What is it?
OPT is off-campus employment that is related to your major field of study and is a benefit of the F-1 visa status. An F-1 student who is eligible to apply for OPT must have been in lawful F-1 status for one full academic year prior to applying for OPT. This includes having a valid I-20, passport (which will not expire for at least one year after you apply for OPT), full-time enrollment, etc. If you have questions about whether of not you are eligible, consult your International student advisor.
Eligible F-1 students may engage in optional practical training for a total of 12 months:
- After completion of a course of study (Undergraduate and Graduate students)
- After completion of all course requirements if engaged in thesis or dissertation research (Graduate students only)
- While school is in session, provided that it does not exceed 20 hours per week in any given week while school is in session (deducted from the 12-month maximum at a proportional rate of 50%)
- During the summer or winter break of the regular academic year
You don't need a job offer in order to apply for OPT, but you must apply for OPT before you complete your studies. One can apply as early as possible within the last semester of studies.
How do I apply?
To apply for OPT, please contact your International student advisor for an appointment if you have questions after you have read the information on this website and have completed all the forms to the best of your ability.
While your International student advisor can recommend OPT permission, it is the USCIS that must approve the OPT. The Advisor will verify that you are in lawful F-1 status and then make a notation on your "SEVIS" I-20. When this process is finished, the advisor will contact you. Mailing the application to USCIS is the student's responsibility.
You cannot apply for OPT in person at the USCIS office. The application must be submitted by mail. Do not use any types of mail service that would require USCIS to sign for the envelope.
You will receive a Form I-797 "Notice of Action" from the USCIS approximately two weeks after you mail your application to USCIS. The "LIN" number is the receipt number printed in the upper right corner of the USCIS Form I-797 "Notice of Action" receipt. If you have your "LIN" number you can check the status online.
If you do not receive a receipt (or you lose it), your "LIN" number will be printed on the back of the cancelled check or money order.
- If you paid with a check: Ask your bank for a copy of the cancelled check (if you don't already have it) and look on the back of it for your LIN number.
- If you paid with a money order: Bring the money order receipt back to the place where you bought the money order. Ask them to get a copy of the back of the money order. It usually takes at least 24 hours to get a copy of the money order.
Hint: It is easier to track a cancelled check than a money order.