Optional Practical Training (OPT) - Post-completion

Are you interested in applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT) to work in the U.S. within your field of study for one year after graduation? Follow these steps to get started!

  1. Read all of the below OPT information on this website.
  2. Complete the informational OPT video and test available on Blackboard.
  3. After completing steps one and two, you will receive an invitation to the OPT Workshop by email. The International Student/SEVIS Compliance Coordinator runs OPT Workshops throughout the semester. At the OPT Workshop you will be able to ask any remaining questions about the process.

Employment Authorization Document (EAD): Post completion OPT allows F-1 international students to apply for temporary off-campus employment directly related to your major field of study after graduation. You must apply for OPT in a timely manner through USCIS, and if approved you will receive an EAD card. OPT approval is not guaranteed and is not automatic. 

Do not begin work before the date listed on your EAD: You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. You may not begin work until you have your EAD card in hand and the date printed on it arrives. The date may or may not be the date you originally requested. You must end work when your EAD card expires. OPT authorization is limited to 12 months per degree level.

Work must be within your degree field: You will write a work description which is provided to Department of Homeland Security. In your work description, you must show how your daily work is directly related to your upper level classes in your major. 

Work must be full-time: Your employment must be at least 20 hours per week. The employment does not have to be paid employment. Therefore, a student who is engaged in “free-lance” employment, interning, or volunteering in a position directly related to the academic field would be considered “employed” for the purposes of maintaining F-1 visa status. Even if the internship is unpaid, you must work a minimum of 20 hours a week in your field of study and obtain proof of employment, such as a hire letter from your employer.

Report work early to avoid unemployment: During post-completion OPT F-1 visa status is dependent upon employment. You must not accrue a total of 90 days or more of unemployment during post-completion OPT. The 90 days of unemployment begins accruing on the start date printed on your EAD card. You must report all work to the International Student & SEVIS Compliance Coordinator. See below for detailed instructions. If you fail to find work, or fail to report your work within 90 days, your SEVIS record may be terminated automatically. Requirements for reporting work are listed below in the section "How do I report my work?"

OPT regulations can change at any time: You are responsible for maintaining your F-1 status, even if USCIS changes OPT rules without warning. This website will be updated with new information as changes come to light, but you are responsible for your own F-1 status. This webiste contains information advice, but that information does not constitute legal advice.

You must meet all of the following conditions to be eligible to apply for OPT:

  1. You are in active F-1 visa status and have been enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one academic year in your current degree program.
  2. You will complete all degree requirements this semester.
  3. Your employment will be directly related to your current course of study.
  4. You are currently in the U.S. and plan to stay in the U.S. after graduation for the entire time your application is pending with USCIS. 
  5. You have not used more than 364 days of full-time CPT.
  6. If you have applied for OPT in the past, it was at a lower degree level. (Students are only eligible for OPT once per degree level, and you may not move down a level. For example, if you had previous bachelor's or master's level OPT, you are not eligible for an additional bachelor's level OPT). 

Remember, USCIS has sole discretion over whether to approve or deny your OPT application. OPT requests are between the student and USCIS. Minot State's only role in the process is to maintain the student's SEVIS record during F-1 status. Minot State University is not responsible if your application for OPT is denied by USCIS. 

 

Application window: The application window for OPT is very specific. If your application arrives at USCIS too early or too late, your application will be denied.

  • The earliest date you can send in your application for OPT is up to 90 days before your program end date (graduation date).
  • The latest date your OPT application can be accepted and physically received by USCIS is 60 days after your program end date. Although you can apply for OPT after graduation, but we do not recommend doing so. USCIS processing times vary and you will lose some of your 12-month employment authorization while waiting for your EAD card to arrive.

OPT Workshop: Be sure to watch the OPT video on blackboard and attend an OPT Workshop early in your final semester at Minot State. You will receive an invitation email for the OPT Workshop once you complete the test on Blackboard. The OPT Workshop will prepare you to gather application documents and give you a chance to ask questions about your individual situation. 

You may begin work once you have your EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) and the date on it arrives.

