Eligibility - You must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for at least a full academic year, currently be in F-1 status, have completed all requirements for the award of your degree, per degree level and have no outstanding debts to the University. The major you will be graduating with must be on your current SEVIS I-20 for at least one academic year. You are eligible for a maximum of twelve months optional practical training employment while in F-1 status degree level. You may obtain another 12 months when you enroll in another degree level.
Application Deadline - Students can apply for post-completion OPT as early as 90 days before the date of their graduation, but OPT applications must be received and receipted by USCIS within 60 days after the date of graduation. It will take approximately between 60 to 90 days for USCIS to process your application and issue and EAD card (Employment Authorization Document); therefore, it is important to apply early.
Procedure - Your first step in obtaining an EAD is to qualify for an I-20 from the OIA recommending you for practical training. DO NOT create an USCIS online account until we have issued an I-20 recommending you for OPT.
Step 1 - Email to the OIA (firstname.lastname@example.org) the documents listed below in order to receive an I-20 from the OIA recommending you for OPT:
- Completed Undergraduate OPT application or Graduate OPT application.
- Download form I-765 here. DO NOT FILE ONLINE yet. Scroll all the way down to Form Details, click on Forms and Document Downloads where you can download form I-765 and instructions.
- Complete form I-765 that you downloaded. (In Part 2 on Item 27, please enter (c)(3)(B). Complete Part 6 only if you have been approved for CPT or OPT in the past or if you have ever used a different SEVIS ID in F-1 status). Please save and email this completed form I-765 for review.
- Your current SEVIS I-20
- Copy of previous OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD), if any
- Picture page of your passport (with a minimum of 6 months validity)
- Your F-1 student visa
- I-94 Printout. You may download your most recent I-94 information by going to I-94 Retrieval.
Once the following documents are emailed to email@example.com, the OIA will review the student's application to determine the student's eligibility for OPT. If the student is eligible for OPT, the OIA will issue the student an I-20 recommending post-completion OPT. DO NOT create an USCIS online account until we have issued an I-20 recommending you for OPT.
It will take the Office of International Affairs staff approximately 3 business days to finish processing a student's OPT application. The OIA will email the student informing them that they may pick up from our office their I-20 recommending post-completion OPT application.
Step 2 - Once the student signs and picks up their I-20 from the Office of International Affairs, the student will receive an email with an Online Filing Guide with detailed instructions on how to create a USCIS account, complete the I-765 online, upload evidence which includes one passport photo (photo must be exactly 2" x 2"), and submit OPT filing fee using your credit/debit card. Once you successfully submit the payment, your I-765 form is automatically submitted to USCIS for processing. Students must submit their OPT online application to the USCIS within 30 days from the date the OPT I-20 was issued. OPT applications will be denied by the USCIS if a student submits their application past 30 days from the date the I-20 was issued.
Step 3 - USCIS will send the EAD card to the address indicated on the Form I-765, which must be your current address.
Processing time - Currently, the entire process for receiving employment authorization is taking between 60 to 90 days.
Special Considerations - Regulations allow you to change employers during the period of authorized practical training, as long as the new employment continues to be directly related to your field of study and commensurate with your educational level.
Once the OIA has annotated your SEVIS I-20AB by recommending optional practical training, there is no provision for withdrawing or canceling the recommendation. Also, the notation on the SEVIS I-20 recommending optional practical training will be reviewed by the Office of International Affairs to indicate that you have been granted practical training following completion of your studies.
Note: You are not allowed to work until you receive the EAD from USCIS.
You are considered to be maintaining your F-1 status for 60 days following the expiration date of your practical training, which is the time allowed you to either depart from the United States or change to another status. If you want to begin a new full-time program of study at any point during or following authorized practical training, you must follow the procedures for continuation from one educational level to another at UL Lafayette, if applicable, or for transfer of schools.
All students on OPT have 90 days from the start date on their EAD card (you must have the card in your possession) to find employment within their major. It can be either paid employment or volunteer employment.
If you leave the U.S. during your authorized period of practical training, you may return for the remainder of the authorized period provided you have:
- A SEVIS I-20AB that has been authorized by us for travel.
- A valid F-1 entry visa and a valid passport (minimum 6 months validity)
- An EAD that is not expired.
- A letter from your current employer.
Please contact the Office of International Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about the OPT application procedure or if you receive any correspondence about your application.