Optional Practical Training 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. To be eligible, the student must have been enrolled for classes for at least one academic year (fall and spring semesters).  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. A maximum of 12 months of OPT employment is permitted for each higher educational level.

Applying for OPT

To obtain the I-20 with OPT recommendation in order to apply for OPT through USCIS, the student first complete the OPT Request online to submit the required documents. An International Student Advisor will review the online request before the I-20 with the OPT recommenadation is issued. Please notice this I-20 must be issued between the 90 days before graduation or during the 60 day grace period from graduation day. The OPT application MUST arrive at the USCIS Service Center before the 60 day grace period expires, and still within 30 days of when the OPT I-20 was issued, whichever comes first. The button to apply for the OPT Request is available at the bottom of this section. 

Documents Required (Please complete all forms ELECTRONICALL)

I-765 Form, Application for Employment Authorization:

  • ELECTRONICALLY TYPE the responses; handwriting NOT accepted, except in the “Applicant’s Signature” area.
  • Under “I am applying for” please select “Permission to Accept Employment” for Post Completion Standard OPT.
  • Item # 3: Input the complete address where USCIS should mail the OPT receipt and OPT card/Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
    • If the student moves while the application is pending, the student must immediately complete the ONLINE USCIS AR-11 Form in order to have the card shipped to the correct address.
    • If the student moves while the application is pending, the student must also file a change of address form with USPS. This step is highly recommended, in case USCIS ships the OPT card before their system notifies them of the change of address.
  • Item # 9, and subsequently Items 10-13:
    • If the student already has a Social Security Number, answer YES in 9a and input the SSN in 9b. Skip questions 10-13.
    • If the student does NOT currently have a Social Security Number and would like to apply for one along with the OPT card, answer NO to 9a, skip 9b, answer YES to 10 and 11, and complete questions 12-13
  • Item #14: Input the Admission number found on the most recent I-94
  • Item # 20: Input (c)(3)(B) for Post Completion Standard OPT
  • Item # 21-23: Leave  blank; they do not apply to F1 students applying for Post Completion Standard OPT
  • Certification: Student’s signature must be handwritten/manually signed
  • Students should not complete the section which states “Signature of Person Preparing Form, If Other Than Applicant” since the student is the applicant
Form G-1145MUST ELECTRONICALLY TYPE responses; handwriting NOT accepted. USCIS will send a one-time text message or email confirming they have received the application, and will provide the application receipt number.
I-94 Form
Copy of most recent F1 Visa (does not need to be valid); bring the original visa/passport book to the appointment, also
Copy of Passport (must be valid/unexpired); bring the original visa/passport book to the appointment, also
The Departmental Confirmation letter, on department letterhead; student must request and receive this letter from their academic department prior to their appointment. (See sample OPT Departmental Confirmation Letter)
OPT Questionnaire

$410.00 USCIS Fee for processing the application (See Sample Check or Money Order)

  • This may be a personal check, money order, or cashier's check, made payable to the Department of Homeland Security; cash not accepted
  • A money order or cashier’s check is available at most grocery stores, gas stations, the bank, or the post office

Two US Regulation Passport Photos of the student (See U.S. Regulation Passport Photo Requirements)

  • Passport photos may be processed at the UF Mail & Document Services, Bldg. 715, Radio Road or at a local Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, etc.

  • Must be in color, white background, and taken within 30 days of the filing of the application

  • Cannot be the exact same picture as in the student’s visa or passport

  • Students must print their full name and I-94 number in pencil or felt tip pen (thin sharpie) on the back of each photo

If applicable, copies of any previously issued EAD cards (front and back); bring the original EAD card to the appointment, also
Current I-20

To start the Optional Practical Training Request, click the following button and use your GatorLink credentials to login (please make sure you only create one request): 

 

OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING REQUEST

To return to your request, please use the ISSS login button from the top of the side menu.

After receiving the I-20 with the OPT recommendation, the student will mail the application to USCIS.
Mail the application via USPS Certified Mail or USPS Express Mail to the USCIS Lockbox which has jurisdiction over the STATE of the address provided on the I-765, Item # 3; the student must go inside of USPS to pay for the postage fee; obtain and keep a tracking number for the package being mailed in case tracking of the delivery at USCIS is needed at a later time.
USCIS must receive the application within 30 days of when the ISA issued the I-20 and before the student’s Grace Period expires, whichever comes first!
If the application is approved, USCIS will produce and mail an EAD card to the student. When the card is received, the student must send an email to ufic-iss@ufic.ufl.edu that includes a scan copy of the card (in pdf or jpg format) and mentions the UFID within the email. The copy will then be saved in the student file within UFIC.

 

IMPORTANT:
Student who wish to apply for OPT must do so between the 90 days before graduation or during the 60 day grace period from graduation day. The OPT application MUST arrive at the USCIS Service Center before the 60 day grace period expires, and still within 30 days of when the OPT I-20 was issued, 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 semester of graduation) or during the 60 day grace period from graduation day.
Students planning to apply for CLEAR PRIOR must apply for OPT between the 90 days before the Clear Prior deadline or during the 60 days after the Clear Prior deadline/I-20 expiration date, whichever comes first. The OPT application MUST arrive at the USCIS Service Center before the 60th day after the Clear Prior deadline and still within 30 days of when the OPT I-20 was issued, whichever comes first. Please click here for more information.

OPT FACTS:

  • Student must be in valid full-time student status for at least 2 semesters/one academic year at the time of application (fall and spring semesters only).
  • 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 12 months per higher degree level completed.
  • Application window is either within the 90 days before graduation or completion of coursework, or during the 60 day grace period following the I-20 expiration date/graduation day, whichever comes first.
  • OPT is obtained through the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
  • If OPT is approved, student will be issued an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card, which is required to have in hand prior to beginning any employment, whether paid or unpaid/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.
  • 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 card/EAD card, OPT I-20 (signed within the six months prior to the return date), a job or job offer, a valid passport, and a valid F-1 visa
  • OPT Employment / Home Address Reporting: Please click this link to provide relevant OPT information regarding employment and home address.

How long does it take?

USCIS processing time is 60-90 days, generally at least 75 days. The receipt number on the Notice of Action allows students to check the status of their application at the USCIS Dashboard.

What happens if I start a new program or my OPT expires?

When a student is admitted to a new program at the same school or transfers to another school, the remaining portion of OPT is terminated when the current school registers the student for the new program in SEVIS or when the transfer-in school receives the student’s SEVIS record.

At the completion of OPT, students will have a 60-day grace period to leave the country, change visa status, or transfer to a new program of study with a starting date no later than 5 months after OPT completion date.
For more information, please visit:

 

OPT Withdrawal

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,

OR

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:

NOTE

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.

More