Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is the opportunity for F-1 students to apply knowledge gained in their degree program to off-campus work. All work during OPT must be directly related to your level and field of study. OPT is recommended by IPO and authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Normal processing time for this authorization is 60 to 90 days.

The maximum amount of time granted to work on OPT is 12 months per degree level plus a 24-month STEM extension for those who qualify. You may use some or all of the available 12 months of practical training during your course of study or save the full 12 months to use after you complete your program. OPT used during your course of study is called Pre-completion OPT. OPT used during after graduation is called Post-completion OPT.

Eligibility for OPT:

  • You must have been in full-time student status for at least one academic year (two semesters) by the requested start date of the OPT period
  • You must be maintaining valid F-1 status at the time of the application
  • You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT

Application Timelines:

  • For post-completion OPT, USCIS must receive your OPT application within the following timelines or the application will be denied:
    • No more than 90 days before program completion date
    • No more than 60 days after program completion date
    • New OPT I-20 issued within 30 days

OPT Application Process:

You must submit a timely application to USCIS and must receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before you may begin working. Follow the steps below:

STEP 1: Be Informed. Read the OPT handout* thoroughly and carefully. With questions, consult the International Programs Office. Also refer to the OPT power point* for tips on filing this application.

STEP 2: Attend an OPT session and submit a complete OPT Recommendation Form* to the IPO front desk. A new I-20 recommending OPT will be ready for pick-up in 1-2 business days.

Fall 2018 OPT Sessions will be held:

  • Thursday, September 6, 12:00-1:30 - Kilcawley Center Room 2068 (Hynes Room)
  • Wednesday, September 12, 12:00-1:30 - Kilcawley Center Room 2068 (Hynes Room)
  • Tuesday, September 25, 12:00-1:30 - Kilcawley Center Room 2068 (Hynes Room)
  • Wednesday, October 10, 12:00-1:30 - Kilcawley Center Room 2068 (Hynes Room)

STEP 3: Compile a complete OPT application. Gather the required application materials and prepare your application with the documents included in this order:

  • I-765 filing fee of $410.
    • Check or money order made payable to “US Department of Homeland Security.”
    • Submit Form G-1450 to pay with a credit card.
  • Form G-1145. Use this form if you wish to receive email or text confirmation of your receipt number. Paperclip the form to the front of the OPT application.
  • Form I-765 completed by you with your original signature.
  • Photocopies of ALL previously issued and signed I-20 documents dating back to beginning of F-1 status. This includes a copy of your new OPT I-20!
  • Printout of I-94 record or front and back of paper I-94 card.
  • Photocopy f your valid passport I.D. page(s)
  • Photocopy of your most recent F-1 visa stamp (even if the visa is expired)
  • Photocopy of previous EAD card(s), if you have applied for OPT before.
  • Two U.S. passport-sized photos. In pencil, print your name and I-94 number on the back of each photo. No eyeglasses can be worn in passport photos. Passport photos can be obtained at some U.S. Post Offices, FedEx offices, and many retailers such as CVS.

STEP 4: Mail your complete application to USCIS.

  • When you have completed the entire application, make a complete photocopy for your files and send the entire application to USCIS.
  • Mail the application to one of two USCIS lockboxes. You must mail the application to the USCIS office that has jurisdiction over the address you have used on #3 of the I-765 form. IPO strongly recommneds that you send the application via an express mail carrier (FedEx or UPS) so that you have a tracking number and signature noting proof of delivery.
  • Mail the application so USCIS receives it before the application deadlines:
    • No more than 90 days before your program completion date.
    • No more than 60 days after your program completion date.
    • Within 30 days of the date IPO made the OPT recommendation in SEVIS.

STEP 5: Wait for the EAD.

Within one month of sending the application to the USCIS, you should get a standard receipt notice. The “Receipt Number” in the top left corner of this receipt notice can be used to check the status of your case on the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov or by calling the phone number indicated on the receipt. Keep in mind that this information is updated infrequently. You CANNOT begin working until you have received your EAD and are within the start and end dates printed on the card.

Maintaining status during OPT

You may not begin working until you have received your EAD card and are within the start and end dates printed on the card. All work during the OPT period must be directly related to your level and field of study at YSU. During your 12-month OPT period, you are eligible for 90 days of unemployment. If you accrue more than 90 days of unemployment, you will be out of status. During the OPT period, you must report any change of address or employer with 10 days of the change.

During the 12-month OPT period, you must update your address and/or employer information within 10 days of a change. There are two ways in which to make these updates:

You do not need to update both portals. Choose one portal in which to make the update. If you would like a new I-20 listing your employer information and you no longer live in Youngstown, you must create a shipping label using eShipGlobal. This will allow you to choose UPS or FedEx for shipping.

It is important that you keep good records of all employment during the OPT period (job offer letters, job description, pay stubs, etc.). This way, should you ever be asked to show this information in the future, you will have it to refer back to.