Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined in the regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." The student can use it during or after program completion. Pre-completion OPT is always part-time and can be used at any time during the degree program. Post-completion OPT is full-time and is granted only after graduation or completion of the degree program.
- Student must be in the United States with a valid F-1 SEVIS record and I-94 Arrival/Departure Record.
- Student must have been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year (two semesters, fall and spring only) at the time of application.
- Student must be in valid F-1 status at the time of application.
- Post-completion OPT is granted to students who will work in the United States after graduation/completion of the degree program.
- Standard OPT is available for up to 12 months per higher degree level completed.
- The OPT application window is either within the 90 days before graduation, completion of coursework/degree requirements, or the Clear Prior deadline (as applicable to the student), or during the 60-day Grace Period following the I-20 expiration date/graduation day/Clear Prior deadline, whichever comes first.
- Students who have an assistantship/fellowship may apply for OPT within the 90 days before the contract end date (which is 5/15, 8/15, or 12/31, depending on the contracted semester) or during the 60 day grace period following the I-20 expiration date/graduation day/Clear Prior deadline, whichever comes first.
- The OPT application MUST arrive at the USCIS Service Center within 30 days from the date the OPT recommendation was made in SEVIS and before your 60-day grace period expires, whichever comes first. An application that reaches USCIS after 30 days from when the OPT recommendation was entered in SEVIS or after the expiration of the 60-day grace period (whichever comes first) will be denied.
- Please click here for more information regarding Clear Prior.
- OPT is obtained through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
- If OPT is approved, student will be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)/OPT card. The card must be in-hand and the start date on the card must be effective prior to starting employment, whether paid, unpaid, or volunteer.
- The student must choose their desired OPT start date when they apply for OPT; the start-date cannot be more than 60 days after graduation/degree completion. The requested start date cannot change once the OPT application has been mailed.
- Students do not need to have a job when they apply for Standard OPT; the application is based on graduating/completing the program.
- Students must work in a position directly related to their field of study.
- Post-completion OPT requires at least 20 hours of employment per week. In the case where a student’s hours vary, the total hours per month must average 20 hours per week.
- Application fee for OPT is $410.00, payable to the Department of Homeland Security.
- Leaving the country after graduation but before having employment is risky; we advise against it.
- Documents required to return to the US: OPT I-20 (signed within the six months prior to the return date), a valid passport (valid at least six months after the return date), a valid F-1 visa, OPT card/EAD, a job or job offer, and 2-3 recent paystubs (if employment is paid).
The first step in applying for OPT from USCIS is to request the OPT Recommendation I-20 from the F-1 International Student Advisor by submitting the OPT Request online. Students may apply for OPT during the 90 days prior to their graduation day and within the 60 days following their graduation day.
To request your OPT Recommendation I-20:
Log in to ISSS online by clicking on Optional Practical Training Request (further below)
Read the Instructions and Reading Requirements
Complete all of the Questionnaires
Complete the “Request Electronic Recommendation”
Scan and attach the following documents:
Complete the digital Signature Documents
Scroll to top to click SUBMIT APPLICATION!!!
The F-1 International Student Advisor will then review the application in order to issue to the OPT Recommendation I-20. The I-20 will only be issued within the 90 days prior to the student’s graduation or within the 60-day Grace Period after the student’s graduation day. The student will then receive an email at their GatorLink account when the I-20 is ready. The email will also include instructions regarding how to assemble the OPT application packet which the student is responsible to mail to USCIS.
To start the Optional Practical Training Request, students must click the following button and use their GatorLink credentials to login (please make sure to only create one request):
To return to the same request later, please use the ISSS UF LOGIN button from the top of the side menu.
After the student receives the OPT Recommendation I-20, the student is responsible for filing, paying the fee, and submitting the application to USCIS. Do NOT file the OPT application without the OPT recommendation I-20. USCIS must receive the application within 30 days from the date the OPT recommendation was made in SEVIS and before the student’s 60-day grace period expires, whichever comes first.
