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. 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.

OPT Facts & Important Information

  • To be eligible, student must be in valid full-time student status for at least one academic year (two semesters, fall and spring only) 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 or completion of coursework, or during the 60-day Grace Period following the I-20 expiration date/graduation day, 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.
    • USCIS must receive the application within 30 days of when the F-1 Advisor issued the I-20 and before the student’s 60-day Grace Period expires, whichever comes first.
  • 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 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).

Applying for the OPT Recommendation I-20

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”

  • The person who completes the recommendation should be your Academic Advisor, Graduate Chair, Program Director/Coordinator, Dean, etc., not your F-1 International Student Advisor.

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. Please allow 7-10 business days for review/processing. 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 to pick up from the UFIC front desk. 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):  

OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING REQUEST

 

To return to the same request later, please use the ISSS UF LOGIN button from the top of the side menu.

Assembling the OPT Application to Mail to USCIS

After the student receives the OPT Recommendation I-20, the student is responsible for mailing the application to USCIS. 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 Recommendation I-20 was issued, whichever comes first. 

Documents Required in the OPT Application Packet to USCIS

$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

  • 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

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

Form G-1145, e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance

  • MUST ELECTRONICALLY TYPE responses; handwriting NOT accepted for the responses

USCIS will send a one-time text message or email confirming they have received the application, and will provide the application receipt number.

Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization

  • Guide to completing the I-765
  • MUST ELECTRONICALLY TYPE responses; handwriting NOT accepted for the responses
  • Handwritten signature is required in blue or black ink

Electronic I-94 Form printout (click Get Most Recent I-94)

Copy of most recent F-1 POE Stamp in passport (if available)

Copy of most recent F-1 Visa photo page (does not need to be valid)

Copy of Passport photo page (must be valid/unexpired)

Copy of OPT Recommendation I-20

If applicable, copies of any previously issued EAD cards (front and back)

Mailing the OPT Application Packet 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 U.S Mailing Address provided on the I-765.

  • The student must go inside of USPS to pay for the postage fee; obtain and keep the tracking number for the package in order to be able to track USPS mailing.
  • USCIS must receive the application within 30 days of when the ISA issued the I-20 and before the student’s 60-day Grace Period expires, whichever comes first!

How long does it take and where will USCIS mail the OPT card?

USCIS generally adjudicates the OPT Application within 75-90 days. It is rare the card will arrive sooner than 75 days, and on occasion, may take over 90 days. The receipt number on the Notice of Action allows students to check the status of their application at the USCIS Dashboard.

If the application is approved, USCIS will produce and mail an Employment Authorization Document (EAD/OPT Card) card to the student to the U.S. Mailing Address provided on the I-765. When the student receives the OPT 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 card (in pdf or jpg format). The copy will then be saved in the student’s UFIC-ISS record.

Reporting OPT Employment and Home Address

All students should receive an email from SEVP regarding creating an OPT Portal in order to report Standard OPT employment and home address. The email will come directly from SEVP. The student should receive the email as of the start date on the OPT card itself or soon thereafter. Please check the inbox and spam/junk folder of both the GatorLink account and any personal email accounts for the email from SEVP. Please read and follow the instructions in the email to create the SEVP OPT portal.

Grace Period and Options After OPT

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.

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:

Another US institution, the student must submit the SEVIS Transfer Out documents along with the OPT Application Withdrawal Form.

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.

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