Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment benefit granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (US CIS) authorizing eligible F-1 students to work anywhere in the U.S. at a job directly related to their major field of study and at a level commensurate with their educational level.
OPT Deadlines and Information Session dates
Please see the “OPT Deadlines” tab below for more dates such as Degree-Only and other semesters.
It is NOT advisable to wait until the deadline to apply for OPT. You are advised to apply for OPT at least 90 days prior to your requested OPT start date, but no more than 90 days prior to your graduation/completion date. US Immigration processing time to approve OPT can be at least 90 days after submitting your application to the Immigration Service Center. Please make sure that none of your documents are signed, dated, or submitted earlier than the posted “Earliest Date that you can apply to IS” for your specific semester, as shown in the deadlines listed below.
You may apply for OPT with US CIS up to 90 days before your program completion date and no later than 60 days after your program completion date (during the F-1 grace period), provided the application filed with US CIS is received within 30 days of the date the staff member enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS (date the new I-20 OPT recommendation is issued) and received by US CIS before the end of the 60 day grace period (60 days from the completion of studies expiration date of the OPT I-20 [item #5 on I-20]).
Important Notice: Currently, USCIS charges a fee of $410 for the I-765 form, which you are using to apply for your OPT. Please make sure that you pay the correct fee as an incorrect amount could result in a denial/rejection. This fee is subject to change at any time.
Note: OPT deadlines listed on this page apply to F-1 students who have an LSU I-20 to study on the main campus. Deadlines for F-1 students in the School of Veterinary Medicine will be based on the Veterinary School’s academic calendar (not the main campus calendar). F-1 ECFVG (Veterinary School program) students are advised to consult with the IS employment advisor 4-6 months before completing their program regarding their specific OPT deadlines.
Time: 10:00-11:30 a.m.
Location: 160G Hatcher Hall - Intl Programs Conf Room
Time: 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Location: 160G Hatcher Hall - Intl Programs Conf Room
Time: 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Location: 160G Hatcher Hall - Intl Programs Conf Room
- Semester and Completion date: SPRING 2019, January 24, 2019
- Earliest date that you can apply to IS (90 days prior to completion date): Friday, October 26, 2018
- OPT start date range: 1/24/2019 – 3/24/2019
- Deadline to apply for IS OPT recommendation: Monday, March 11, 2019
- Deadline for US CIS to receive complete OPT application: Friday, March 22, 2019
- Semester and Completion date: SPRING 2019, May 10, 2019
- Earliest date that you can apply to IS (90 days prior to completion date): Monday, February 11, 2019
- OPT start date range: 5/10/2019 – 7/9/2019
- Deadline to apply for IS OPT recommendation: Tuesday, June 25, 2019
- Deadline for US CIS to receive complete OPT application: Tuesday, July 9, 2019
- Semester and Completion date: SUMMER 2019, June 6, 2019
- Earliest date that you can apply to IS (90 days prior to completion date): Friday, March 8, 2019
- OPT start date range: 6/6/2019 – 8/5/2019
- Deadline to apply for IS OPT recommendation: Monday, July 22, 2019
- Deadline for US CIS to receive complete OPT application: Monday, August 5, 2019
- Semester and Completion date: SUMMER 2019, August 2, 2019
- Earliest date that you can apply to IS (90 days prior to completion date): Monday, May 6, 2019
- OPT start date range: 8/2/2019 – 10/1/2019
- Deadline to apply for IS OPT recommendation: Tuesday, September 17, 2019
- Deadline for US CIS to receive complete OPT application: Tuesday, October 1, 2019
- Semester and Completion date: FALL 2019, September 5, 2019
- Earliest date that you can apply to IS (90 days prior to completion date): Friday, June 7, 2019
- OPT start date range: 9/5/2019 – 11/4/2019
- Deadline to apply for IS OPT recommendation: Monday, October 21, 2019
- Deadline for US CIS to receive complete OPT application: Monday, November 4, 2019
- Semester and Completion date: FALL 2019, December 20, 2019
- Earliest date that you can apply to IS (90 days prior to completion): Monday, September 23, 2019
- OPT start date range: 12/20/2019 - 2/18/2020
- Deadline to apply for IS OPT recommendation: Tuesday, February 4, 2020
- Deadline for US CIS to receive complete OPT application: Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Additional Information about OPT (12 months)
Please see the tabs below for additional information about OP eligibility, the application process and other information you may need while on OPT. We also have an employer's handout and OPT PowerPoint presentation that may be helpful to review.
