12 Month Optional Practical Training


Terra Dottal Fall 2020 Implementation Update: 

12 Month OPT Employment Reporting is now available for submission within the Terra Dotta System. You can start your request by navigating to https://tamu-iss.terradotta.com/?go=OPT Reporting


Pre-Completion OPT

More Important Info about Pre-Completion OPT:
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is usually the better employment authorization option if you have not finished your degree yet. Please talk to ISS if you're unsure whether to do CPT or pre-completion OPT.
  • Time restictions:
    • If you have required coursework remaining in your degree program, then you can only work 20 hours per week while school is in session
    • During official school breaks (spring, summer, fall break), you can request full-time employment for pre-completion OPT
  • If you do not graduate by the program end date on your form I-20 while on pre-completion OPT, you must request an F-1 Extension of Stay.
  • If you work on campus, you MUST STOP working before your requested OPT start date. You may be able to continue on-campus employment after the pre-completion OPT period if you have not finished your program. In short, on-campus employment AND pre-completion OPT cannot overlap.  
  • Your pre-completion OPT authorization will automatically be terminated if you:
    • Transfer to another school
    • Start a new academic program
    • Violate your F-1 status

Post-Completion OPT

More Important Info about Post-Completion OPT:
  • If you work on campus, you MUST STOP working before the NEW program end date on your I-20 after your OPT request is completed by ISS. In short, you cannot have on-campus employment after the new program end date!
  • Your post-completion OPT authorization will automatically be terminated if you:
    • Transfer to another school
    • Start a new academic program
    • Violate your F-1 status
Types of Post-Completion OPT:
  • OPT based on Graduation
    • Apply for this type if you are going to graduate.
    • This is the most popular option!
    • If you graduation plan changes, please let us know as soon as possible! Your F-1 status may be in jeopardy if you cannot graduate in time as planned. Extra steps will be needed to maintain your F-1 status!
  • OPT based on Completion of Coursework (COCW)
    • Apply for this type if you only have your thesis or dissertation remaining. You must finish your thesis/dissertation before the 12-month OPT ends.
    • If you do not complete your thesis/dissertation during the 12-months of post-completion OPT...The student should prepare to change status, change education level and/or transfer, or depart the country prior to the end of your 60-day grace period.
    • You may need to enroll in classes to maintain your F-1 status during part of the OPT period. 
      • Please speak with an ISS advisor for more details.
  • OPT based on Letter of Completion (LOC)
    • Apply for this type if you will apply for a Letter of Completion (LOC) from OGAPS.
    • The Letter of Completion (LOC) shows that the university recognizes that you have officially completed your academic program. ISS wil have to shorten the program end date on your I-20 to match the date when the Letter of Completion (LOC) was issued.
      • Depending on the stage of your OPT application, it may jeopardize your OPT application and your F-1 status.
      • Please talk to an ISS advisor BEFORE you apply to OGAPS for a Letter of Completion.
The Three Types of Post-Completion OPT:

 

OPT based on Graduation

OPT based on Completion of Coursework 
(appointment recommended) 

OPT based on Letter of Completion
(appointment recommended) 

Who’s Eligible 

Any F-1 students who has maintained status 

Master’s Thesis or Doctoral students 

Any graduate student who is eligible to receive a Letter of Completion from OGAPS 

Requirements

Must apply for graduation and be able to graduate in that semester 

Completed all major coursework on the degree plan and have set a defense date 

Must meet Letter of Completion requirements as set by OGAPS 

New I-20 Program End Date 

1st day of graduation for the graduating semester 

The day before the requested OPT start date 

The day when the Letter of Completion is issued by OGAPS

OPT Start Date

Within the 60-day grace period after the new program end date 

Any day after finishing coursework and before the graduating semester ends

Within the 60-day grace period after the program end date (LOC issue date)

OPT End Date

Maximum is 12 months duration. 