The OPT application can be filed online. To be able to file the application online, the student must first create their myUSCIS account. Click on How to Create a USCIS Online Account to learn how to create the account.
It is your responsibility to make sure that the information you provide in the application is accurate and without error. We are not able to review the application with you, however, we have provided an extensive guide with answers to frequently asked questions: Guide to apply for Post-completion OPT (c)(3)(B) Online
NOTE: The online OPT application does not require the same documents as the mail-in application. However, we do recommend that you submit all the below documents in your online application, as USCIS may send a Request for Evidence for the documents, even if it was not clearly requested in the online application. Any documents not specifically requested within the online application may be submitted along with another document which is requested (for example, save the passport and F1 visa together, and upload it in the in the “Government ID” section) or later in the “Unsolicited Evidence” section of the application.
- One U.S. style passport picture of you, taken within 30 days of submitting the application
- The OPT Recommendation I-20; sign and date it in the Student Attestation section on page one, above student’s name
- I-94 Record Printout (Click on GET MOST RECENT I-94); the I-94 must be printed within 30 days of submitting the application
- Most recent F1 visa page from the passport (visa may be expired)
- Passport picture page (passport must be valid)
- Previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD) cards the student has had in the past (if any; front and back)
- Previous I-20s with CPT authorizations the student has had during the current degree program (if any)
The OPT application receipt will be available immediately after paying for and submitting the OPT application online in the myUSCIS account. The student may follow the progress of the application by viewing “Your Cases” in their myUSCIS account and clicking on Case Status, Case History, or Documents for application history and receipt. The student may also track their application status at the USCIS CASE STATUS ONLINE page.
How long does it take and where will USCIS mail the OPT card?
USCIS requires 3-4 months to adjudicate the OPT application. If USCIS requires any additional information, they will communicate directly in the student’s myUSCIS account. We recommend that the student check their myUSCIS account at least weekly. Once the application is adjudicated, if approved, USCIS will mail the OPT EAD card to the U.S. Mailing Address provided in the online OPT application. The student may only begin working once they have the OPT EAD in hand and the start date on the EAD has arrived or passed. Work includes but is not limited to paid, unpaid, volunteer, part time, full time, training, etc.
When the student receives the OPT EAD card, the student must send an email to UFIC-ISS@ufic.ufl.edu and include their UFID number and a clear and legible copy of the OPT EAD card (in pdf or jpg format). The copy will then be saved in the student’s UFIC-ISS record.
Reporting Requirements During OPT
Click on OPT & STEM OPT REPORTING REQUIREMENTS for details.
Students who maintain their F-1 status while on OPT will receive the 60-day Grace Period upon the expiration of the OPT card. The student has the following options prior to the expiration of the grace period:
Request I-20 for Admission to New Program at UF
Students who have applied and been admitted to a new program at UF must request an I-20 for Change of Educational Level (COL). In order for the student not to be required to depart the US before the start of the new program:
- the new program must start within 150 days or less from the OPT expiration date and
- the I-20 request must be made in ISSS at least 7-10 business days prior and the I-20 must be issued before the OPT 60 day grace period expires.
If the program will not start within 150 days or less, or if the I-20 update request is not made to the ISA at least 7-10 business days prior to the grace period deadline, the student will be required to leave the US by the end of the OPT 60 day grace period. An Initial I-20, which will have a new SEVIS ID, to apply for a new F-1 visa abroad, will be mailed to the student’s home address abroad. Students are required to pay the SEVIS fee for the new SEVIS ID, along with the F-1 visa application fee. The student will then be able to return to the US within the 30 days prior to the program start date indicated on the Initial I-20.
When a student is admitted to a new program at the same school, the remaining portion of OPT, if any, is automatically terminated when the current school registers the student for the new program in SEVIS.
