Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- What is OPT?Optional Practical Training (OPT) is government-approved work authorization that a student on an F-1 visa may apply for if they meet the eligibility criteria. This work authorization will allow F-1 students to work for 12 months (or longer, if the student's degree meets the STEM requirement) within the field of study.
- Who is eligible for OPT?
F-1 students who have:
- Been a full-time, in-person student for at least one academic year prior to your requested OPT start date
- Been maintaining valid F-1 status at the time their OPT application is submitted
- Not used OPT at the same degree level previously
- Not been working full-time CPT for more than 11 months
Please note: These are the eligibility qualifications as stated by USCIS; however, USCIS reserves the right to approve or reject OPT applications for reasons outside of those listed above. The approval or denial of an OPT application is entirely within the jurisdiction of USCIS, and not CBU.
- How do I know if my degree is considered STEM?USCIS (U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services) determines which degrees are STEM-related based on the CIP Code (Classification of Instructional Programs) assigned to that degree. Those CIP Codes that are on the approved STEM Designated Degree Program List are eligible to apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension after the completion of one year on OPT. You can see what CIP Code is assigned to your degree by checking page 1 of your I-20, under "Program." If the CIP Code assigned to your degree is also on the STEM Designated Degree Program List then you are eligible to apply for the STEM OPT Extension after your first year of OPT.
- What is the difference between pre-completion OPT and post-completion OPT?
Pre-Completion OPT is when a student would like to take a year off of their studies in order to work for up to 12-months instead. We typically do not recommend Pre-Completion OPT for students who would like to apply for an H1B visa after graduation.
Post-Completion OPT is for students who want to work after they have finished their program. This is the most commonly applied for type of OPT for CBU students.
- Can I take classes still while on OPT?
While on OPT you can only take courses that do not apply toward a degree program. Courses during OPT can only be part-time, and they must be recreational in nature. You may not begin study toward a new degree program.
During OPT, you can choose to begin a degree program; however, the day your I-20 is transferred to your new school, your OPT ends. If you choose to stay at CBU for a Master’s degree, your OPT will end on the start date of your new program. The other option is to begin a degree program after your OPT.
- Can I apply for jobs before I get my OPT approved?Yes, you are welcome to start applying for jobs before your OPT approval and, if your employer allows it, can accept a job before then as well. However, you cannot start working until you receive your EAD card, and you cannot work before the start date listed on your EAD card.
- Can I work at a job related to my undergraduate degree while on Masters-level OPT?Typically, no. Your OPT is connected to a specific level (Associates, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate) so your employment while on OPT needs to be related to that degree's field of study. This may not necessarily apply in some STEM OPT cases, but we recommend you talk to your DSO about this if you have further questions.
- Can I travel internationally before or while on OPT?
You must be inside the United States to apply for OPT; however, you can travel internationally while you are waiting for your OPT approval. Our office typically does not recommend this, but please check with your DSO first if you have specific questions about traveling while you have a pending OPT application.
Once approved for OPT you are eligible to travel outside of the United States, as long as:
- Your employer issues you approved time off of work, and
- You meet all the travel requirements for those on F-1 status.
- How long does it take to be approved for OPT?OPT applications can take up to three months to be approved by USCIS. Because OPT applications are sent to USCIS, which is a different division of the US government than SEVIS, CBU cannot check on the status of your application, or let you know definitely how long it will take to be approved. You will receive a receipt notice and a reference number to track your OPT application status.
- What if I apply for OPT, but then fail a class and need longer to complete my degree?You can complete a class or two during OPT. However, you can only work part-time until you complete all program requirements. If you are aware that you will not pass a class before your OPT is approved, we can extend your program and send an updated OPT I-20 to USCIS. They may or may not accept it. You may have to reapply for OPT and repay the fee. We can also completely cancel the OPT Request in SEVIS.
Applying for OPT
- Step 1: Attend an OPT Workshop
OPT Workshops will be hosted at various times throughout the year and will be led by a Designated School Official (DSO) in our office. During the workshop the DSO will walk you through the online application process, answer questions you may have, and issue you an OPT I-20 Request Form to complete in order to receive an OPT Request I-20. Attending an OPT Workshop prior to applying for OPT is a requirement, and a new I-20 with an OPT request will not be given to students who do not attend a workshop. We recommend attending an OPT Workshop during the semester in which you will graduate and apply for OPT.
All OPT Workshops will be held in the International Center Annex. You do not need to RSVP to attend. Bring your laptop or tablet to follow along with the workshop to follow along with the content.
