International Education & Global Engagement

    Optional Practical Training (OPT)

    Optional Practical Training allows F-1 students to be employed for 12 months after completion of their programs.  The employment must be directly related to majors or areas of study.  Students in English language training programs are ineligible for practical training. The student may not begin OPT until the date indicated on his or her employment authorization document (EAD), Form I-766.

    You are eligible to apply for standard, post-completion OPT, if you meet the following criteria:
    • You are currently in lawful F-1 status.
    • You have been enrolled in a full course of study or equivalent for at least one academic year.
    • You are in good academic standing.
    • You have completed, or are in the process of completing your degree required coursework.
    • You have not already participated in post-completion OPT at your current degree level or exceeded 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT). One OPT is granted per degree level.

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    When to Apply
    Apply early!  Applications for OPT may be received by USCIS as early as 90 days before your program end date.  CIE will not accept OPT applications 50 days after your program end date.  USCIS may take up to 90 days to process your application and you may not begin working until you receive the approval (EAD card) and your start date on your EAD card has begun.  Apply as early as possible!

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    How to Apply


    Step 1

    Participate in an OPT information session, workshop or webinar. Click on the link below to sign up.
    RSVP for a webinar, workshop or OPT Information session 

    NOTE: OPT information sessions can be canceled without notice, especially during holidays and other special events. Space for each event is limited, is recommended that you RSVP in advance.

    Step 2

    Prepare your OPT Application Materials.

    • Complete OPT Request Form. Save it as a fillable PDF document. Scanned copies will not be accepted.
    • Complete Form G-1145 - Typed only
    • Complete Form I-765 — Type the complete form except for the signature. Review how to fill out Form 1-765 here. Save it as a PDF document.
    • Prepare a personal check or money order for $410 payable to: U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Review instructions here.
    • Prepare two recent U.S. passport style photos.  See USCIS Photo Requirements for guidelines.
    • Prepare photocopies of all your travel and immigration documents:
      • Passport Information/Photo page  
      • I-94 Card Card (front & back of the paper card or electronic print out). Save it as a PDF/JPEG document.
      • Copy of Visa
      • All previously issued I-20s
      • Copy of any previously issued EAD cards (front and back), if applicable.

    Step 3

    Sign up for the OPT/STEM OPT e-Newsletter.

    Currently, the best way to get OPT updates from CSULB is the F-1 OPT e-newsletter.  Due to constant changes in regulations regarding employment and F-1 status, it is strongly recommended that you remain on the newsletter mailing list until you finish your OPT.  You are solely responsible for maintaining your F-1 OPT status. Sign up for the Newsletter here.

    Step 4

    Take the online OPT Assessment and Submit the OPT request.

    After you participate in an OPT webinar, workshop or information session you will receive a link to the OPT Assessment. Complete the online OPT Assessment and be ready to submit only the following items for review at the end of the online assessment:
    • Your OPT request form
    • I-765 form
    • Most recent I-94 record

    Step 5
    Pick up your OPT Application and Mail it to USCIS.

    You will receive an email from CIE when your OPT Application is ready for pick up. Specific mailing instructions will be provided in the Pick-up Cover Sheet from a CIE Advisor. USCIS will take up to 90 days to process the OPT application.
    NOTE: Your application will be DENIED if USCIS does not receive it within 30 days of the requested OPT date.  The requested OPT date is on the OPT I-20.

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    Maintaining F-1 status while in OPT
    •    Work can begin only after receiving the EAD and on or after the start date on the EAD.
    •    If your application for OPT is still pending contact a CIE Advisor for further advice.
    •    Work at least 20 hours per week. If work schedule is variable, work an average of 20 hrs. per week within a month.
    •    Work must be directly related to your major field of study.
    •    Valid “employment” for OPT includes:
    o    Single full-time or multiple part-time jobs
    o    Multiple, short-term jobs
    o    Work for hire/independent contractor
    o    Self-employed business owner
    o    Employment through an agency
    o    Volunteer/unpaid internships where U.S. Labor Laws permit. See Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act for more details.
    •    Maintain evidence - for each job - of the position held, proof of the duration of that position, the job title, contact information for the your supervisor or manager and a description of the work.
    •    Cannot be unemployed for a total of more than 90 days. If you are unemployed for more than 90 days during your OPT, you will be considered out of status and your status will be terminated. You must leave the U.S., transfer to another institution, change degree levels, or change your immigration status.
    •    Report the following changes within 10 business days of the change by filling out CIE’s OPT Employment and Address Update Form:
    o    Current employer
    o    Termination of employment
    o    Unemployment periods
    o    Changes to your name
    o    Changes to your U.S. mailing address and contact information
    o    Termination of your OPT period

    Travel Outside the U.S.
    It is not recommended that you travel while you are waiting for your EAD card. If you choose to travel, you must bring the following documents with you:

    Make sure you have not exceeded unemployment time and that you continue to maintain F-1 status by fulfilling all mandatory reporting requirements.

    Completing OPT
    Report the end your OPT at any time by completing the OPT Employment and Address Update Form.

    Grace period
    F-1 students who complete their OPT period successfully until the end of their Employment Authorization Card (EAD) have a 60-day grace period. During the grace period, students must prepare to depart the U.S., gain a new F-1 status, or change to another immigration status.
    A Transfer Out Request Form must be submitted to CIE within the grace period if you plan to start a new academic program at a school other than CSULB.

    H1-B Cap Gap Extension
    Your OPT work authorization will be automatically extended if you are the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting change of status and an employment start date of October 1 (the first day of the following fiscal year). To determine your eligibility for the Cap Gap or to request an I-20 with the Cap Gap notations, contact an International Student advisor or click here to view the request form


    For more information, review the OPT FAQs!