Optional Practical Training


Optional Practical Training is temporary employment available to F-1 students. The employment must be related to the student's field of study and commensurate with the student's education level. F-1 students may be eligible for up to 12 months of OPT per degree level.

There are three types of Optional Practical Training (OPT):
  1. Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training
  2. Post-Completion Optional Practical Training
  3. 24-month STEM extension

The following are common steps to receive approval for Optional Practical Training:
1.       Review the handout for Optional Practical Training with your academic department.
2.      All F-1 international students planning to work in the United States with Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) upon completion of their degree are REQUIRED to either complete the Online OPT Workshop or attend an In-person OPT Workshop no earlier than 12 months prior to their estimated graduation date.
3.      Submit all required documents to ISS for review.
4.      ISS will review the application and provide the necessary OPT recommendation on the third page of the I-20 per Department of Homeland Security regulations.
5.       The student will receive an email once the I-20 has been processed.
6.      The student must use the newly issued I-20 and submit form I-765 to USCIS. USCIS must receive the application within 30 days after the recommendation was submitted in the SEVIS system by an ISS advisor.
7.       USCIS will review the student’s I-765 form and application. If approved, the student will be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
8.      The student must not begin working until he/she receives the EAD card from Department of Homeland Security and may only work between the start and end dates on the EAD card.
9.      The OPT Employment Reporting Form is designed for all Texas A&M University F1 students (including Galveston campus students and Health Sciences Center students who received their OPT recommendation through ISS) to input their employment status and work address while on Optional Practical Training (OPT). U.S. federal regulations require individuals on F-1 status to report any change of employment, change of address, or loss of employment within 10 days of the change to the school that recommended the OPT.


Please refer the links below for information regarding each of the Optional Practical Training types.

This is temporary employment that takes place prior to the completion of a student's course of study. If a student would like to apply for Pre-Completion Practical Training we recommend that the student schedule an appointment to speak with an ISS advisor. Please refer to the handouts and forms below for more information regarding Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training.
This is temporary employment that takes place after the completion of a student's course of study. All F-1 international students planning to work in the United States with Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) upon completion of their degree are REQUIRED to either complete the Online OPT Workshop or attend an In-person OPT Workshop no earlier than 12 months prior to their estimated graduation date.
 
Access the online OPT workshop here: Online OPT Workshop
 
For information regarding the In-Person Workshop please refer the link: In-Person OPT Workshop

Please refer to the links to handouts and forms below for more information regarding Post-Completion Optional Practical Training.
 
All F-1 students are required to report their employment status and work address while on Optional Practical Training (OPT). U.S. federal regulations require individuals on F-1 status to report any change of employment, change of address, or loss of employment within 10 days of the change to the school that recommended the OPT. Your OPT reporting requirement starts from the start date on your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.

F-1 students participating in the initial 12-months of OPT must use the form below to fulfill Optional Practical Training(OPT) Employment Reporting requirements. Students on a STEM Extension mus tfollow the reporting requirements as outlined on the OPT STEM Extension page.
Upon completing the 12-month OPT period, certain F-1 students may seek temporary employment authorization through the STEM OPT Extension. Eligible students receive an extension of their OPT work authorization. Only students with degrees in designated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree programs are eligible to apply for a STEM OPT Extension. Please refer to the OPT STEM Extension page for more information regarding the STEM Extension application.

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Please refer to the links below for information regarding applying for your EAD card and additional resources:

Please refer to the information below to learn what should be included in a complete OPT application as well as how to mail the complete application to the appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Center for all three types of OPT.

This content explains how to complete the paper version of the  I-765, Application for Employment Authorization for OPT and how to mail the completed application to the appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Center. These instructions are applicable to all three types of OPT (Pre-Completion, Post-Completion, and the 24-month extension). OPT applications must be received by the USCIS Service Center within 30 days of ISS issuing the I- 20 with 12-month OPT recommendation and within 60 days of the recommendation for a STEM extension. This clock starts upon the date the advisor signed the I-20 indicated on page 1 of the I-20. OPT applications received later than the indicated date will be denied by USCIS.

