Employment

Employment for F-1 and J-1 students is limited, and working without permission is a violation of status and a deportable offense. F-1 and J-1 students may not work off campus without written permission from International Student and Scholar Advising (ISSA). On-campus employment is permitted with certain restrictions. J-1 students must request permission for on-campus employment via iStart. A Social Security number is required for anyone receiving payment. ISSA can assist you with this process.

ISSA offers workshops every semester that explain the different types of off-campus work permission available to F-1 and J-1 students.

Post-Completion OPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit for F-1 students that allows for up to 12 months of practical experience, i.e., employment in your field of study.

Two types of practical training are available to F-1 students:

Note: Pre-Completion and Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) use the same available 12 months, but Post-Completion OPT can only be used when you will complete your degree in the near future and meet the Post-Completion OPT eligibility requirements.


Post-Completion OPT Eligibility

Applying for OPT: A Two-Step Process

OPT Timeline and Deadlines

OPT Availability and Employment/Unemployment

Completing the OPT Application Form I-765

OPT Reporting Requirements

How to Withdraw a Pending OPT Application

Travel while on OPT

OPT Resources


Post-Completion OPT Eligibility

You are eligible to apply for OPT if you:

  • Have not been approved for a total of 365 days of full-time CPT (Curricular Practical Training).
  • Were enrolled full-time for at least one academic year (two semesters). Summers do not count.
  • Have maintained active F-1 status.
  • Will complete your degree in the near future.

Applying for OPT: A Two-Step Process

  1. Request an OPT I-20 in iStart.
    ISSA issues eligible students an updated I-20 including the OPT recommendation.
  2. Submit form I-765, the signed I-20 with the OPT recommendation, and other required documents to USCIS online.
    • Check the current USCIS processing times for form I-765.
    • You must be in the U.S. when you submit form I-765.

OPT Timeline and Deadlines

  • Apply for OPT as early as 90 days before your program end date.
    • Note: ISSA can issue the I-20 with the OPT recommendation only after the 90-day window opens.
  • Pick an OPT start date that falls within the 60-day grace period after your program end date.
  • Submit your OPT application to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) within 30 days of the date of OPT I-20 issuance or by the 60th day from the program end date, whichever comes first.
  • The OPT application window closes on the 60th day from the program end date.
  • Submit your OPT I-20 request in iStart early to give ISSA time to issue your OPT I-20. We recommend submitting the form at least 4 weeks before the end of your program end date.

Determining Your Program End Date

Are you... End of the semester in which you will graduating Oral defense date Four weeks after your defense date Any date after the completion of all of your degree requirements/courses but before your defense date
Undergraduate student

                                   x

     
Medical student

                                   x

     
Law student

                                   x

     
Graduate student with coursework only

                                   x

     
Graduate student with a paper, thesis, or dissertation requirement

                                   x

           x

                         x

                                                                           x

 

 

Note: You cannot work on campus past your I-20 program end date unless you can continue working with your OPT EAD card. This is important if your program end date on the I-20 will be shortened for OPT purposes!

OPT Availability and Employment/Unemployment

  • OPT available for each academic level (i.e., Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD)
  • Employment must be closely related to your program of study, i.e., major.

Note: A job offer is not required at the time of application.

  • Total of 90 unemployment days available during the 12 months of the Post-Completion OPT.
    • The unemployment days start counting on the start date on the OPT EAD card.
    • Once all 90 unemployment days are used up, your OPT is no longer valid, you are considered out of status, and need to leave the U.S.
  • Reporting your OPT employment via iStart on or after the start of your OPT stops the unemployment counter.
  • You can only begin working after the OPT start date listed on your EAD card has arrived and you have received your EAD card.

Completing the OPT Application Form I-765

  1. Set up an online USCIS account
  2. Complete the OPT application form I-765
    Note: You must be in the U.S. when you submit the I-765 to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Access ISSA's Guide to Form I-765 (pdf format)

Be sure to have the following required documents ready:

  • Processing fee for form I-765
  • Passport-style photo
  • Signed I-20 with the OPT recommendation on page 2 (make sure you have signed and dated on page 1)
  • Copy of the F-1 visa in your passport (even if it is expired)
  • Copy of your passport photo page
  • Your most recent I-94 arrival record
  • CPT and previous OPT I-20s, if applicable
  • I-20s with a different SEVIS ID, if applicable
  • Previous EAD card, if applicable

Note: Premium processing for OPT, using form I-907, is available from USCIS at an additional cost. This is an optional upgrade to speed up the processing time with a guaranteed USCIS review window of 30 days.

OPT Reporting Requirements

Use the OPT Reporting form in iStart (listed under Employment Authorization Requests) to:

  • Report any address and contact information changes within 10 days
  • Report any change in your employment, such as starting employment or changing employers, within 10 days

A legal name change must also be reported. Submit supporting documents via the Status/Contact Information Update form in iStart (listed under Other Requests).

Additional information: Study in the States website

How to Withdraw a Pending OPT Application

If you have filed your OPT application, form I-765, with USCIS but need to withdraw it, follow these steps:

  1. Access your MyUSCIS account and upload a letter via "unsolicited evidence" that requests the withdrawal of your application. 
  2. Contact ISSA via Submit a Question  in iStart and let us know you have withdrawn your OPT application, so we can update your SEVIS record.

Note: If you need to upload a document to your pending I-765 form and have not yet heard from USCIS, you may do so via "unsolicited evidence" in your MyUSCIS account.

Travel While on OPT

  • While on OPT, the travel signature on your I-20 is valid for 6 months.
  • USCIS strongly cautions against travel while the OPT application is pending. Wait for your EAD card to arrive in the mail if possible.
  • Visit this site for additional travel information, including which documents to carry when re-entering the U.S.

OPT Resources

ISSA's Guide to Form I-765 (pdf format)

Form I-765 Employment Application for OPT

Form I-765 Filing Instructions (General instructions start on page 14.)

Study in the States OPT Reporting Requirements