Requesting a start date: The start date that you request must be within 60 days after your program end date (graduation date). Remember that you will probably not receive the date you request.

  • The earliest employment start date you can request is the day after completing degree requirements.
  • The latest date your can request for employment to start is 60 days after your degree completion date.

Keep in mind that OPT can take over five months for USCIS to adjudicate. If you pick a date that is too early, you may begin accruing days of unemployment before your card arrives. Your requested start date will appear on your new I-20, and you will include your choice in the your official request for OPT I-20 that you provide to the International Student Coordinator.

Your actual start date: USCIS is not obligated to give you the date you request, or to send your card by a specific date. You may not begin work until you have your EAD card in hand and the date printed on it arrives. The date may or may not be the date you originally requested. You must end work when your EAD card expires.

USCIS Application Adjudication: After you mail your application to USCIS, they may notify you of accepting your immigration form(s) via email and/or text. The message will provide a receipt number but will not constitute official notice of acceptance. USCIS can take 5 or more months to adjudicate your application. If you receive an application number from USCIS, you can use to check your application status at https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do 

Gather the following documents for your application:
  • USCIS forms:
    1. Typed I-765 Form. You are responsible for studying every word on the I-765 and the government directions to ensure your I-765 is filled out completely and correctly for your individual circumstances.
    2. Typed G-1145 form
  • Copies of your travel documentation:
    1. Printout of the electronic I-94 OR a photocopy of both sides of your I-94 card.
    2. Color photocopy of the picture page of your unexpired passport. 
    3. Color photocopy of your U.S. F-1 visa page (except Canadians).
    4. Photocopies of all past I-20s, especially those showing Curricular Practical Training and OPT authorization(s). You are responsible for keeping every I-20 you have in F-1 status.
      • *If you have had OPT in the past, include a copy of your old EAD card (front and back) along with all of the previous OPT I-20s and documentation. 
  • 2 U.S. style passport photos taken no more than 30 days prior to sending in the application. Gently print your name and I-94 number on the back of each photo.
  • U.S. $410.00 check or money order made payable to: Department of Homeland Security (do not abbreviate). If the address on your check is not current, please cross out the old address and write your present address. You cannot use a starter check that has no address on it. USCIS will reject any application without proper payment.
  • A new OPT request I-20. You must submit both of the below forms to the International Office to request your new I-20 be printed. Do not send your application without this new I-20!
    1. Graduation recommendation form signed by your academic advisor and listing your guaranteed graduation date.
    2. OPT I-20 request form. By submitting this form, you will officially request the new I-20 and permanent changes to your SEVIS record. The International Coordinator will provide the new I-20 to you at your individual meeting. 

 

You can find the I-765 at the following website https://www.uscis.gov/i-765

  • Read the full government provided instructions, especially pages 14-20 to ensue your I-765 is completed properly. Refer to the government directions when completing your I-765.
  • It is best to type the form, rather than complete it by hand. 
  • Sign using black ink on page 4, and fit your signature within the tiny box.
  • For any item you do not complete, write “N/A” (short for “Not applicable”) or, if the question asks for a number response, write “None.”
  • Send all 7 pages of the I-765, even those that do not apply to you (normally page 5-6).

Below are suggestions for the I-765 that fit for most student cases. *YOU are responsible for studying every word on the I-765 and the government directions to ensure your I-765 is filled out completely and correctly for your individual circumstances.*