The following documents are required to complete the paper application for OPT. They should be compiled and submitted to USCIS in the following order:
  1. A completed USCIS Form I-765, which can be downloaded from the USCIS web page: http://www.uscis.gov. Click on the Immigration Forms link and scroll to the form I-765. Make sure to use the latest version of Form I-765, to use the appropriate eligibility code on question # 16 on Form I-765 and to sign Form I-765. The appropriate eligibility codes for question #16 on Form I-765 are listed below:
    • ​Pre-Completion OPT: ( c ) ( 3 ) ( A )
    • Post-Completion OPT: ( c ) ( 3 ) ( B )
    • 24-Month Extension of OPT: ( c ) ( 3 ) ( C ) – If you are applying for the 24-month extension of OPT, you will have to complete question #17 on Form I-765 as well.
  2.  Two passport-style photographs sealed in a plastic bag or envelope. Paperclip the bag (do not staple the photographs) to the top right corner of Form I-765. Write your name on the back of each picture.
  3. A personal check or money order payable to “Department of Homeland Security.” Paperclip the check to the top left corner of Form I-765. The fee amount for filing Form I-765 is located on the USCIS web page: http://www.uscis.gov. Click on the Immigration Forms link and scroll to Form I-765.
  4. A photocopy of the I-94 record (front and back). Do not send the original I-94 card if you have one.
  5. Photocopies of previously issued Employment Authorization Documents (EAD), front and back, if applicable
  6. A photocopy of the I-20 issued by ISS with the OPT recommendation.
  7. Photocopies of all previously issued I-20s, including I-20s from other schools, for the F-1 OPT applicant. Do not submit dependent I-20s.
  8. A photocopy of the following passport pages. Do not send the original or copies of dependent documents.
    • Page with the picture and name
    • Validity/expiration page
    • Most recent visa page
  9. If you are applying for a 24-month extension of OPT, you must submit proof of your degree earned. Submit a photocopy of your diploma or an official transcript.
Mailing your Application to USCIS

OPT applications should be mailed to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox. See page 10 of the USCIS Instructions for Form I-765 to determine which USCIS Lockbox should receive your OPT application. The appropriate USCIS Lockbox is determined by the address written on Form I-765. It is recommended that the phrase “I-765” be written on the envelope containing the OPT application. Remember to include a return address on the envelope as well. An example of what the envelope should look like is included below:

If the address listed on your Form I-765 is in the State of Texas, you should send your OPT application to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox. The addresses for the USCIS Dallas Lockbox are listed below:
The USCIS Dallas Lockbox address for U.S. Postal Service deliveries:
USCIS PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
 
The USCIS Dallas Lockbox address for Express mail and private courier deliveries:
USCIS
Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
 
If the address listed on your Form I-765 is NOT in the State of Texas, you should visit the Application for Employment Authorization USCIS webpage (http://www.uscis.gov) to determine which USCIS Service Center will process your application.

Mail the OPT application to the appropriate USCIS Service Center. This can be done in one of two ways:
  1. U.S. Postal Service http://www.usps.com
    1. U.S. Postal Express Mail provides a tracking service to confirm when the application was delivered.
    2. U.S. Priority Mail provides a tracking service to confirm when the application was delivered.
    3. First Class Mail Packages does not provide a tracking service.
  2. Private Courier Services (non U.S. Postal Service deliveries)
A Note about Electronic Filing Form I-765

It is now possible to submit Form I-765 and the associated application fee for OPT online through the USCIS eFiling system. However, this process may actually take longer to be approved and there is greater chance that an error will result during your application since USCIS does not receive your entire, complete application at one time. To do so, visit http://www.uscis.gov, select “FORMS” from the menu at the top of the page, and then select “File My Application Online” from the menu on the left side of the page. From here you can find links with information about how to e-File, how to submit supporting documents, etc. If you click on “Forms Currently Available for e-Filing and Form-Specific e-Filing Instructions” from the menu on the right side of the page, you will then have the option to select “Instructions for Electronically Filing Form I-765” from the new menu on the right side of the page. You will have to create an e-Filing Account to file Form I-765 electronically and to pay the application fee online. You will still have to mail the supporting documents for the OPT application.

To Check the Status of your OPT Application

Use the U.S. Postal Service tracking system to check whether or not the OPT application was delivered. USCIS will send a receipt, usually within 4 to 6 weeks from receiving the OPT application, to the address on Form I-765. The receipt number is also written on the back of the check and a copy of the cashed check can be obtained from the applicant’s bank. The USCIS Case Status Service is available at https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/jsps/index.jsp.

Reporting an Address Change after Applying for OPT

It is advisable to use an address that will not change while the OPT application is being processed. However, if the address where USCIS needs to mail the EAD changes, call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800- 375-5283. Please note that any change in address can dramatically delay the receipt of the EAD. Remember to update your information through the MyRecord tab of the Howdy Portal within 10 days of any change of address.
A DHS regulation is the official federal interpretation of a US law passed by the US Congress and signed into law by a US President. Federal regulations are written by the federal agency authorized to interpret a law. In this case, the F-1 visa regulations are interpreted by a unit within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for policy development. Unfortunately, unlike a law, federal regulations can be changed quickly. Good evidence of that is the F-1 OPT STEM Extension regulation change for which schools had virtually no warning and which became effective immediately the day it was published in early April 2008.
An SEVP Policy Guidance is a set of explanations compiled by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the unit within DHS that oversees the SEVIS computer system. A SEVP Policy Guidance is an attempt to explain the latest version of SEVIS to users. Guidelines do not replace or override federal regulations. They are designed to help explain regulations.
The purpose of this policy memorandum (PM) is to clarify the eligibility requirements for a 17-month extension of Post-Completion OPT for F-1 students enrolled in STEM degree programs.