OPT must end within 14 months of the I-20 program end date

When to Apply to USCIS 

Up to 90 days before program end date AND 60 days after 

Up to 90 days before program end date 

Within the 60-day grace period after program end date 


Step 1: Attend an ISS OPT workshop online.
Completion of an OPT Workshop is not required. However, ISS strongly encourages you to participate in an online OPT webinar before submitting your OPT request to ISS. You can find our pre-recorded webinars under our Workshops and Webinars.

Step 2: Determine which type of OPT is best for you.
You should consider many factors when deciding which OPT option works the best, including but not limited to:
  • Which semester do you plan to defend and/or graduate?
  • When do you want to start working?
  • Do you receive funding from a department?
  • Do you have on-campus employment?
  • If you do not know all the answers to these questions, you should talk to your academic department BEFORE meeing an ISS advisor.
  • If you already have a possible employer for OPT, talk to them to discuss a potential start date. You can use the job start date to help you decide on a requested OPT start date.
Step 3: Apply to ISS.
Email the following documents to iss@tamu.edu: Make sure your Student Local Physical address and Student Local Current phone number are up to date in Howdy. Here are more instructions about updating your address and phone number. 

After reviewing the OPT request from students, ISS advisors will input the requested OPT information in SEVIS.

A new I-20 for you and your dependents (if applicable) will be issued and the requested OPT information will be on the 2nd page of this new I-20. Remember if you are doing post-completion OPT, your I-20 will have a new program end date.

Step 4: Apply to USCIS​.

 

Pre-Completion OPT 

Post-Completion OPT Based on Graduation 

Post-Completion OPT Based on Completion of Coursework

Post-Completion OPT Based on Letter of Completion 

New Program End Date 

Not Applicable 

1st day of graduation of your final term 

The day before the requested OPT start date 

The day when the Letter of Completion is issued  

When to submit the I-765 Application to USCIS 

No earlier than 90 days prior to the requested OPT start date  

No earlier than 90 days prior to AND no later than 60 days after the new program end date  

No earlier than 90 days prior to the new program end date  

No later than 60 days after the new program end date  

Maximum filing window 

90 days 

150 days 

90 days 

60 days 

When will OPT I-20 expire? 

