This page provides you with information about:
- OPT Eligibility
- How to Apply for OPT
- How to Maintain F-1 Status on OPT
- Ending OPT Early
- STEM Extension
OPT is a benefit of F-1 student status. It is not a separate visa. Students on OPT are still F-1 students.
To be eligible for OPT, a student must have been in F-1 status for one full academic year and completed all coursework relevant to their degree.
Students who only have their capstone or equivalent requirement left are considered to have completed courses and are eligible for OPT.
Students are allowed to study while on OPT, but this study is limited to taking courses to complete their degree or courses that are not part of their degree program, such as GRE or CPA preparation courses. Students may not begin a new degree-seeking program while on OPT.
Students who apply for OPT before graduation, but find themselves unable to graduate are permitted to retake necessary courses while on OPT.
Because OPT is benefit of F-1 status, students must be in the United States in F-1 status in order to apply. Students planning to spend their final semester abroad should consider this before making the decision to be abroad in the final semester. A student must be in the United States to be in F-1 status.
Students who are interested in applying for OPT must attend a CIS workshop that will explain in detail the process of applying for OPT, reporting on OPT, what kinds of work are permissible, and other important OPT regulations. These workshops will be announced in the CIS weekly announcements, so be sure to check them!
Once students have attended the OPT workshop, they will complete the Optional Practical Training Application and submit all necessary documents to the CIS.
The following documents are required for the application:
- Check made payable to Department of Homeland Security for $410.
- Two identical passport-sized photographs with your name and I-94# written in pencil on the back
- Completed SEVIS Release Form
- Completed I-765 Form
- Copies of all passports that you have ever used (including a current one valid for at least six months into the future)
- Copies of all visas that you have ever used
- Most recent I-94
- Copies of all I-20s
- E-notification Form (Suggested, not required)
The immigration liaison will explain the application and make sure that it has been correctly filled. Once the application has been reviewed by the immigration liaison and the international student advisor, the student will receive an OPT I-20. A copy of this I-20 is also required to go with the OPT application. Students should be sure to send a copy, not the original I-20. The student will also receive a pre-addressed envelope to mail the application to USCIS. USCIS will send a receipt for the application with a tracking number within a few weeks of receiving the documents. Students can use this number to track the status of their applications.
It generally takes approximately 90 days from the date the application is receipted (the day that the receipt of the application is registered in USCIS system). Approval can occasionally take longer than 90 days. It some cases it can take less than that, but those are extremely rare.
An application must be receipted within 30 days of the date of OPT I-20 issuance. Note that ‘receipted’ is not the same as received. Just because the online tracking information shows that the package was delivered does not mean it has been receipted. It can take up to one additional week for USCIS to record that they have received the application.
Once the application is approved, USCIS will issue an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card. It will arrive at the CIS. For students in Kirksville, they can pick it up at the CIS office. CIS staff will make a copy of the card and ask the student to sign and date the copy. For students outside of Kirksville, the CIS will mail the card to the student at the expense of the student.
F-1 status continues through the OPT period, and therefore you must continue to abide by all F-1 rules and regulations.
All employment must stop when the end date on the EAD card is reached. However, you may remain in the U.S. for the 60-day grace period following OPT.
Employment may begin once:
- The student receives the EAD card (Employment is not authorized if OPT has been approved but the EAD card has not yet arrived)
- And the start date on the card has been reached.
The EAD card is not employer specific, so students may change employers at will. However, employment must be directly related to the student’s field of study (major). Any employment outside a student’s field of study is unauthorized and is a substantive violation of F-1 status.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Address Notification Requirement
All students on OPT are required to report any changes in address or employment (including any changes in location of employment) by accessing the OPT Update Form in TruView. It can be accessed by logging into TruView, going to the Student Tab, clicking on the Registration Tab, and selecting the F-1 Student Forms link.
Students are required to report any and all updates and changes in employment and address each time within 10 days of the change throughout the OPT period. This includes any changes in supervisor or employer address. If there are no changes of information within a six-month period, students must still complete an update every six months just for reporting purposes. Students on STEM extension must complete a report on the 6 month and 12 month date of their STEM extension approval, even if their last report was less than six months ago.