On April 8, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security published regulations that changed many aspects of Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 students. The regulations are effective as of the publication date, and apply to all students in F-1 status.
- Earliest date that you can apply to IS (90 days prior to completion date): Thursday, May 26, 2016
- Deadline to apply for IS OPT recommendation: Friday, October 7, 2016
- Deadline for US CIS to receive complete OPT application: Friday, October 21, 2016
- Student Submits complete OPT packet to International Services within the designated application timeline depending on their graduation/completion date, see OPT Deadlines above.
- 5-10 business days: IS review of OPT application and processing of recommendation for OPT, longer processing may occur with higher volumes of applications or during certain times of the year.
- Students picks up OPT packet from IS and mail it to USCIS ( including all required documents and fees) within 20 days of IS recommendation
- 2-4 weeks: Student should receive the "Receipt Notice/I-797 Notice of Action" from USCIS
- 90 calendar days or more: USCIS processing of OPT packet
- Student receives EAD card with approved OPT start and end dates
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Optional Practical Training?
(OPT) is an employment benefit granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (US CIS) authorizing eligible F-1 students to work anywhere in the U.S. at a job directly related to their major field of study and at a level commensurate with their educational level.
What does OPT authorization look like?
US CIS issues OPT authorization in the form of a card, called an EAD (Employment Authorization Document).
How long does OPT last?
OPT EAD cards can be issued for a maximum aggregate of 12 months per each advanced U.S. program level.
Do I have to apply for all 12 months of OPT for one degree at one time?
No. Most students choose to request the full 12 months of post-completion OPT based upon a single degree. A separate OPT application and fee are required each time you apply for OPT.
Students who are finishing one program and who are seriously considering pursuing another US program at the same level in the future may find it useful to split the 12 months of OPT. Such students should consult their IS employment advisor in this case.
How much does it cost to apply for OPT?
Currently, USCIS charges $380 to apply for OPT if your application is received by their office no later than December 22, 2016. On December 23, 2016, the amount changes to $410. Please make sure that you pay the correct fee as an incorrect amount could result in a denial/rejection. This fee is subject to change at any time.
You may check the following website for current information about the I-765 OPT application fee: http://www.uscis.gov (see Form number I-765 under the “Immigration Forms” section).
What is my immigration status during OPT?
You are still considered to be in F-1 student status while on OPT and will continue to use your F-1 visa stamp for any travel during your OPT period. To maintain status on OPT, you must either work at a job(s) directly related to your major/level of study or actively seek employment in your major/level of study.
What are my options if I decide not to apply for OPT?
Your options are as follows:
- Depart the US within 60 days of your program completion date (grace period).
- Obtain a new I-20 to pursue another program at LSU (after you have been admitted to that program) prior to 60 days grace period following your program completion date.
- Request a transfer release of your F-1 SEVIS record to another US institution prior to 60 days grace period following your program completion date. You may email questions about this procedure to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is a grace period?
Grace period means that you can remain in the U.S. However, you are not authorized to work during the grace period without OPT authorization.
What are the standard processing times for OPT applications from beginning to end?
- Student Submits complete OPT packet to International Services before the appropriate deadline (depending on their graduation/completion date)
- 5-10 business days: IS review of OPT application and processing of recommendation for OPT
- Students picks up OPT packet from IS and mail it to USCIS ( including all required documents and fees) within 20 days of IS recommendation
- 2-4 weeks: Student should receive the "receipt Notice/I-797 Notice of Action" from USCIS
- 60-90 calendar days: USCIS processing of OPT packet
- Student receives EAD card with approved OPT start and end dates
Please remember that you cannot start working until you have received the approved EAD card.
What are the minimum requirements to apply for OPT?
OPT may be authorized to an F-1 student who has been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for two consecutive semesters. You must be in lawful F-1 student status at the time you apply for OPT. In order for study abroad or national student exchange time to count as part of this two consecutive semester requirement, you must have completed one semester of full-time fall or spring enrollment at LSU prior to participating in the LSU exchange program.
