Optional Practical Training (OPT)
F-1 international students may apply for Post Completion Optional Practical Training up to 90 days before program completion. (See below regarding details of program completion and application dates).
Students who are completing their program at the end of the Fall semester 2018 may apply to ISS for OPT on or after Tuesday, September 18, 2018. If you wish to apply for OPT you must read the below information and download the ISS packet, then complete the process.
OPT Workshop Schedule for Fall 2018
ISS will hold OPT Workshops on the application process, rules, and responsibilities and to answer any questions about the application process.
Students may schedule an appointment at any time to discuss OPT, or come to Walk In Advising Hours.
Metropolitan Campus in Giovatto Library Auditorium
- Tuesday, September 18 at 3 PM
- Tuesday, October 2 at 3 PM
- Tuesday, October 23 at 3 PM
Students may schedule an appointment with an advisor on the Florham Campus for questions on the OPT process.
What is Standard Post-Completion OPT?
Standard Post-Completion Optional Practical Training, or "OPT", is off-campus work authorization for F-1 international students in their field of study. This benefit can be utilized after completion of all degree requirements. If granted by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) the authorization full-time employment for a maximum of 12 months.
What is Pre-Completion OPT?
Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training is for F-1 international students who have not yet met the requirements to complete their degree, but would like authorization to work in their field of study. Authorization is granted on a part-time basis (20 hours per week) while school is in session. The student may work full time during official University breaks only. If you are interested in this, please call the office for an appointment.
Students who would like to apply for Pre-Completion OPT must schedule an appointment with an ISS Advisor prior to applying.
Students maintaining F-1 status who have completed two semesters of full-time study by the requested employment start date are eligible for Pre-Completion OPT and students who will complete their degree requirements and have been in full-time status for two consecutive semesters by the program completion are eligible for Standard Post-Completion OPT.
OPT Application Process
- Download the OPT Packet (PDF, 2 pages).
- Read instructions on page 1
- Complete the OPT Request form (Page 2). Student completes top section and their Academic Advisor completes bottom section.
- Submit completed OPT Request form to ISS during normal business hours in person or email these documents to firstname.lastname@example.org .
- ISS will review your documents and create an OPT I-20 within 5-7 business days.
- ISS will contact you to collect your new I-20 and OPT return packet — or if you have requested to have the documents shipped you will receive an email with instructions for shipping through Eship Global. You may not have a friend pick up your documents.
- You will receive your OPT I-20 and an OPT return packet which will include;
- instructions on what remaining documents you must include for your application to USCIS,
- a link to a guide on how to complete the form I-765: Tips to Complete Form I-765 (PDF, 2 pages),
- mailing instructions,
- rules on maintaining your immigration status during OPT, as well as
- how to update your person information and employer information in the SEVP Portal.
It will be your responsibility to ensure you have the appropriate documents required by USCIS. This information is stated in the OPT return packet.
Frequently asked questions
Who should apply for Standard Post-Completion OPT?
Students who will complete their degree requirements within 90 days and have been in full-time status for two consecutive semesters by the program completion. Please note that your program may complete before the end date on your I-20.
What is my program completion date?
The program completion date is the last day of your final program requirement, which can be the last day of the semester; the end of a summer or winter session; or after completion of a modular or Saturday course. Please check your course registration to determine the end date of your final course.
When should I apply?
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is able to receive Standard Post-completion OPT applications up to 90 days prior to the completion of a student's academic program.
USCIS must have received and have processed your OPT application by the 60th day of completion of your academic program. Applications received after the 60th day will not be considered.
The Office of International Student Services recommends that you submit the OPT packet to our office as early as 90 days before your program completion.
All Standard Post-completion OPT must be completed within 14 months of the program completion. This means if you apply during the post-completion 60-day grace period, you will most likely lose OPT time. You must have received your OPT card to begin working, and USCIS may take up to 90 days to process your application.
How do I choose my Post-Completion OPT dates?
