Optional Practical Training (OPT) Guidelines
Optional practical training is one type of work permission available to eligible F-1 students. It allows students to get real-world work experience related to their field of study.
- A student must be in lawful F-1 student status at the time of application and must have been enrolled in a full course of study for at least one academic year (or will have met this requirement by the time OPT is requested to begin).
- A student must have not engaged in more than 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during the current degree level.
- A student must not have previously been authorized for 12 months of OPT at the current degree level.
- A pending job offer letter is not required to apply for post-completion OPT.
- Employment may not begin until the OPT application has been approved by USCIS and a student has received their Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
- The recommended employment start date must be after a student's official program end date (usually commencement) and no later than the end of their 60-day grace period.
- Employment must be within the student's field of study.
- A student may have no more than 90 days of unemployment during the 12-month period for which OPT is authorized.
- A student may hold multiple jobs on OPT, simultaneously if desired, as long as all employment is within their field of study.
- OPT employment may be paid or unpaid.
- Please note: OPT application approval and EAD card distribution takes an average of 2 to 3 months.
- A student may apply for OPT up to 90 days before and up to 60 days after their graduation date.
- USCIS must receive a student’s OPT application within 30 days of the international student adviser’s signature on the properly endorsed Form I-20.
- Travel warning: A student may not leave the United States after graduation and re-enter to apply for OPT, even within their 60-day grace period.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Application Process
Step 1. You may apply for OPT no more than 90 days before or 60 days after your graduation date.
- Note: It may take a few months for USCIS to process your application and send your EAD card. You do not need to have a job at the time you apply for OPT. After receiving your EAD card, you have up to 90 days to find employment and report the information to the College and within your SEVP portal.
Step 2. Prepare the documents outlined in the Required Documents Checklist.
Step 3. Meet with your international student adviser to receive the endorsed Form I-20 issued by Cuyahoga Community College with the OPT recommendation. Please wait 1-2 weeks after submitting required documents before meeting with your adviser.
Step 4. Send all materials from Steps 2 and 3 to USCIS. Click here for the most current mailing address.
Step 5. Expect to receive a receipt notice from USCIS indicating that your OPT Application Packet has been received. This could take several months.
Step 6. Click here to track your application status. You will need your receipt notice number.
Step 7. Receive your EAD card in the mail and find employment.
Step 8. Provide employer information — including a description of how the employment relates to your field of study — to your international student advisor and upload it to your SEVP portal. (You will receive an email asking you to create an account.)
Step 9. Report changes in employment and/or personal contact information (e.g., address, phone number) to your international student adviser as soon as possible. SEVP requires changes to be reported within 10 business days to avoid situations in which a DHS official may determine a student is out of status.