30 days after OPT is recommended in SEVIS


Important Reminders:
  • Keep copies of everything you send to USCIS!
  • Students can only submit the I-765 application while inside of the United States.
  • This application must include a copy of the recommendation I-20 from ISS.
  • If your OPT I-20 has expired and you are still within the filling window, contact ISS as soon as possible so we can renew your OPT recommendation.
What to put in your packet to USCIS:
Once ISS issues an I-20 signed with a recommendation for OPT on the second page, the next step is submitting a complete I-765 application to the appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Center. Step 5: The Employment Reporting Requirements while you are on OPT.
  • Once you receive you OPT EAD card from USCIS, send a copy (front and back) to ISS.
  • Once you begin working, update your employment information on SEVP, and submit an OPT Employment Reporting Form to ISS.
  • Keep your local address updated through the Howdy Portal. Instructions can be found here.
Important Note: If you remain enrolled, you are still required to maintain health insurance coverage. ISS strongly encourages you to have health insurance for you and your dependents throuhgout the duration of your OPT authorization period.
General Requirements:
  • Employment must be directly related to your program of study.
  • You may work for multiple employers, as long as ALL OPT employment meets the requirements.
  • For Pre-Completion OPT:
    • If you are approved to work full-time, you should work at least 20 hours per week.
      • Full-time is only available during school break periods.
    • If you are approved to work part-time, you should work less than 20 hours per week.
      • You must work part-time while school is in session.
  • For Post-Completion OPT:
    • Only full-time work, meaning at least 20 hours per week for OPT.
    • Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT period.
      • Unemployment beyond 90 days is considered a status violation. If you are getting close to 90 days of unemployment, please contact ISS to discuss your options before the 90th day.
  • SEVP recommends that you keep records of all your OPT employment, including but not limited to:
    • Position held
    • Duration of position
    • Number of hours worked per week
    • Supervisor contact information
    • Detailed job duties
    • Statement of how work directly relates to program of study - DO NOT PLAGARIZE THE FOLLOWING EXAMPLES FROM SEVP! THESE ARE HERE AS A RESOURCE!
Sample Explanations of a Direct Relationship from SEVP. These examples can also be found here. We also have provided those sample explanations below for your convenience. 
  1. "Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering: I work full time as an Electrical Engineer at ABC Corp., a government contractor. In my job, I analyze client requirements for electrical systems and provide them with cost estimates of such systems. My work requires understanding of electrical circuit theory, which I studied in-depth at the University of ABC.” 
  2. “Bachelor's degree in Business: I work full time as a Loan Officer at a mortgage company, Happy Homes, where I meet with clients and evaluate, authorize and recommend approval of loan applications. On a daily basis, I use the knowledge I gained in my credit analysis, sales and marketing classes that I took as part of my major program of study.” 
  3. “Master's degree in Music: I am working at a hospital playing the harp in patient rooms. I also conduct hands-on harp beginner workshops for long-term patients. On average, I work at the hospital 35 hours a week. My duties directly utilize the skills and knowledge I acquired from my coursework and degree in music therapy.”  
  4. “PhD in Computer Science: I am employed as a Computer and Information Research Scientist at ABC Research Institute. I work as part of a team of scientists and engineers that designs experiments to test the operation of various software systems. My work builds on research in complex algorithms and machine learning, which I studied as part of my dissertation.“ 
  5. “Master's degree in Kinesiology: I am working 25 hours a week in a health food store as a consultant for Self-Made Inc., designing and teaching exercise classes that are incorporated into a customer's overall nutrition and exercise plan. My designs and customer instruction draw upon my studies and classwork in exercise therapy and physical reconditioning.”
Specific Types of Employment According to SEVP OPT Policy Guidance:
Remember, ALL types of employment must meet the OPT general requirements as stated above!
  • Regular paid employment in a position directly related to the student's program of study.
  • Self-employed business owner. SEVP says, "Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student should be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program."
  • Work for hire. SEVP says, "This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students should be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company."
  • Payment by multiple short-term multiple employers. SEVP says, "Students, such as musicians and other performing artists, may work for multiple short-term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration."
  • Employment through an agency. SEVP says, "Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency." 
  • Volunteers or unpaid interns. SEVP OPT Policy Guidance states that, "Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this practice does not violate any labor laws." Please proceed with caution when accepting volunteering or unpaid positions. Remember, regardless if the position is paid or unpaid, it MUST be directly related to your program of study. Visit our Volunteering and Labor Law page for more information.
What to Report:
All F-1 students authorized by USCIS to engage in optional practical training (OPT) must report any changes in the following within 10 days of the change: 
  • Change of legal name
  • Change of physical home address and/or phone number
  • Start of new employment
  • End of current employment
  • Change in current employment:
    • Job title
    • Supervisor and contact information
    • Employer address
    • How employment is related to coursework
Report OPT Employment to ISS (both Pre- and Post-Completion OPT):
  • Submit a copy of your EAD card (front and back) to ISS as soon as it is received.
  • Update your physical address and phone number via the Howdy Portal within 10 days of any change. Instructions can be found here.
  • Submit the OPT Employment Reporting Form to ISS.
Report OPT Employment via the SEVP Portal (Post-Completion OPT only):
  • You should recieve a link to activate your SEVP Portal account on or a few days after the start date of your EAD card.
    • This email will go to your Texas A&M email address.
    • This email will come from do-not-reply.sevp@ice.dhs.gov.
    • The subject line is: "Optional Practical Training Approval - the next step. Create an SEVP Portal account"
  • After registering, students can login to their SEVP Portal account and use the:
    • Profile Tab in their account to view or update their physical and mailing addresses and telephone numbers.
    • Employment Tab in their account to add, edit, or delete employers within a given OPT employment segment.
***If you are having trouble creating or accessing your SEVP Portal account, we can help you update your employment information on the SEVP Portal when you submit the OPT Employment Reporting Form.