Request SEVIS Transfer to Another U.S. Institution
Students who have been admitted to a new program at a school other than UF must request a Transfer-Out to transfer their F-1 SEVIS record to the new school. In order not to be required to depart the US before the start of the new program:
- the new program must start within 150 days or less of the OPT expiration date and
- the request must be made in ISSS at least 7-10 business days prior to and the SEVIS record must be transferred before the OPT 60 day grace period expires.
A SEVIS transfer is not possible after the Grace Period has expired.
If the program will not start within 150 days or less, or if the SEVIS transfer request is not made to the ISA at least 7-10 business days prior to the grace period deadline, the student will be required to leave the US by the end of the OPT 60 day grace period. The new school will provide the student with an Initial I-20, which will have a new SEVIS ID, to apply for a new F-1 visa abroad. Students are required to pay the SEVIS fee for the new SEVIS ID, along with the F-1 visa application fee. The student will then be able to return to the US within the 30 days prior to the program start date indicated on the Initial I-20 from the new school.
When a student is admitted to a new program at another school, the remaining portion of OPT, if any, is terminated when the SEVIS record is transferred to the new school.
Apply for a Change of Visa Status*
If the F-1 student has applied for and received approval for a change of visa status, such as to F-2, H1B, H4, J1, J2, Permanent Resident, etc., the student should email their ISA. Include the UFID number and a copy of the USCIS approval notice or Permanent Resident/Green Card.
If the F-1 student would like to apply for a change of status from F-1 to F-2, and the F-1 spouse is a student at UF, please visit Requesting Change of Visa Status to F-2 and contact the spouse’s F-1 advisor.
If the F-1 spouse is a student at another institution, please contact the spouse’s F-1 advisor at the other U.S. institution.
* USCIS may require that the Change of Status application is filed prior to the expiration of the OPT card itself. This means the USCIS receipt date of the application may need to be prior to the start of the 60-day grace period.
Depart the U.S. Indefinitely
Students who will leave the U.S. indefinitely, with no current intentions of returning to continue their OPT, or if the OPT has ended, should send an email to their ISA; include the UFID number and a copy of the flight itinerary. This does not include temporary travel for vacation or work, if the student plans to return to continue their OPT.
The student’s F-1 SEVIS record will be terminated/completed, and the remainder of the OPT, if any, will become invalid; this decision is final, cannot be withdrawn/revoked. The student must depart the US within 15 days of the termination of their SEVIS record.
A student may request withdrawal of their OPT application if:
The student is unable to meet an academic requirement for degree completion and are therefore unable to graduate,
The student will graduate as expected from the current program, and has received admission to a new degree program which will start within 150 days of their graduation/Clear Prior date. If the new degree program will be at:
If the student is unable to graduate or Clear Prior as expected, the student must contact their F-1 Advisor to advise them that they will not graduate or Clear Prior as planned. Generally, the student may choose to keep the OPT application in process or may request the withdrawal of a pending OPT application. However, in the following cases, a pending OPT application cannot be withdrawn:
- The I-20 program end date has expired
- USCIS has approved or produced the OPT card
- The 60-day grace period has ended
If the student is unable to graduate or Clear Prior as expected and chooses to continue with their OPT application processing or find that they cannot request a withdrawal, then adhere to the following guidelines:
- Bachelor and Non-Thesis Master students unable to graduate: employment while on OPT is limited to 20 hours or less per week until the student is able to graduate. The student may then work over 20 hours once they have graduated. The student must graduate before their OPT expires.
- Thesis-Master and PhD students unable to graduate:
- If the student has any coursework required for degree completion, employment while on OPT is limited to 20 hours or less per week until the student is able to graduate. The student may then work over 20 hours once they have graduated. The student must graduate before their OPT expires.
- If the student only has research/thesis/dissertation requirements for degree completion, the student may use their OPT part time or full time while completing the degree requirements. The student must graduate before their OPT expires.
If the student will graduate and has been admitted to a new degree program, they must request and receive a new I-20 for the new degree program before the 60-day Grace Period ends. The grace period ends exactly 60 days after the graduation date.