Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows F-1 international students to engage in temporary employment in order to gain practical experience in their field of study. While OPT is recommended by the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISSS), it is an application that is sent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for processing and approval.

There are multiple types of OPT:

  • Pre-Completion OPT – granted before your degree completion, counts against your post-completion OPT allotment. OISSS does not recommend using pre-completion OPT.
  • Post-Completion OPT – granted after your degree completion, eligible for 12 months of post-completion OPT for each degree level earned.
  • STEM extension OPT – granted to students who have earned a STEM qualified degree, eligible for an additional 24 months of STEM extension OPT but only twice per lifetime.

Eligibility

In order to be eligible for post-completion OPT, you must:

  • Have maintained your F-1 status.
  • Have been enrolled for at least one academic year (fall and spring semester).
  • Have applied for graduation at Bradley by the time of application.
  • Have not been approved for 12+ months of full-time CPT.
  • Have not been approved for OPT at the same degree level.
  • File your application with USCIS no more than 90 days before your program completion and no more than 60 days after your program completion.
  • File your application with USCIS no more than 30 days after the DSO recommendation on your new I-20.

Reminders

  • If you don’t believe you will complete your degree requirements (i.e. passing a class or comprehensive exam, finishing research) by the end of the term then you should not apply for post-completion OPT.
  • Double-check your application and make a personal copy of your entire packet before you mail it to USCIS.
  • When you send your OPT application to USCIS, make sure that you use a tracking number. When the packet has been received, make sure you have proof of the delivery saved.
  • It will take at least 90 days for USCIS to adjudicate your application.
  • You cannot start employment until you have been approved for OPT and you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and the start date on your card has passed.
  • It is not recommended to cancel an OPT application once it has been receipted by USCIS.
  • While on OPT, you must maintain your F-1 visa status; this includes reporting any changes to OISSS within 10 days.
  • Full-time employment in terms of your immigration equates to at least 20 hours per week; anything below 20 hours is part-time.
  • You are responsible for keeping track of your unemployment; you are not allowed to accrue more than 90 days of unemployment while on post-completion OPT.

Application Timeline

The earliest you can apply for OPT is 90 days before your program end date. It will take the USCIS Service Center approximately 3-5 months to process your application, so we recommend that you apply early.

The absolute latest you can apply for OPT is 60 days after your program end date and it is your responsibility to ensure that all application materials are received by USCIS prior to the end of your grace period. Please note that students who wait to apply until this time may be rejected or will lose time on their OPT authorization. It is recommended that students apply for OPT before their program end date/graduation.

You can pick your start date for your OPT the day after you graduate or up to 60 days after graduation.

Fall 2019

Earliest Date to Apply for OPT Program End Date OPT Start Date Range
September 22, 2019 December 21, 2019 December 22, 2019 – February 19, 2020

January Interim 2020

Earliest Date to Apply for OPT Program End Date OPT Start Date Range
October 22, 2019 January 20, 2020 January 21, 2020 – March 20, 2020

Spring 2020

Earliest Date to Apply for OPT Program End Date OPT Start Date Range
February 16, 2020 May 16, 2020 May 17, 2020 – July 15, 2020

May Interim I 2020

Earliest Date to Apply for OPT Program End Date OPT Start Date Range
March 7, 2020 June 5, 2020 June 6, 2020 – August 4, 2020

May Interim II or Summer I 2020

Earliest Date to Apply for OPT Program End Date OPT Start Date Range
April 11, 2020 July 10, 2020 July 11, 2020 – September 8, 2020

Summer II 2020

Earliest Date to Apply for OPT Program End Date OPT Start Date Range
May 16, 2020 August 14, 2020 August 15, 2020 – October 13, 2020

Fall 2020

Earliest Date to Apply for OPT Program End Date OPT Start Date Range
September 20, 2020 December 19, 2020 December 20, 2020 – February 17, 2020

Procedure

There are two steps to apply for post-completion OPT:

  1. Apply for an OPT recommended I-20 with OISSS –
  2. Apply for OPT authorization with USCIS –
    • Include the following materials in your OPT application packet (ordered from on top to on the bottom)
    • Binder clip (not staple) the materials together and submit the packet to the appropriate lockbox destination
      • If sending by regular mail (USPS), send to:
        USCIS
        P.O. Box 21281
        Phoenix, AZ 85036
      • If sending by express courier service (FedEx/DHL/UPS), send to:
        USCIS
        Attn: AOS
        1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
        Suite 100
        Phoenix, AZ 85034

Documentation Required for Post-Completion OPT Recommended I-20