Fall 2023 OPT Workshop Dates:
October 3 at 1:30 pm
October 10 at 9:00 am
October 18 at 3:00 pm
October 26 at 2:00 pm
OPT Worshops for the Fall 2023 semester have concluded. If you need to apply for OPT before the Spring 2024 semester please contact your International Student Advisor.
- Step 2: Fill Out the I-765 Online
- Step 3: Send a Completed "OPT I-20 Request Form" to your DSO
The OPT I-20 Request Form is the official document that lets our office know that you are ready to apply for OPT. We will use the information in this form to issue you a new I-20 that has an OPT Request included in it, so it is important that the information in this form is accurate.
You will be given an OPT I-20 Request Form at the end of the OPT Workshop that you attend.
Once you have filled out the I-765 you will complete the OPT I-20 Request Form and send it to your DSO for review.
- Step 4: Document Review with Your DSOOnce your DSO has received your OPT I-20 Request Form and confirms that you are eligible to apply for OPT you will receive a link to schedule a meeting with your DSO to review your application documents. During this meeting your DSO will review your I-765, make sure things look correct, and then issue you a new I-20 that will include a request for OPT.
- Step 5: Submit Your ApplicationAfter your DSO has reviewed your application documents and issued you a new I-20 you can submit your online OPT application. Do not submit your I-765 without being issued a new I-20, as applications that do not have I-20s with an OPT request included on it will be denied by USCIS.
- Step 6: Track Your Application with USCIS
When your OPT application is received by USCIS you will receive a receipt number and information about how you can track the progress of your application online.
Please note: CBU, the International Center and your DSO do not have the capability to track your application. Once it is mailed it is now in the hands (and timeline) of USCIS. We cannot check for updates, so please refer to the information you receive from USCIS if you want information about the status of your application.
Being On OPT
- I received my OPT approval, now what?
Congratulations! Now that you have received your OPT approval you can begin working according to the start date listed on you EAD card. Once you have your OPT approval you need to:
- What is my SEVP Portal?
The SEVP Portal contains your personal details, and the details of your employment while on OPT. When you are approved for OPT you will receive instructions on how to access your SEVP Portal. It is important that you follow these instructions and manage your SEVP Portal while on OPT.
Once you have accessed your SEVP Portal you can edit your address or employer information. If you make any changes to the information in your SEVP Portal please let your DSO know so we can determine if you need to be issued a new I-20.
- Can I start working before the date listed on my EAD card?No, this would be a violation of your F-1 visa regulation. Your first date of employment cannot be before the date listed on your EAD card.
- What if I change jobs while on OPT?If you change jobs while on OPT be sure you update your employer information in your SEVP Portal, then contact your DSO so a new, updated I-20 can be issued to you.
- What if I cannot find a job in my field, or I lose my job?While on OPT you have 90 days of unemployment that can be used if you have difficulty finding a job in your field, or need to find a new job. You can read more about unemployment while on OPT at the Study In the States website.
STEM OPT Extension
- How do I apply for a STEM OPT Extension?
To apply for a STEM OPT Extension you need to:
- Confirm your degree is on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List and is eligible for STEM OPT Extension.
- Fill out a new online I-765. Indicate that you are applying for "Renewal of my permission to accept employment."
- OPTIONAL - Fill out an I-983 form and email it to your DSO. You can read instructions on how to to fill out the I-983 here.
- Submitting an I-983 form with your STEM OPT application is not required; however, we recommend submitting this with your application as further evidence 1) of your current employment status and 2) that your current employment is related to your degree of study.
- You will be required to submit an updated I-983 form to your DSO during your time on STEM OPT.
- Contact your DSO to receive an updated I-20 that includes a STEM OPT Extension request.
- Submit your completed I-765 online with your new STEM OPT Extension I-20 included.
- When do I submit the I-983 form to my DSO?
While on STEM OPT you will need to report your employment information to your DSO periodically by submitting a completed, and updated I-983 form. This form needs to be submitted to your DSO:
- At the start of your STEM OPT (we recommend submitting it when you apply for your STEM extension, but it can be submitted after).
- At the 12-month mark of your STEM OPT, and
- At the 24-month mark of your STEM OPT
Here is a sample I-983 form that shows which sections need to be completed at which stage of your STEM OPT:
- Yellow highlighted fields = Must be completed before submitting to your DSO for the first time.
- Green highlighted fields = Must be completed at the 12-month mark
- Red highlighted fields = Must be completed at the 24-month mark
- What if I change jobs while on STEM OPT?
If for any reason you change jobs while on your STEM OPT please follow these instructions:
- Fill out the “Final Evaluation on Student Progress” section on page 5 of your I-983 form and have your former supervisor sign and date it.
- Email your updated I-983 form to your DSO, explaining your employment situation.
Once you have received a new job: