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.
When to Apply
There are 2 processes for applying for OPT. The first is to complete your application with CIE. Once the CIE application has been approved, you will then need to apply directly to USCIS. Applications for OPT can be received by USCIS as early as 90 days before your program end date, but no sooner. CIE will not accept OPT applications 50 days after your program end date. USCIS can take up to 90 days or more to process your application. You may not begin working until you receive the approval (EAD card) and the start date on your EAD card. Apply with our office as early as possible!
How to Apply
Participate in an OPT information session, workshop or webinar. Click on the link below to sign up.
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.
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. 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.
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
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:
1. USCIS does not receive it within 30 days of the requested OPT date. The requested OPT date is on the OPT I-20.
2. You send the application sooner than 90 days of your program end date.
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.
OPT Mandatory Reporting Requirements
International Students completing Post-Completion OPT are required to report the following changes within 10 business days of the change:
- Termination of employment
- Unemployment periods
- Changes to your name
- Changes to your U.S. mailing address and contact information
- Termination of your OPT period
- Change of status or Academic level
You have two options to update your Information while in Post-Completion OPT:
1. SEVP Portal
The SEVP Portal will be accessible to you only after OPT is approved. You will receive an email to set up your individual SEVP Portal from email@example.com. Use the SEVP Portal to report the following information only:
After you set up your SEVP Portal, you can access it at https://sevp.ice.gov/opt
- Physical home address
- Mailing address
- Telephone numbers
- Employment information
For help with the SEVP Portal visit SEVP PORTAL HELP or meet with an International Student Advisor/DSO.
REMINDER: If you report the information listed above through the SEVP Portal, you will not have to use the OPT employment and address update form and you will not receive a new I-20.
2. OPT Employment and Address update form
Use the official OPT Employment Address Update Form to report while in OPT. This form is an alternative to the SEVP Portal. You can access the form online at www.cpie.csulb.edu/forms. YOU can also continue to update your personal information in your MyCSULB. Use this form for all changes in personal information and employment information, including changes in your preferred email address.
REMINDER: You will get a new I-20 automatically when you submit your OPT reporting requirements through this form.
Travel Outside the U.S.
We strongly recommend against traveling abroad while you are waiting for your EAD card. However, if you choose to travel, you must take the following documents with you:
- I-20, signed for travel by an ISS Advisor within the last 6 months.
- Passport, valid for at least 6 months beyond your expected date of entry into the United States.
- Valid F-1 visa.
- Unexpired EAD or a copy of the OPT Receipt/Approval Notice, if the EAD has not yet arrived.
- Letter from your current or prospective employer verifying that you are returning to the United States to continue or to accept new employment.
- Contact information of your Advisor (DSO).
If your OPT is denied while you are outside of the United States during your grace period, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. or re-apply. Make sure you have not exceeded unemployment time and that you continue to maintain F-1 status by fulfilling all mandatory reporting requirements.
Report the end your OPT at any time by completing the OPT Employment and Address Update Form.
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.