Insurance on OPT
For students who wish to retain their LewerMark medical insurance coverage, they should email the CIS staff at email@example.com no later than 15 days before the start of the next semester.
Taxes and OPT
F-1 students are taxed on all income streams during OPT and STEM extension. For more information, check out this guide prepared by Sprintax, a company that offers tax services to international students. This guide provides an overview of tax principles that OPT participants should be aware of.
Travel Outside the U.S. and Reentry
Students are advised not to travel outside the US while they are waiting for employment authorization. Regulations state that students may return to the US “to resume employment.” Some students might encounter difficulties re-entering the US if they have graduated and are trying to return to the US without an EAD card. Once a student has an EAD card, we suggest that they travel with a letter from their employer confirming that they will resume employment upon their return to the U.S.
Students deciding to abandon their OPT before their end and leave the U.S. must notify the CIS so we can end their SEVIS record. This can be done by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with notification that they forfeit their OPT, include their departure flight receipt, and what their last date of work was. The CIS will end the student’s SEVIS record effective the date they indicate they plan to leave the U.S. or the date of notification, whichever is later. If a student fails to notify the CIS, they may begin to accrue days of unlawful presence.
Starting a New Program at Another Institution
During the period of OPT authorization, some students decide to apply to another academic program, either at Truman or another university. Once an OPT student has been admitted to another degree program, it is important to discuss the situation with an advisor at the CIS, as the issuance of a new I-20 will effect/terminate a student’s OPT. Students who have been admitted to a degree program at another university should notify the CIS and provide proof of admission in order to have their SEVIS record transferred to the new university. Once the SEVIS record is transferred, the new university can create the new I-20. Students should keep in mind that transferring will immediately end their OPT. Once Truman transfers their record, Truman will no longer have access to that record and will not be able to get the record back if the student should change their mind.
- Admission to Truman for a new degree program/change of level. Once admitted to a new degree program at Truman, the admissions office will issue a new I-20. The issuance of this new I-20 does not end OPT immediately. A student’s OPT is terminated as soon as the student re-enters the U.S. with the new I-20 or checks in for the new program, whichever is earlier. Either one of these events will activate the SEVIS record for the new degree and deactivate the old OPT SEVIS record. This means students must immediately stop employment regardless of the card’s appearance of validity if they re-enter with a new I-20 or check-in at the CIS to begin their new program.
- Transfer to another school in the U.S. in order to begin a new degree program. Authorization for OPT is not transferable. OPT authorization ends on the transfer release date. Students who wish to complete OPT must set the release date for a date after the OPT ends. Students can set the transfer release date to occur during the 60-day grace period following post-completion OPT. Regardless of end date on the EAD card, ALL OPT employment must stop when a SEVIS record is transferred. Review the Transfer Information Page for requirements to transfer your SEVIS record.
In order to maintain F-1 status, a new I-20 for Change of Education Level, new degree program, or transfer must be issued before the end of the 60 day grace period.
Change of Status During OPT
Students whose immigration status changes (e.g. from F-1 to H-1B, F-2, or J-1) during the period of OPT will be able to continue OPT employment until the change of status is approved. Students who are no longer in F-1 status are no longer eligible for OPT. Notify the CIS of approved change of status by emailing email@example.com.
“Cap Gap” Relief for OPT — H-1B Transitions
Some students may be eligible for an extension of OPT and F-1 status due to the H-1B Cap-Gap Extension Regulations. If a student’s H-1B petition was submitted before the student’s OPT end date, the OPT will automatically be extended until USCIS approves/denies the petition. If the H-1B petition was submitted after the student’s OPT end date, but during the grace period, the student’s work authorization will remain terminated, but their F-1 status will be extended until the petition has been approved/denied.
Students who graduated with a STEM degree (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are able to extend their standard 12-month OPT for an additional 24 months. The STEM OPT application and guidance can be found here. The Department of Homeland Security also provides information on the Study in the States webpage about the STEM extension and how to apply.