Do I need a job offer letter to apply for OPT?
Do I need a job offer letter to apply for OPT?
If I am returning to start a new higher-level program after OPT, when would I be eligible for the next OPT period?
This scenario could apply for a student who completed one degree, such as a Bachelor’s level degree, and had BS level OPT. Then, the student would be returning to school to begin a Master’s program in a short period and wants to apply for MS level OPT. As mentioned above, OPT may be authorized to an F-1 student who has been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for two consecutive semesters. After your first OPT, you would need to be enrolled in two semesters AFTER returning to school before you could be considered for OPT based on the next degree.
Am I eligible to apply for OPT if I have changed to F-1 status from another visa status within the boundaries of the U.S.?
If you were enrolled full-time for two consecutive semesters in another visa category, and are currently in F-1 status, consult the IS employment advisor.
If you have been enrolled full-time for two consecutive semesters in F-1 status, which starts as of the effective date on the change of status I-797 approval notice, you are eligible to apply for OPT.
Am I eligible to apply for OPT if I have violated my F-1 status?
You are not eligible to apply for OPT while you are in violation of your F-1 status. If your F-1 status has been reinstated via a mailed reinstatement application to a USCIS district office, you are not eligible to apply for OPT unless you had accrued two consecutive semesters of F-1 status prior to the date your F-1 SEVIS record was terminated for the status violation or unless you have accrued two consecutive semesters of F-1 status after the date of the approval on the reinstatement notice.
If your F-1 status was instead reinstated by reentering the country with a newly issued SEVIS I-20, then your F-1 status is counted from the date of reentry stamped on the new SEVIS I-20. Any amount if time you spent in the U.S. in F-1 status prior to reentering the country to “reinstate through reentry” is not counted. Therefore, you will have to accrue two consecutive semesters of F-1 status from the date of reentry stamped on your new I-20 before you are eligible to apply for OPT.
Am I eligible to apply for OPT if I have left the U.S. for 5 months or more?
If you left the US for 5 months or more and reentered the U.S. with a new SEVIS I-20, then your F-1 status is counted from the date you reentered the U.S. with the new SEVIS I-20. Any amount of time you spent in the US in F-1 status prior to the stamped reentry date on your new SEVIS I-20 is not counted for OPT purposes. You have to accrue two consecutive semesters of lawful F-1 status from the date of reentry stamped on your new I-20 before you are eligible to apply for OPT.
Am I eligible to apply for OPT if I’ve had Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for the same degree?
Participating in 12 months of full-time CPT in the same program level as your OPT request invalidates OPT eligibility. Participating in part-time CPT or in fewer than 12 months of full-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility. No amount of part-time CPT will affect your OPT eligibility.
Can I apply for OPT based on a degree I completed outside of the U.S.?
Can I apply for OPT based on a degree I completed more than 60 days ago?
At what point during my F-1 degree program may I apply for OPT?
Degree candidates can apply for full-time OPT after (or in anticipation of) completing ALL degree requirements. If applicable, this includes thesis, dissertation, or equivalent requirement. In this situation, students can apply for OPT as early as 90 days prior to their program completion date and as late as 59 days after their program completion date (before the end of the 60-day grace period). In practice, IS will accept applications as late as 45 days after the program completion date, to allow sufficient time for IS processing, assembly of application materials, and delivery to USCIS.
Degree candidates who have completed all course requirements for a degree except for a thesis, dissertation, or equivalent requirement, can apply for full-time OPT to be used while they continue to make normal progress towards completing the thesis, dissertation, or equivalent requirement. However, remember that only 12 months are available, and that training done before a degree is completed will count against that 12-month total and reduce time available after the degree is awarded. In this situation, students can apply for OPT as early as 120 days prior to the requested start date for the OPT.
I am graduating this semester. When should I apply for OPT?
You can apply for OPT as early as 90 days prior to your program completion date and as late as 59 days after your program completion date (before the end of the 60-day grace period). However, generally, we recommend that you apply for OPT at least 90 days before your requested OPT start date because processing of the EAD card can take, on average, 60 to 90 days. You are required to have the valid EAD card with an active begin date in hand before you are allowed to begin working.