Immigration allows you to begin working up to 60 days after the completion of your program. You must choose a start date between the day after program completion and 60 days later.
What if after I apply for OPT I find out I have not completed my academic program?
If you apply for OPT and do not complete your academic program you must meet with an ISS advisor regarding cancellation of your OPT application. This must be done as soon as possible after you receive notification that you have not completed your program.
What if I receive a "letter" from USCIS requesting information?
Receiving a letter requesting information from USCIS means that either something is wrong or missing from your application for employment. As soon as you receive this letter, it is critical that you notify the Office of International Student Services so we can help you to remedy the problem. Do not delay!
What if I find a job before my card arrives?
YOU MAY NOT BEGIN WORKING UNTIL YOU RECEIVE YOUR CARD AND ARE WITHIN THE AUTHORIZED DATES OF THAT CARD.
I have heard of the 90-day of unemployment rule during OPT, what is that?
During the Post-completion OPT period, maintaining F-1 status is dependent upon current employment. Students may not be unemployed for a total of 90 days or more during the initial OPT period. Students with 90 days or more time unemployed would be considered in violation of F-1 status and your immigration record will be terminated.
Unemployment during Pre-completion OPT does not count towards the 90 day total.
What counts as employment?
- Paid employment at least 20 hours per week, including work for hire and employment through an agency. This employment may be with one or more employers.
- Unpaid employment at least 20 hours per week
- Self employment if a student chooses to start a business. Student must be able to prove to Immigration that he/she has the proper business licenses.
ALL employment MUST be related to the student's degree program. The Office of International Student Services (ISS) cannot provide a list of employers or types of employment for each degree. Students are required to report how their job position is related to their field of study within the SEVP Portal.
Do I have to inform International Student Services that I am employed or have moved?
Students on standard 12-month OPT must now make all address and employer updates in the SEVP Portal and should NO LONGER update ISS. Be sure to follow the below steps.
- Create SEVP Portal account to check your address (where you physically live) and employer information. If this information is not correct you may update it yourself.
- Be sure you enter the address where you physical live — not your mailing address. You must update the Portal within 10 days of any change of address.
- Any change of employment must be updated in the Portal within 10 days of the change. This includes starting a job or ending a job.
- Enter a statement of how your work is directly related to your major of study.
- If you have multiple employers, you must enter each employer into the Portal.
After updating your employer information in the Portal if you wish to receive a new I-20 with the new employer information you must download the ISS Request Form at the link below and submit via email to email@example.com
What if I would like to TRAVEL after I have applied for OPT?
Because your recommendation for OPT will be clearly stated on page 2 of your I-20, you will be asked by an Immigration Official to produce your Employment Authorization Card upon entry of the United States. You will also be asked to show a letter stating that you have secured employment in the USA, and you are returning to resume employment. We strongly recommend that you travel outside of the US only if you have a job in the US to return to. Travel with your OPT card, as well as all immigration documents (see below). Your OPT card states that it is not valid for entry to the US. Don't panic! This means that the OPT card alone is not enough to enter the country, you need all immigration documents. You may wish to bring copies of a paycheck from your employer as evidence that you are engaging in practical training.
If you chose to travel outside the U.S. while on OPT, make sure you have the following documents:
- EAD Card
- All SEVIS I-20s including the current I-20 with travel signature on page 2 that is less than 6 months old! It is very important that your OPT I-20 has been signed by a DSO less than 6 months before the date you plan on re-entering the U.S.
- Valid F-1 Visa for re-entry to the U.S.
- Letter from your employer stating that you are re-entering the U.S. to resume employment. It is also helpful to bring with you a pay stubs as additional proof that you have secured a job.
What do I do when my Post-Completion OPT ends?
USCIS states that you have 60 days from the end date of the authorized Post-Completion OPT period to:
- Be in the process of changing to another immigration status.
- Have an I-20 for the next upcoming semester to begin a new academic program.
- Leave the United States.