy of your I-94 card (front and back)
- Form G-1145 E-Notification Form of Application/Petition Acceptance (allows USCIS to notify you via text message or email that your form was accepted)
**Your application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the DSO’s recommendation.
Send the application via Certified Mail - Return Receipt Requested or other Trackable Express Mail (e.g. Fed Ex, UPS, DHL). Keep copies of all documents you send to USCIS. In 2-3 weeks, USCIS will mail a Notice of Action (receipt notice) stating the date your application was received and an EAC# that can be used to track the status of your application online (https://www.uscis.gov/eir/visa-guide/f-1-opt-optional-practical-training/f-1-optional-practical-training-opt). Keep the receipt notice and refer to EAC# for any future communication with USCIS about your application.
The receipt notice (and EAD) will be sent to the address you indicated on the Form I-765.
**Note: It is highly recommended that you use the International Admissions Office address as your address when applying for OPT. Please note that USCIS mail will not be forwarded. Though not completely reliable, USCIS will accept address updates made online at www.uscis.gov. Processing time at the Vermont Service Center is approximately 3 months. Even if you are not sure if you will be changing your address, we recommend having your documents sent to the International Admissions Office. This way, once your EAD arrives, we can contact you before forwarding it along. Here is the address:
Ohio Northern University
525 S Main St
Ada, OH 45810
Authorization by USCIS
The evidence that you have been approved for OPT is the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), a laminated card with your photo and employment authorization begin and end dates.
**You will need to provide the DSO with a copy of your EAD once you have received it.
Actual Date OPT Employment May Begin
You may not begin employment until all three of the following requirements are satisfied:
- You have obtained an EAD from the USCIS;
- The date of your authorized employment period has begun (see dates on your EAD card); and
- You have completed all course requirements for your program of study