ALL course work requirements must be completed before you may begin to work on OPT full-time, even if a valid EAD card has been received. Therefore, you should plan ahead and check with your academic advisor (and the Graduate School, if applicable) to make sure that you are on schedule to graduate as planned prior to submitting your OPT application.
I’m not sure at this point whether or not I will be able to graduate this semester as planned. What is the latest possible date I may apply for OPT?
The latest you can apply to USCIS for OPT is the last day before your 60-day grace period following your program end date. IS must receive your application no later than 45 days after the program completion date, to allow sufficient time for IS processing, assembly of application materials, and delivery to USCIS prior to the end of this grace period.
How is completion of studies defined?
Completion of studies is defined as either one of the following:
- For a student whose course of study ends with the end of a regular semester or term, the actual date of the graduation ceremonies as listed in the academic calendar on the University Registrar’s website.
- The “degree only” deadline as listed in the academic calendar on the University Registrar’s website if you are registering for “degree only” (this mostly applies to graduate students). Remember that registering as “degree only” does not constitute an actual semester of enrollment.
What is the earliest that I am allowed to apply for OPT?
The earliest you may apply for OPT is 90 days prior to your program completion date. However, before applying, you should be certain you will complete studies as planned and you are sure that you will not want to change your OPT requested start date at a later time.
When is the deadline to apply for OPT?
F-1 students are required to apply for OPT for their degree program prior to end of their 60-day grace period following their program completion date.
How do I choose my OPT requested start date?
There are several factors to consider:
- Your OPT requested start date may be no earlier than your coursework completion date.
- Your OPT requested start date may be no later than 60 days following your program completion date.
- Whether or not you have a job offer for employment which directly relates to your major/level field of study.
- Your on-campus work permit expiration date. Note that on-campus work permits cannot be issued after the program completion date.
- Your OPT period and any CPT authorized in your final semester may not overlap.
How do I chose my requested OPT end date?
Consider the following:
- Your requested OPT end date can be no later than 12 months from your requested OPT begin date.
- You might consider requesting only a portion of OPT if you are seriously considering pursuing another major at the same program level after your OPT expires. However, generally, this is not recommended. You are strongly advised to consult the ISO employment advisor if you are considering this option.
- Your OPT end date cannot extend beyond 14 months of your program completion date.
How do I choose my OPT requested start date if I am applying for pre-completion OPT?
It is best to consult your IS employment advisor in advance if you are applying for pre-completion OPT. Please indicate if you have a job offer. The earliest you can apply for pre-completion OPT is 120 days prior to your requested employment start date.
Students within 120 days of completing their degree program should consider post-completion OPT instead.
What is the procedure to request a change in requested OPT dates?
To request a change in OPT dates:
- You must write and submit a letter to IS explaining why you are requesting a change in OPT dates. You must also include the newly requested OPT dates (mm/dy/yr – mm/dy/yr) in this letter.
- You must attach the 1-page certified copy of your OPT I-20 that was previously given to you by ISO.
- Please allow 5 business days for the change to be made. You will be emailed when you may pick up your new OPT I-20.
How do I apply for an OPT recommendation from IS?
Step 1: Officially file for graduation at your undergraduate college or at the Graduate School. Verify with your undergraduate college or the Graduate School to be sure that your graduation date appears in the LSU database before applying for OPT.
Step 2: Before submitting any documents to IS for an OPT recommendation, check and compare all of your immigration documents:
- Your name and date of birth should match on your passport, I-20, and I-94 card.
- The major and program level listed in fields #4 and #5 of your I-20 are the same as your LSU major and your OPT request.
- If you are completing several degree programs at the same time, you will only be able to apply for OPT based on one of those degrees. That major and program level should be listed on your I-20 in fields #4 and #5.
- Make sure the expiration date listed on your I-20 is not prior to program completion
Please note: there is no need to change your I-20 expiration date if your I-20 expires after your expected completion date. We will do that for you when you apply for OPT.
If any of the above-mentioned criteria are not met, you must complete and submit a Green Sheet Request form and any other applicable documentation prior to or at the same time as submitting an application to IS for an OPT recommendation.
Do NOT proceed to step 3 until steps 1 and 2 are complete. Your application for an OPT recommendation from IS will be placed on hold (delayed) if you try to apply for OPT before you have completed steps 1 and 2.
What is step 3?