  • Part 1
    • Item 1.a: Regular OPT: Check the “Initial Permission” box
    • Item 1.c: STEM OPT Extension: Check the “Renewal” box
  • Part 2
    • Item 8: Most students do not have an A-number, so write “none”.
    • Item 9: USCIS Online Account Number is “none” for most students. If you have a previous EAD card or immigration application, check that information for your USCIS number.
    • Item 12: Check NO if you have never had OPT before. If you have had an EAD card or filed an I-765 previously, check YES and attach documentation.
    • Item 21.a: Write the I-94 number from your most recent entry record.
    • Item 21.c: Most students write “N/A”.
    • Item 26: You can find your SEVIS ID number at the top left of your I-20.
    • Item 27: Regular Post Completion OPT: (c)(3)(B), STEM OPT Extension: (c)(3)(C)
    • Item 28a—c: Applicants for regular post completion OPT can write “N/A”. STEM OPT applications will need to fill out this section.
    • Items 29—31: Write “N/A” in these fields, and leave yes/no questions blank.
  • Part 3
    • Item 1.a: Check this box because you are preparing your own I-765
    • Item 7.a—b: Sign in Item 7.a. in black ink. Be sure your signature fits in the box and does not touch the lines. Type the date in 7.b
  • Part 4—5
    • Write N/A in fields on pages 4-6 because you are not using an interpreter. You must include these pages in your application, even though they do not apply to you. Send all 7 pages of the I-765.
  • Part 6
    • Complete Part 6 only if:
      • You have been approved for CPT in the past.
      • You have been approved for OPT in the past.
      • You have used a different SEVIS ID in F-1 status in the US.
    • For each of the items listed above, complete one box in Part 6. Enter your personal information, and then reference Page Number 3, Part Number 2, Item Number 27. List all periods of CPT, OPT, or your previous SEVIS numbers.

Disclaimer: The Office of International Programs is able to provide you with general guidance.  However, any advice provided to you by our office, as well as the information on this website, should not be construed as legal advice. Additionally, due to the fluid nature of governmental interpretation, USCIS may change its interpretation of these immigration laws/regulations and eligibility requirements for benefits, at any time.  We will do our best to provide you with the most current guidance.  Each case is fact-specific and it is advised that you contact an experienced immigration attorney if you have questions regarding your situation.

OPT requests are between the student and USCIS. Minot State's only role in the process is to maintain the student's SEVIS record during F-1 status. 

Mailing in your Application: Check USCIS's website to see where you should file your application based on the state where you live. Most Minot State students need to mail their application to the USCIS Phoenix Lockbox.

  • Pay extra for a tracking number.
  • USCIS must receive your completed OPT application within 30 days after OPT I-20 is printed. Do not send your application without a new I-20 from the international student coordinator. 
  • If you move within the U.S. while your OPT application is pending, you must inform both the International Office and USCIS. Update your address with USCIS at this link: https://egov.uscis.gov/coa/displayCOAForm.do

Update your address with USCIS: If you move within the U.S. while your OPT application is pending, you must inform both the International Office and USCIS. First, update your address at this link: https://egov.uscis.gov/coa/displayCOAForm.do You must have your pending application receipt number to change your address.

Update your address with Minot State: Also email your new mailing address to the International Student Coordinator so it can be updated in SEVIS so that it matches USCIS.

Consequences of not updating your address: Remember that keeping your address up to date is vital while your application is pending. USCIS will not allow mail to be forwarded and is VERY picky about addresses. If your EAD card is returned to USCIS by the U.S. Postal Service, it can take several months to be resent. You will accrue days of unemployment during that time and will not be able to begin work until you have the EAD card in hand. If you do not receive your EAD card within 5 months, you should contact USCIS directly by following the directions at this link: https://egov.uscis.gov/e-Request/Intro.do

Do not travel outside the U.S. while your OPT application is pending: You cannot reenter the U.S. without an EAD card, employment letter, and approved OPT I-20. For more information on this warning, see Immigration and Customs Enfoldment's FAQ page. Your OPT application may be delayed or denied, and you can still be denied reentry even if you get the card in time. The Office of International Programs will not be able to help resolve those problems. 

To reenter the U.S. while on OPT, you must carry ALL of the following:

    1. Valid passport
    2. Valid F-1 visa (Canadians are exempt from this requirement)
    3. I-20 with approved OPT employment listed and recent travel signature (within past 6 months). To receive the new I-20 for travel after your OPT has been approved, you must submit a full work report to the International Student Coordinator. 
    4. Unexpired EAD card
    5. Proof of employment (offer letter or employment confirmation letter from employer)

To report work, you must submit the following to the International Student Coordinator as attachments in a single email. If you do not submit all of the below information, you will continue to accrue days of unemployment.