For SEVP Portal troubleshooting, see our SEVP Portal page.
 

What you can Report in the SEVP Portal

What ISS Reports in the SEVIS

  • Physical Address 

  • Phone Number 

  • Mailing Address 

  • Add/update/delete Employer and Employment information while on Post-Completion OPT (can only add if it is within 10 days after the start date) 

  • Monitoring OPT status during Post-Completion OPT, STEM OPT extension, and H-1B Cap-Gap OPT extensions. 

 

  • Name 

  • Date of Birth 

  • Email Address 

  • SEVIS OPT data (authorization dates and type of authorization) 

  • All Employer information including: EIN Number & Supervisor Information 

  • Failure to add OPT employment within 10 days after the start date 

  • Request for an updated I-20 with new travel signature (valid for 6 months) 


Failure to Report in a Timely Manner:
  • If you fail to report any OPT employment after 10 days of your employment start date, you can no longer report it yourself via the SEVP Portal (subject to change).
    • In this case, you still need to report to ISS using the OPT Employment Reporting Form. ISS advisors are still able to report employment information on your behalf after your 10 day deadline.
  • After 90 days of no employment being reported, your SEVIS record could be auto-terminated and you could lose your F-1 status.
Important Notice for Travel and Re-Entry:
Remember that you need a valid travel signature on your I-20 in order to return to the U.S. Travel signatures are only valid for 6 months while on Post-Completion OPT. If you are not up-to-date on your OPT reporting, it will delay your travel signature and can also be considered a status violation.

Traveling internationally during OPT always has risks. There is no guarantee that you will be allowed back into the United States.

If your visa is expired or will expire during OPT, traveling internationally is not recommended due to the risk of being unable to get your visa renewed.

If you have an emergency, please discuss your plans with ISS before leaving.

Traveling at Different Stages in the OPT Application Process:

Travel

Necessary Documents

After completing the program and leaving the U.S. without submitting an application to USCIS 

Will not be permitted to re-enter U.S. on F-1 visa nor apply for OPT 

While OPT application is pending with USCIS (receipted but not approved yet) 

You will encounter secondary inspection by the CBP at the Port of Entry.  ISS does not recommend students to travel.  

  • Passport valid for the next six months 

  • Valid F-1 visa 

  • I-20 with OPT recommendation (endorsed for travel within the past six months) 

  • I-797 Receipt Notice  

  • Job offer letter 

After USCIS approves OPT application 

  • Passport valid for the next six months 

  • Valid F-1 visa 

  • I-20 with OPT recommendation (endorsed for travel within the past six months) 

  • Job offer letter 

  • EAD card 


Applying for a Travel Signature while on Post-Completion OPT:

While on OPT, travel signatures are valid for 6 months. In order to renew the travel signature, all students must make sure their OPT reporting is up-to-date.  

All students on Post-Completion OPT will need to submit an OPT Employment Reporting Form to ISS.

If any of your information has changed at the time you are applying for a travel signature you must report any changes on the SEVP portal. See OPT Reporting Requirements for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. If my name appears differently in the University record system than it does on my passport, which one should I use on the Form I-765?

You need to make sure your official name in the University record system matches the name on your passport’s machine-readable zone (the very bottom portion of your passport).  
If the name on your passport does not match your University record, you will need to contact the Office of the Registrar and then make sure that you obtain an updated I-20 with the corrected name.

2. Can I apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) when I apply for OPT?

Yes, it is an option provided on the Form I-765 that you will submit to USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) when you apply for OPT. You will receive the SSN card in the mail if approved.

3. Am I required to submit copies of previous I-20s received from other schools during the duration of my F-1 status when I submit my application for OPT to USCIS?