STEP 3: Complete, compile, and submit all of the following documents to the IS front desk during IS office hours (Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.):
- Your most recent Form I-20.
- Form I-765.
- A complete OPT application : Undergraduate, Graduate.
- OPT Student Acknowledgement Form
What if my passport will expire soon?
It is always your responsibility to apply for a passport renewal at least 6 months before your passport expires. If your passport will expire soon, you should get it renewed before applying for OPT.
How long does IS take to process an OPT recommendation?
If you turn in a complete application, IS can process it in approximately 5 business days. We will email you at your PAWS account if we have any questions about your application. If we do not have any questions, we will email you at your PAWS email account when your OPT recommendation is ready to be picked up at the IS front desk.
After I pick up my IS OPT recommendation, what do I need to do next?
IS does not mail your OPT application for you. You have to come to pick up your documents from the IS and we recommend that you mail your documents within 20 days of the IS recommendation date. Your recommendation cannot be more than 30 days old when USCIS receives your application.
You will be given mailing instructions with your IS OPT recommendation with exact instructions about which documents to include with your OPT application and where to mail your OPT application. Please read and follow the instruction sheet very carefully.
How long does it take to get the USCIS receipt notice (Form I-797 - Notice of Action) after I have mailed my OPT application to USCIS?
You can expect to receive Form I-797 (Notice of Action) from USCIS usually within 2-4 weeks after mailing your OPT application. Be sure to safeguard this form. The Notice of Action is proof that Service Center has received your OPT application and has begun to process it and includes a tracking number so that your application can be identified.
How do I track the status of my OPT application once I’ve mailed it to a USCIS Service Center?
You can use the tracking number (located on the I-797 Notice of Action) to track your application on-line at: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/jsps/index.jsp
How long does it take to receive the EAD card from the receipt notice date listed on Form I-797 Notice of Action?
Generally speaking, the Texas Service Center takes 60-90 days to process OPT applications and mail EAD cards. Other Service Centers’ processing times may vary. For current information on USCIS processing times: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/jsps/ptimes.jsp
I have not yet received my EAD card but I have just received a job offer starting very soon. Can I begin working on OPT without the EAD card?
No. You should not begin working until you receive the EAD card from USCIS. The EAD card is the only document with approved OPT beginning and ending dates.
Working while your application is pending or before the authorized OPT start date on your EAD is considered unlawful employment. Voice mail verifications or on-line case information are not authorizations of employment.
May I remain in the U.S. after I apply for OPT even if my 60 days grace period is over, if I still have not received my EAD?
Yes, you may remain in the US until the EAD card is received or until you receive further notice from the USCIS Service Center.
Is there anything that IS can do to expedite the processing of my EAD card?
Unfortunately, there is nothing IS can do to expedite the Service Center's customary processing times, even if you have a pending job offer.
What is the procedure to request a cancellation of requested OPT?
To request a cancellation of requested OPT if you have not yet mailed your OPT materials to USCIS:
- You must write and submit a letter to IS explaining why you are requesting a cancellation of OPT.
- You must attach the 1-page certified copy of your OPT I-20 that was previously given to you by IS.
Please be aware that your I-20 program end date may have been shortened to accommodate your OPT request; it may be necessary to submit a Green Sheet with Program
Is it possible to cancel my OPT request after I have submitted my materials to USCIS?
If you have already mailed the OPT application to a USCIS Service Center, you must email Orientation and Employment Coordinator at email@example.com. It will have to be determined as to whether or not it is still possible for you to cancel your OPT request.
It is not possible to cancel your OPT request after the expiration date on your OPT I-20 or EAD card.
If your EAD card has not yet been issued or your OPT I-20 has not yet expired, it may be possible to cancel your OPT request. Note: Once a request is submitted to USCIS to cancel your OPT period, this cannot be undone.
I have received my OPT EAD card! What do I do now?
Check your EAD card to make sure that your name has been spelled correctly and take note of the dates of employment authorization. You are not allowed to work outside of the authorization dates on the EAD card. If you are hired on OPT, your employer will have to make a copy of this EAD card to put in your employment file.
Submit a clear copy of your OPT EAD card to the IS after you received it. We need it to update your file.