After you send this information to the Coordinator by email, they will print a new I-20 and send it to the address you provide. Signatures on OPT I-20s last for six months.

  1. Work description written by you: This is your chance to explain to the Department of Homeland Security how your job relates directly to your degree. Your statement will be copied and pasted directly into SEVIS. You are limited to 1000 characters (about one paragraph). Include the following in your paragraph to make your paragraph clear and persuasive:
    • Job Title
    • Job Description
    • List of MSU courses that connect to your on-the-job tasks
  1. Special OPT hire letter written by your employer. You will need to provide this list to your employer so that they can include all fo the following on your letter. Most hire letters do not automatically contain all of this information, so you will need to request it specifically.
    • Employer name
    • Employer EIN (usually available from Human Resources)
    • Job Title
    • Start Date
    • End Date
    • Hours per week (full-time is 20 or more hours per week)
    • Address where work will take place
    • Supervisor Name
    • Supervisor Telephone Number
    • Supervisor Email Address
  1. Include the following updates:
    • Picture of the front and back of your EAD card.
    • Confirm your current mailing address.
    • If you had previous employment on OPT, specify the end date of that employment.
    • Report any changes to your name.
    • Report any change of employment, which requires you to submit a fully updated hire letter and work description.

Avoid going over the 90 day unemployment limit: Remember, the only way USCIS knows you have not exceeded 90 days unemployment is by providing a detailed letter of offer and work description to the international student coordinator. If you do not provide an official hire letter and work description, your SEVIS record will be automatically terminated by the system 90 days after your OPT begin date on your EAD card. Allow at least two weeks for your work information to be added to SEVIS by the International Student Coordinator.

Employer questions: Please be aware that Minot State DSOs can only advise on student responsibilities while on OPT and cannot speak directly to your employer. If your employer has any questions about hiring a student while on OPT that you (the student) cannot answer, the employer will need to speak with their own legal team, accounting/tax professionals, or refer to information from the Department of Labor. Minot State cannot advise employers. 

OPT requests are between the student and USCIS. Minot State's only role in the process is to maintain the students SEVIS record during F-1 status. 

After OPT: Once your EAD card is expired, you will have a 60-day grace period (as long as you did not exceed the unemployment limit). You may not work during the grace period and and your F-1 status ends when you exit the U.S. during the grace period. Before the end of the 60 day grace period you must do one of the following:

    1. Depart the U.S. and end your F-1 status.
    2. Apply for a different visa status, utilizing the help of a lawyer and/or your employer.
    3. Transfer to a new academic program that starts right away. If you need to transfer to another U.S. institution, you can request that your SEVIS record be transferred at this link.

Request for Evidence (RFE): If you receive an RFE from USCIS, respond by following all of their directions immediately. You can read more about Requests for Evidence on USCIS' website. USCIS can request detailed information about your course history, syllabi, grades, past practical training, and much more. It is the student's responsibility to respond to all aspects of the REF in a timely manner. You may need to request a new I-20 from the International Student Coordinator if your I-20 will be more than 30 days old when USCIS receives the RFE response from you.

OPT Denial: United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has sole discretion over whether to approve or deny your OPT application. USCIS often does not provide a reason for OPT denials. There is no formal appeal process for OPT, but you can contact an immigration lawyer to ask about your options. Minot State University does not have a role in this process. You should carefully consider leaving the U.S. immediately because you may begin accruing days of unlawful presence upon denial. 

Going over 90 days unemployment: If you exceed 90 days unemployment, you should leave the U.S. immediately and request that your F-1 status be ended in SEVIS. The same consequences occur if you begin work but do not report it.

EAD card not delivered: USCIS will not allow mail to be forwarded and is VERY picky about addresses. If your EAD card is returned to USCIS by the U.S. Postal Service, it can take several months to be resent. You will accrue days of unemployment during that time and will not be able to begin work until you have the EAD card in hand. If you do not receive your EAD card within 5 months, you should contact USCIS directly by following the directions on USCIS's website.