No, but it is recommended. This includes all I-20s issued by Texas A&M and any other university you may have attended while under F-1 status. If you believe you are missing a copy of one of your previously issued I-20s from TAMU, you may request that ISS check if we have a copy for you by submitting a Document Replacement Request. If you need copies of I-20s issued by other universities you have attended, you will need to contact their international offices.  

4. What mailing address should I enter on Form I-765 if I will be moving after submitting my application to USCIS?    

It is best to include a mailing address on Form I-765 that will be accessible to you for approximately 3-4 months after you apply for OPT. You should verify with the U.S. Postal Service that you are an official recipient of the mailing address indicated on the Form I-765 so they know you can receive official federal mail at that address. It is not recommended that you try to change the mailing address after your application has been mailed to USCIS.
If you want the EAD to be send to someone other than yourself (for instance, a friend you will be staying with), put their name in the "In Care of Name" section.    

5. Is it necessary to complete the OPT workshop prior to applying for the OPT recommendation from ISS?

No, it is not required however we highly recommend you take a look at our pre-recorded webinars before applying.

6. I am confused by all the deadlines for Post-Completion OPT. What is the 30-day rule, the 60-day rule, and the 90-day rule?

30 days
: Your application must be received by USCIS within 30 days after ISS recommends your OPT in SEVIS (in other words, 30 days after your I-20 is issued). 
60 days: Your application must also be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after your new I-20 program end date. 
90 days
  • ISS can recommend you for OPT and issue your I-20 up to 90 days prior to your I-20 program end date. 
  • If you are applying for OPT based on Graduation, ISS can recommend you for OPT up to 90 days prior to the 1st commencement date on the Registrar's Academic Calendar because we will shorten your I-20 program end date to the 1st commencement date. 
  • If you are applying for OPT based on Completion of Coursework, ISS can recommend you for OPT up to 90 days prior to your requested OPT start date because we will shorten your I-20 program end date to the day before your requested OPT start date.  
  • Once you have been approved for OPT and the start date on your EAD card has arrived, you may accrue a maximum of 90 days of unemployment during the entire 12 months of Post-Completion OPT.  


7. If I did Post-Completion OPT after my Bachelor's degree, am I eligible to apply for Post-Completion OPT after my Master's degree?

Yes. If you were authorized 12 months of practical training previously, you become eligible for another 12 months of practical training when you change to a higher educational level. You can do Post-Completion OPT after your Bachelor's degree, another after your Master's, and another after a Doctoral degree.  
HOWEVER, if you complete a degree and choose not to pursue OPT right afterwards and you move on to a higher degree level, you lose your eligibility for OPT based on that first-degree level.  

8. Can I apply for OPT if my visa is expiring soon or has already expired?

Yes. A valid visa is not required to apply for Post-Completion OPT with USCIS. However, if you are planning to travel outside the United States at any point, you will have to renew your expired visa before attempting to re-enter the United States.  

9. What if I have applied for OPT and then realize I cannot graduate as expected?

You should schedule an appointment to discuss your situation with an ISS advisor as soon as possible. Your available options will depend on a multitude of factors, but in general the earlier you inform ISS the easier it will be to resolve the situation.    

10. What if I have been approved for OPT by USCIS and then realize I cannot graduate as expected?

You should schedule an appointment to discuss your situation with an ISS advisor as soon as possible. Your available options will depend on a multitude of factors, but in general the earlier you inform ISS the more opportunity there will be to resolve the situation.   

11. Can I change my requested OPT start date after applying for OPT?
  • If you have submitted your application to ISS and it has not yet been processed, please send an email to iss@tamu.edu with your full name, UIN, and an updated OPT Student Form reflecting your new dates. This will be shared with the advisor processing your OPT request.     
  • If you have already received your I-20 with OPT recommendation from ISS but you have not yet submitted an application to USCIS, you will need to send an email to iss@tamu.edu with your full name, UIN, and an updated OPT Student Form reflecting your new dates. This will be assigned to an advisor as a new request and will be subject to standard processing times.    
  • If you have already submitted your application to USCIS, you cannot change your requested start date.         
12. If I am authorized for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during my graduating semester, may I apply for Post-Completion OPT while still authorized for CPT?