Be sure to keep your EAD card in a safe place along with your other immigration documents. If you lose the EAD card, you will have to apply for a replacement EAD. Applying for a replacement EAD card can take the same amount of processing time USCIS currently charges a $380 fee for any replacement EAD petition received. This USCIS fee is subject to change at any time.
What do I do if the spelling of my name on my EAD is incorrect (does not match the spelling on my OPT I-20)?
It may be possible to have the spelling of your name corrected to match the spelling on your OPT I-20 and passport. However, be aware that doing so may delay your work authorization for a period of time.
To request such a correction, email Orientation and Employment Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include the correct spelling of your name in the email. Such corrections can take a few weeks.
Do I still have to report my address to IS?
Yes, you must report your residential and employer name and address to the IS by emailing email@example.com. You will continue to be in F-1 status while on OPT, if your recommendation was completed by LSU. This means that SEVIS reporting requirements still apply to you.
It is mandatory that you immediately report any of the following changes to the IS: decisions to prematurely terminate your OPT by leaving the U.S., beginning a new academic program, or changing visa category status, such as to H-1B; official name change, residential address changes, and employer changes (e.g. loss of employment, change to new employer, change of employer location).
You must report new information to the IS within 10 days of the actual change. Failure to do so is considered a serious violation of your F-1 status by USCIS.
How do I report a change of residential and employer address while on OPT?
Report your updated address within 10 days of your move by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You should also update your “Local Street Address” in your LSU PAWS account for your residential address, in case LSU needs to get in touch with you.
Can I apply for an extension of my OPT?
You may be eligible to apply for a 17-month OPT extension prior to the completion of your 12-month OPT authorization period. If you do not meet the requirements for the 17-month OPT Extension and you were authorized for the full 12-months of OPT, there is no extension available for you.
In some cases you may have been authorized for less than the full 12-months because your OPT was approved after the end of your 60-day grace period. In these cases, you are not eligible to apply for the lost time as an extension.
Example: I will complete my U.S. Master’s degree at the end of this semester. I already completed a Bachelor’s degree in the U.S. but did not use OPT for my Bachelor’s degree. May I now apply for 24 months of OPT (12 months OPT for BS degree + 12 months OPT for MS degree)?
No. You would have had to apply for OPT based on your Bachelor’s degree within 60 days of the completion of your Bachelor’s degree, before beginning your Master’s program. You have lost the opportunity to apply for OPT based on your Bachelor’s degree, but you can still apply for 12 months of OPT based on your Master’s degree.
What happens after my OPT EAD card expires?
A second 60-day grace period follows the OPT expiration date on your EAD card. During this time, you are able to lawfully remain in the US but you are not allowed to work. Before the end of the second 60-day grace period you must do one of the following:
- Depart the US within 60 days (grace period) of the OPT expiration date on your EAD card.
- Obtain a new I-20 to pursue another program at LSU (after you have been admitted to that program) prior to 60 days grace period following the expiration date on your EAD card.
- Request a transfer release of your F-1 SEVIS record to another US institution prior to 60 days from the expiration date on your EAD card. You may email questions about this procedure to email@example.com.
May I work during the 60-day grace period following my completion date?
No, you may not work during the grace period following your program completion date without OPT authorization. You may only work if you have received a valid OPT EAD card AND the job is directly related to your major/level of study.
So, can I not keep my on-campus student job after the completion of my program?
As per U.S. government regulations, your F-1 on-campus student work permit is not valid after your academic completion date, nor is IS able to issue you another on-campus work permit after your program completion date to “bridge the gap” until your requested/authorized OPT period begins.
If your on-campus job is directly related to your major/level of study and you have a valid OPT EAD card, the department may rehire you as a contingent/ transient employee on OPT.
How do I prove that I have been actively seeking OPT employment? How do I prove that I am working in a field which is directly related to my level/major of study?
We recommend that you keep documentation from your job search (i.e., cover letters, resumes sent, registration with job search websites or companies, etc.) to show that you actively sought employment during OPT. We recommend that you keep documentation from your employer and/or academic advisor detailing how any employment you accept while on OPT is directly related your field of study and commensurate with your educational level. Keeping records of your job search and job descriptions of positions you accept on OPT may prove useful should your OPT employer eventually wish to pursue a work visa in your behalf or if you are questioned by immigration officials.
