Optional Practical Training


For the lastest information about how COVID-19 might impact your employment opportunity, please read our ISS COVID-19 FAQ found at http://iss.tamu.edu/current-students/iss-covid-19-updates.

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 STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to attend an In-person OPT Workshop* no earlier than 12 months prior to their estimated graduation date.
    • *NOTE: At this time, completion of an OPT Workshop is not required prior to applying for a Post-Completion OPT recommendation from ISS. HOWEVER, ISS strongly encourages you to attend an in-person OPT workshop or participate in an online OPT webinar prior to applying. One of our recent OPT webinars was recorded and is available for you to view at http://iss.tamu.edu/Events/Optional-Practical-Training-Workshop-(OPT). It is highly recommended that you view this recording before applying for OPT.
  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 to the sections below for more information about Pre and Post Completion OPT. For more information regarding the 24 month STEM Extension, please visist our dedicated website on OPT STEM Extension at http://iss.tamu.edu/Current-Students/F-1-Status/OPT-STEM-Extension

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 STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to attend an In-person OPT Workshop* no earlier than 12 months prior to their estimated graduation date.
 
*NOTE: The ISS Online OPT Workshop is not currently available. It is in the process of being updated to reflect the new Form I-765 information and instructions. At this time, completion of an OPT Workshop is not required prior to applying for a Post-Completion OPT recommendation from ISS. If you are able, we encourage you to attend one of the upcoming in-person OPT workshops. Additional information is available at http://iss.tamu.edu/Events/Optional-Practical-Training-Workshop-(OPT).**

In-Person OPT Workshop

Please refer to the handouts and forms below for more information regarding Post-Completion Optional Practical Training.
 
OPT Start Date

For students applying for Post-Completion OPT based upon Graduation, the requested OPT start date must be within the 60 days after graduation. For example, suppose a student graduates on 11th May, the requested OPT start date must fall between 12th May to 10th July for the same year. The requested start date cannot fall after 10th July. Once the OPT is approved by USCIS, each calendar day following the start day on your EAD card that you are not physically working counts as an unemployment day. You are allowed up to 90 days of unemployment.
 
NOTE: Any graduate student who receives a Letter of Completion from the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies (OGAPS) must request an OPT recommendation from ISS within 60 days after receiving the Letter of Completion. The requested OPT start date must also be within 60 days after the date that the Letter of Completion was issued. 
An F-1 student authorized by USCIS to engage in optional practical training (OPT) is required to report any employment, change of name, or change of address for the duration of the authorized training.
 
ISS requires students who are currently authorized for Post-Completion OPT to report changes to their address, telephone, and/or employment information through the SEVP Portal, which launched in March of 2018.
 
For more information about how to create a portal account through the SEVP Portal, please visit http://iss.tamu.edu/Current-Students/F-1-Status/SEVP-Portal. In addition, you must keep your local address and phone number up-to-date in the Howdy Portal. Enter your “Student Local Physical” or “SL” address and your “Student Local/Current” or “SM” phone number when you login at https://howdy.tamu.edu. For more information on how to do this, visit http://iss.tamu.edu/ISS/media/ISS-Files/ISS-PDF/Current%20Students/Updating-Your-Local-Address-Phone.pdf
 
The purpose of this Post-Completion OPT Employment Reporting Form is (1) to inform ISS that you have updated your information in the SEVP Portal and (2) to indicate whether you would like to receive an updated Form I-20 from ISS.
 
Deadlines: 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. ISS processing times are 5 to 10 business days from the time the student’s request is complete depending on urgency and peak times that may occur during the year.
 
Required Documents: (1) Completed Post-Completion OPT Employment Reporting Form and (2) Copy of the front and back of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Students on a STEM Extension mus tfollow the reporting requirements as outlined on the OPT STEM Extension page.
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 a 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 category on question # 27 on Form I-765 and to sign Form I-765. The appropriate eligibility codes for question #27 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 questions #28a, 28b, and 28c 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.
  10. Review the Instructions for Form I-765 in order to verify that you have (1) completed all fields correctly and (2) included all required supporting documentation, even if it is not specifically listed above.
  11. Review the Form Filing Tips provided by USCIS.
  12. Review the Optional Checklist for Post-Completion OPT provided by USCIS.
  13. Review the Optional Checklist for STEM OPT provided by USCIS.
  14. If you will be working with an immigration attorney, USCIS requires a G-28 to be filed with your I-765 in order for your attorney to communicate directly with USCIS on your behalf
Mailing your Application to USCIS
OPT applications should be mailed to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox. See https://www.uscis.gov/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 (USPS) deliveries:

USCIS
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
 
The USCIS Dallas Lockbox address for Express mail and private courier deliveries:
USCIS
Attn: NFB 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 no longer possible to electronically file Form I-765. The application must be submitted by mail to USCIS.