Yes. You must apply for OPT based on Graduation. You will be ineligible to apply for OPT based on Completion of Coursework. Your CPT must end on or prior to the last day of final exams for the academic term. Your requested OPT start date must be within the 60-day grace period following the 1st commencement date of the academic term.

13. If I apply for OPT based on Graduation, what will be my new I-20 program end date?

​ISS will shorten your I-20 program end date to the first official commencement date for the academic term (i.e. the first day of graduation for that semester).​
1. If my application for Post-Completion OPT is still pending with USCIS after my requested OPT start date, am I allowed to remain in the U.S.?

Yes.

2. If my application for Post-Completion OPT is still pending with USCIS more than 60 days after my graduation date, am I allowed to remain in the U.S.?

Yes.

3. After my I-20 program end date and before my approved EAD card start date, am I allowed to work or volunteer for my on-campus and/or OPT employer?

​NO. During the time after your I-20 program end date and before your approved EAD card start date, you do not have the authorization to work in the U.S. You may NOT continue on-campus employment. You may NOT begin your OPT employment.  You should NOT ‘volunteer’ for your former on-campus employer or your future OPT employer. You should NOT begin new hire processes with your OPT employer. You MUST wait for the OPT authorization period to begin.  

You can find more information about the I-765, including filing tips and instructions, at Form I-765.
1. If I apply for OPT based on Completion of Coursework, what will be my new I-20 program end date?

ISS will shorten your I-20 program end date to the date immediately before your requested OPT start date.  

2. If I apply for Post-Completion OPT based on Completion of Coursework, may I request a start date after my graduation date?

No. If you wish to begin Post-Completion OPT after you have graduated, then you should apply for OPT based upon Graduation. If you are a Master’s Thesis or Doctoral student and you wish to begin Post-Completion OPT before you have graduated, then applying for Post-Completion OPT based upon Completion of Coursework may be a good option for you.    

3. Am I allowed to request a start date for OPT based on Completion of Coursework that is an academic term prior to my anticipated graduation term?

Yes, as long as you meet all other eligibility requirements for Post-Completion OPT based on Completion of Coursework. Please refer to our OPT Workshops and Webinars for more information.

4. If I am applying for OPT based on Completion of Coursework, may I request a start date prior to my defense date?

​Yes.
1. Can I work more than one job during Post-Completion OPT?

Yes, but all jobs must directly relate to your field of study and fulfill the other OPT requirements. 

2. If I receive my EAD card after my requested OPT start date, will the days in between count as days of unemployment?

Days of unemployment do not begin to accrue until the start date that is published on the EAD card. Typically, if USCIS is unable to grant the originally requested start date, they will issue the EAD card with an adjusted start date, meaning they will give you a later start date. It is possible that by the time the card reaches you, the start date could be a few days in the past and, in this case, you would have accrued a few days of unemployment. In most cases, OPT applicants receive their EAD card prior to the published start date.  

3. After I receive my EAD card, how soon do I have to start working?

​Once you have been approved for OPT and the start date on your EAD card has arrived, you may accrue a maximum of 90 days of unemployment during the entire 12 months of Post-Completion OPT. Accruing more than 90 days can be considered a status violation. Please contact ISS if you are getting close to 90 days of unemployment. 

We recommend looking for employment as soon as possible (even before you apply for OPT). Just make sure you do not begin working until you have the EAD card and your start date has passed.

4. May I take classes while on OPT?

Beginning a new course of study will automatically cancel your OPT. If you are considering taking classes, please make an appointment with an ISS advisor to discuss your options.