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Optional Practical Training

Introduction to OPT

OPT UpdateOptional 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 during the student's academic program (Pre-completion OPT) or after graduation (Post-completion OPT). Students with majors in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are eligible to apply for a 24-month STEM OPT Extension at the end of their Post-completion OPT, for a total of 36 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 no longer eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT); this includes practical training after graduation.
  • An application is required.  There is a $410 application fee and USCIS takes 3 - 5 months to adjudicate OPT applications.
  • A 24-month STEM extension is possible for students who majored in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields. This is available only twice 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
  • Your major must be declared with the Registrar’s Office and any employment must be directly related to your major
    • You are not required to have an offer of employment prior to applying for OPT as OPT is general work authorization and is not tied to a specific job
  • You must not have used 12 or more months of full-time CPT or Pre-completion OPT
  • You must be physically present in the U.S. when you submit a Post-completion OPT application
  • A student’s 12 months of OPT must be completed within 14 months of their Program End Date.  Meet with an International Student Adviser to discuss your actual Program End Date (which must be accurately recorded on your Form I-20).
  • 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 a 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 3 - 5 months.
  • Students with Post-completion OPT are allowed up to 90 days of unemployment.
    • Students volunteering for at least 20 supervised hours per week in their major field do not accrue days of unemployment if they report their volunteer experience to an International Student Adviser.
    • Unemployment is not counted until the Start Date on the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • 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 ($410) or completed Form G-1450 if you wish to pay by credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover) or a debit card from a U.S.-based bank.
  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. *Use CGCE address (c/o CGCE, 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. Two (2) passport style photos according to specifications on I-765 instruction form, part C. Write your name lightly in pencil on the back of each photo.
  4. EC OPT Application Form. Please discuss OPT Start and End Dates with an International Student Adviser if you are unsure what days to choose.
  5. New I-20 with an International Student Adviser's recommendation for OPT (see below)
  6. Copy of identification and information pages of your valid passport
  7. Copy of your current F-1 visa
  8. Copy of I-94 (both sides of I-94 card, if you have a paper card)
  9. Copy of previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD), if applicable (most students do not have a previously obtained EAD).
  10. Employment information from SEVIS (see below)
  11. If you have a job offer that you intend to accept, include a copy of the offer letter
  12. Optional - G-1145 Form.  This form is a request for an e-notification (email or text) from USCIS when they receive your OPT application.

Once you have collected these materials you must meet with an International Student Adviser, who will print your Employment information from SEVIS and issue a new I-20 indicating CGCE's recommendation for OPT.  A copy of your new I-20 must be included in your application packet!  CGCE will submit your application packet via FedEx and will bill your student account for the charges.

Please download the OPT Reporting Requirements PDF for a complete explanation of the reporting responsibilities while on OPT. The following are only highlights:


  • The OPT application must be submitted prior to the student leaving the country if applying after the Program End Date.
  • Travel while on OPT is allowed, but students must travel with their Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) in addition to other travel documents (valid passport, valid visa, I-20 with valid travel signature).
  • Travel signatures on I-20s are valid for only 6 months during OPT.

OPT Employment

  • Report any changes in address, phone number, email, name, or employment to an International Student Adviser within 10 days of the change.
  • You cannot begin work until you receive the EAD and you are only authorized to work between the Start and End Dates listed on the EAD.
  • Engage only in employment directly related to your major.
  • Do not go over the 90-day aggregate unemployment limit (Please Note: SEVP will automatically terminate SEVIS records for any students who have more than 90 consecutive days without an employment entry).


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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).

Earlham College
801 National Road West
Richmond, Indiana
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