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 may 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 Online is available at https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/.

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 “Student Local Physical” address information through the MyRecord tab of the Howdy Portal within 10 days of any change of address. Visit http://iss.tamu.edu/ISS/media/ISS-Files/ISS-PDF/Current%20Students/Updating-Your-Local-Address-Phone.pdf for more details about this requirement.
 
The final rule effective January 17, 2017 [ 81 FR 82398 (November 18, 2016) ] eliminated the prior rule at 8 CFR 274a.13(d) that required USCIS to adjudicate applications for employment authorization documents within 90 days, or else grant an "interim employment authorization" document.

Although USCIS is no longer required to process EAD applications within 90 days, they have stated that they are still committed to making this timeframe their processing goal.

How to check the status of my I-765 Application?
  1. If it has been pending less than 90 days, you can check the status of your application on the USCIS Case Status Online webpage. For cases pending more than 90 days, you can check the processing times on https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/ webpage. Make sure you have the Receipt Number on the I-797C Receipt Notice.
  2. You can contact the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283 and create a service request. The NCSC will route the service request to the appropriate office for review. Please have your Receipt Number ready when contacting the NCSC.
  3. If it has been pending for more than 90 days, you can create a Case Inquiry or Service Request by utilizing E-Request, one of the USCIS Customer Service Online Tools.
  4. After seeing online that USCIS has approved your case, you can call the USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283 to get a USPS tracking number so you can track delivery through the USPS website
Please note that all options will require you to have your receipt number. If your lawyer is calling on your behalf, they will need to have a valid G-28 on file


Optional Practical Training Frequently Asked Questions

I want to apply for Post-Completion OPT but did not attend an OPT Workshop or Webinar. What should I do?

ISS highly recommends that you visit http://iss.tamu.edu/Events/Optional-Practical-Training-Workshop-(OPT) to access a recording of one of our recent OPT Webinars. It would be best to view this entire recording before submitting your OPT application to ISS.
 
I am confused by all the deadlines. What’s 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
60 days:
  • Your application must also be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after your I-20 program end date
  • If you graduate, you begin a 60-day grace period during which you can submit your application for OPT if you have not done so already
90 days:
  • ISS can recommend you for OPT 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 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.
  • You should anticipate that it will take at least 90 days for USCIS to process your OPT application.
  • 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.
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 this is your first Master’s degree and you have not already earned a higher degree in the U.S. you will become eligible for another authorization of OPT upon completion of your Master’s degree. You will have to include a copy of your previous OPT EAD card and information about your previous OPT authorization in your application to USCIS.
 
 
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). For more information about name standards, please visit https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/sevis-help-hub/sevis-basics/system-data-entry-standards/name-standards.
 

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.
 
 
Am I required to submit copies of previous I-20s received from other schools and for other academic programs when I submit my application for OPT to USCIS?

Yes. If you believe you are missing a copy, you may request that ISS check if we have a copy for you by submitting a Document Replacement Request: http://iss.tamu.edu/Current-Students/F-1-Status#1-DocumentReplacementRequest. ISS can only release I-20 copies that have been signed by both a Designated School Official (DSO – ISS Advisor) and the student.
 
 
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. 
 
 
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 AFTER your OPT is approved, you will have to renew your visa, if expired, before attempting to re-enter the United States.  
 
 
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 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.
 
 
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.
 
 
What if I’ve 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 more opportunity there will be to resolve the situation.
 
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 subject to standard processing times.
 
If you have already submitted your OPT application to USCIS, you cannot change your requested start date.
 
 
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.
 
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 prior to your requested OPT start date.
 
 
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 Post-Completion 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.
 
Am I allowed to request a start date for Post-Completion 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 (refer to the recorded OPT Webinar at http://iss.tamu.edu/Events/Optional-Practical-Training-Workshop-(OPT) for details.
 
If I am applying for OPT based on Completion of Coursework, can I begin my OPT prior to my defense date?

Yes.
 

If I will be working more than one job during Post-Completion OPT, do they all have to be directly related to my major?

Yes.

 

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 requested start date, they will issue the EAD card with an adjusted 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.


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.


What if I’ve 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.

 

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 authorization to work in the U.S. You may not continue on-campus employment. You may not begin 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.

May I take classes while on OPT?

Beginning a new course of study will automatically cancel your OPT. You may take recreational or avocational classes as long as they will not be applied to another degree program now or in the future. If you are considering taking classes, please make an appointment with an ISS advisor to discuss your options.