How many hours per week can I work on OPT?
With a valid OPT employment authorization card in hand you may work:
- Either part-time or full-time during summer vacation.
- Part-time prior to completing all coursework required for graduation.
- Full-time after ALL coursework required for graduation has been completed, ONLY excluding thesis or dissertation research hours.Note: With this option, you must register each semester until graduation in thesis or research hours.
- Full-time after graduation.
Is full-time OPT employment limited to 40 hours per week?
No. The Code of Federal Regulations does not specify that full-time employment is limited to 40 hours per week. Any number of hours worked on OPT above 20 hours per week is considered full-time employment. You may be compensated for “overtime” on full-time OPT.
May I work for multiple employers while on OPT?
Yes. You may work for any number of employers, as long as you have a valid OPT EAD card in hand and as long as all jobs directly relate to your major/level of study. If you applied for part-time OPT, the total number of hours should not exceed 20 hours per week.
May I work part-time if I have applied for full-time OPT but can only find part-time work?
Yes. You may work part-time as long as you continue to seek full-time employment in your major/level of study.
What if I cannot find employment or do not work during the authorized OPT period listed on the EAD card?
There is a “use it or lose it” policy with OPT authorization. The authorized period on the EAD card is counted, whether or not you actually work during that period. Also, if you accrue more than a total of 90 days of unemployment during your 12-month OPT authorized period, you will be considered out of lawful immigration status. Unpaid/Volunteer work of at least 20 hours per week can be used to prevent accumulating unemployment days.
What happens if I’ve already mailed my OPT application to a Service Center but I am not able to complete my coursework requirements as planned?
If you do not complete your studies or graduate as planned, you must obtain documentation from your department/professor(s) explaining why you were unable to finish. IS needs a copy of this letter as evidence for your file. You must keep all original documentation with your Form I-20s. Unless there were factors beyond your control, USCIS looks unfavorably upon students who fail to complete their studies by the program completion date on the most recently issued I-20, especially if they have applied for OPT based on a projected completion date.
You are not allowed to work full-time on OPT until all coursework has been completed, even if an EAD card has been received.
Can I enroll in classes while on OPT?
You are not permitted to take classes outside of the degree program that your OPT authorization is based on. All coursework must be completed before you are allowed to work full-time on OPT.
Can I travel outside the U.S. while on OPT?
Starting from the time you submit an application for an IS OPT recommendation, you should be prepared to present ALL 6 of the following documents (if applicable to your situation) to the US Port of Entry when you return. We generally recommend that you do not travel outside of the U.S. while your OPT application is pending. If you are considering travel outside of the U.S. while your OPT application is pending, please contact the IS employment advisor.
You may not be allowed to reenter the country if you are missing any of the following documents, especially after the program completion date on your OPT I-20:
- A valid passport. Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months into the future.
- A valid F-1 entry visa in your passport. If your F-1 visa has expired, you will have to apply for a new F-1 visa outside of the US, which is risky to do on OPT. There are only a few exceptions to this rule; consult your IS advisor for more information before traveling.
- A valid signature for reentry from your IS advisor on page 3 of the OPT I-20. The signature on page 3 is only valid for 6 months. You are advised to submit a Green Sheet request for reentry to apply for a new signature well before traveling.
- Your valid OPT EAD card or I797C Notice of Action if your OPT application is pending.
- A job offer letter or letter of employment which is directly related to your major/level field of study.
- As a general rule, it is a good idea to bring U.S. bank statements with you to show that you are able to financially support yourself in the U.S.
Leaving the U.S. for extended amounts of time during your authorized OPT period may cause problems with your re-entry. You may be heavily questioned by Immigration upon re-entry about your previous whereabouts and your reasons for wanting to return to the US, especially without a job offer letter or letter verifying employment in the US. After you have been approved for OPT, without possession of an EAD card, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S.
How do I request an updated signature for reentry on my OPT I-20?
Complete and submit the Green Sheet request form and attach your OPT I-20. Allow 5 business days for processing. Please allow additional time for mailing.
If you are no longer in Baton Rouge, you may mail your Green Sheet request and OPT I-20 form to us.
We can return your signed I-20 by mail. If you wish to receive your I-20 via express mail, you are required to use E-ShipGlobal service. All express mail charges will be billed to you.