EAD card is lost, stolen, or destroyed: If your EAD is lost, stolen or destroyed, you must request a replacement EAD by filing a new Form I-765 and $410 filing fee. See USCIS's website for replacement application directions.

Disclaimer: The Office of International Programs is able to provide you with general guidance.  However, any advice provided to you by our office, as well as the information on this website, should not be construed as legal advice. Additionally, due to the fluid nature of governmental interpretation, USCIS may change its interpretation of these immigration laws/regulations and eligibility requirements for benefits, at any time.  We will do our best to provide you with the most current guidance.  Each case is fact-specific and it is advised that you contact an experienced immigration attorney if you have questions regarding your situation.

OPT requests are between the student and USCIS. Minot State's only role in the process is to maintain the student's SEVIS record during F-1 status. 

Students with degrees in DHS designated “STEM” fields may be eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of OPT. Email the International Student Coordinator for more information at least three months before OPT ends. The earliest you can send your application to USCIS is up to 90 days before your original EAD card expires, but not after it expires.

Eligibility: F-1 students who are currently authorized for OPT employment based on completion of a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Ph.D. degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) field, as defined by DHS, may be eligible for a 24-month extension of OPT. You must fit the following criteria:

  • You must currently have valid OPT based on a STEM-eligible degree. You can check if your major’s CIP code appears on the DHS STEM designated list here. You can find your major's CIP code on your I-20, right next to where the major is listed. It must match a number on the DHS STEM designated list exactly in order for you to be eligible to apply.
  • You have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment while on OPT.
  • Your employer is registered in the E-Verify employment verification system.

There is a lifetime limit of two periods of 24-month STEM OPT; each occurring after a higher degree level has been obtained.  A STEM degree obtained at a U.S. university prior to your current degree may be the basis for a STEM extension under certain circumstances.

Read all of the detailed information on Department of Homeland Security's official STEM Hub website.

Please be aware that Minot State DSOs can only advise on student responsibilities while on STEM OPT and cannot speak directly to your employer. If your employer has any questions about STEM OPT that you (the student) cannot answer, the employer will need to speak with their own legal team, accounting/tax professionals, or refer to information from the Department of Labor. Minot State cannot advise employers. 

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has sole authority over renewing your driver's license. Contact the DMV directly with any questions you have about renewing your driver's license. The Office of International Programs cannot provide any documentation beyond your I-20 for renewing your license.

Students have reported that it is especially difficult to renew their driver's license during the following time periods:

  • After your I-20 program end date while your OPT application is pending.
  • After your EAD card expires, during the 60 day grace period after OPT.

If you want to begin a new program of study, you must forfeit all remaining OPT and your EAD card becomes invalid when the SEVIS transfer occurs.

F-1 regulations only allow for "Recreational and avocational" study while on OPT. Classes must be totally unrelated to your education or career, such as a community yoga or cooking class. To best protect your status, we recommend that you not take any academic classes. The safest option is not to take any classes of any kind while on OPT.

"USCIS reminds F-1 students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) that transferring to another school or beginning study at another educational level (for example, beginning a master’s program after completing a bachelor’s degree) automatically terminates their OPT as well as their corresponding employment authorization document (EAD)." USCIS News Alert

 

Resource Links: 

Disclaimer: The Office of International Programs is able to provide you with general guidance.  However, any advice provided to you by our office, as well as the information on this website, should not be construed as legal advice. Additionally, due to the fluid nature of governmental interpretation, USCIS may change its interpretation of these immigration laws/regulations and eligibility requirements for benefits, at any time.  We will do our best to provide you with the most current guidance.  Each case is fact-specific and it is advised that you contact an experienced immigration attorney if you have questions regarding your situation.

You are responsible for studying every word on the I-765 and the government directions to ensure your I-765 is filled out completely and correctly for your individual circumstances.

OPT requests are between the student and USCIS. Minot State's only role in the process is to maintain the student's SEVIS record during F-1 status. 

Updated August 2019 ES