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Optional Practical Training

Introduction to OPT

OPT Update ButtonOptional Practical Training (OPT) for students on F-1 visas provides up to 12 months of off-campus employment authorization. Employment must be directly related to the student’s major and can occur either prior to or after graduation (pre-completion OPT and post-completion OPT, respectively). Students with majors in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are eligible for a 17-month extension, or a total of 29 months of OPT work authorization.

  • Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT at each educational level (Associate’s, Bachelor’s, etc.).
  • Students who complete a total of 12 months or more of full-time CPT are ineligible for Option Practical Training (OPT); this includes practical training after graduation.
  • An application is required, and there is a $380 fee associated with the application.
  • A 17-month STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) extension is possible for students who majored in STEM fields. This is available only once in a student’s lifetime.
  • OPT can be (a) Part-time or full-time during the student’s annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session, if the student intends to register for the next term or session; (b) Part-time while school is in session; or (c) Full-time (over 20 hours) after completion of the course of study.

OPT Application Steps

  • You must be in valid F-1 status
  • You must have been enrolled for two consecutive semesters immediately prior to the proposed OPT period
  • You are not required to have an offer of employment prior to applying for OPT
  • Your major must be declared with the Registrar’s Office and any employment must be directly related to your major
  • Meet with an International Student Adviser to discuss your actual Program End Date (which must be accurately recorded on your Form I-20) and possible OPT Start and End Dates.
  • A student’s 12 months of OPT must be completed within 14 months of their Program End Date.
  • Students can apply for Post-completion OPT no more than 90 days before their Program End Date and no more than 60 days after their Program End Date
  • The entire OPT application (including new Form I-20 indicating OPT recommendation) must be submitted to USCIS no more than 30 days after the OPT recommendation has been submitted in SEVIS
  • The expected processing time for an OPT application is 90 days.
  • Students with Post-completion OPT are allowed up to 90 days of unemployment. Students volunteering for at least 20 hours per week in their major field do not accrue days of unemployment.
  • Once your application has been approved and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) has been issued, employment can begin only on or after the OPT Start Date listed on the EAD.
  1. Check or Money Order payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” for filing fee ($380)
  2. Completed and printed I-765 form. Pay close attention to the instructions when filling out this form!).  Please see the OPT example I-765 form or this 17-month extension I-765 example form. *Use IPO’s address (c/o IPO, 801 National Road West, Drawer 202, Richmond, IN 47374) on your I-765 form because the Post Office will not forward mail from the U.S. government and your address is likely to change before your card arrives.*
  3. EC OPT Form. Please discuss OPT Start and End Dates with an International Student Adviser if you are unsure what days to choose.
  4. Copies of all previous I-20s for current academic level (i.e., Bachelor of Arts)
  5. Copy of identification and information pages of your valid passport
  6. Copy of I-94 (both sides of I-94 card, if you have a paper card)
  7. Copy of previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD), if applicable (most students do not have a previously obtained EAD).
  8. Two (2) passport style photos according to specifications on I-765 instruction form, part C (Write your name and date of birth lightly on the back of each photo)
  9. If you have a job offer that you intend to accept, include a copy of the offer letter
  10. Once you have collected these materials, meet with an international student advisor to obtain a new I-20 indicating IPO's recommendation for OPT. You must have this in order to apply for OPT!


  • The OPT application must be submitted prior to the student leaving the country after the Program End Date
  • Travel while engaging with OPT is allowed, but students must travel with their Employment Authorization Document (EAD card)
  • To re-enter the U.S. to resume/begin OPT employment, the students must have the EAD

OPT Employment

  • Report any address, contact, or employment changes to your International Student Adviser within 10 days
  • Engage only in employment directly related to you major
  • Keep travel signatures on the Form I-20 up-to-date (must be signed every 6 months)
  • Do not go over the 90-day unemployment limit
  • Please download the OPT Reporting Requirements PDF for a complete explanation of the reporting responsibilities while on OPT

Students with majors in certain STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are eligible for a 17-month extension, or a total of 29 months of OPT work authorization.  Unlike regular OPT, the 17-month OPT extension can only be used once in a lifetime, so please think carefully about the best time to utilize it.  The application must be received by USCIS before the expiration date on the OPT Employment Authorization Document.

More information coming soon!  In the meantime, please contact an international student advisor for more information.


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Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

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801 National Road West
Richmond, Indiana
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