» Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training or OPT allows you to work for one year, following graduation, in a job related to your major or field of study. Each semester, International Student Services announces an OPT session for graduating seniors and grads which you are encouraged to attend for more detailed information. You can also make an appointment to speak with International Student Services about OPT directly. Students must have been in good status as an F-1 visa student for at least one academic year at the time they are applying.

How to Report Employment to SEVIS

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has launched the SEVP Portal for F-1 students participating in post-completion optional practical training (OPT). The portal will allow these (OPT approved) F-1 students to report personal and employer information directly to SEVP. Through the portal, these students will be able to:

  • Add or edit their phone number.
  • Add or edit their mailing and physical address.
  • Add or edit their employer information.

Please submit OPT form to ISS.

The only exception is that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) OPT student trainees will not be able to add or change their own employer information. The Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students,” requires the student’s designated school official (DSO) to add employer information.

The student will receive an email from do-not-reply.SEVP@ice.dhs.gov. The subject line of the email will be: "Optional Practical Training Approval - the next step." Create an SEVP Portal account. The only way to get to the portal registration page is to use the link in this email. If a student does not receive a notification email they should:

  • Check their spam or junk mail folders.
  • Contact their DSO to:
  • Confirm that the correct email address is in their SEVIS record.
  • Request that the portal resend the account creation email.

 Visit Travel on OPT for information if you plan to travel outside the U.S. and then re-enter.

Frequently Asked Questions for OPT


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What is the application deadline for OPT?

For OPT application, you must apply no more than 90 days before your graduation date and USCIS should receive your application no later than 60 days of your graduation.

What do I do if I lose my OPT (EAD) card?

If your card was lost or stole while you are on OPT, you should apply for a replacement card by filing a new Form I-765 and the filing fee of $410 (if required), unless a fee waiver is requested and approved. The link to file a waiver request is here.

What do I do if I never received my EAD card?

If you never received the EAD card that USCIS mailed, you can submit an inquiry of “non-delivery” of the card. You may have to re-apply for the EAD card and complete the whole process.

What are the reporting requirements for tracking employment?

As an F-1 student on OPT, it is your responsibility to keep track of employment-related information for the duration of the OPT authorization. You will need to keep very careful track of your employment: dates, employer names, addresses, and supervisors’ contact information. In addition, you are required to report any/all employment to our office and document the connection of that employment to your major area of study through Atlas. 

To assist you in keeping track of your employment for your own records, you can download an Excel spreadsheet from ISS to help you maintain accurate records. Filling out the information in the spreadsheet will help you keep track of the names of your employers and the dates when you worked for them, as well as the dates of unemployment that you may be accruing. The Excel form is for your own record-keeping purposes and should not be submitted to ISS. Download the form.

How is my authorization affected if I become unemployed?

You may accrue up to 90 days of unemployment during your OPT.

 

Any period of unemployment will count toward this total. This means that any days for which you are not employed or on payroll count toward the 90-day total.

 

If your employer files a timely H-1B petition before your OPT expires and you are granted cap-gap coverage, you are still permitted only a total of 90 days of unemployment for the entire period of OPT. If you have an approved STEM OPT extension, you have a total of 150 days of unemployment.

 

Days spent outside of the United States while unemployed still count toward the 90-day total.

 

If you near your 90th day of unemployment while on OPT, it is best to make plans to depart the United States, apply for a change of status, or make preparations to begin a new program of study. Take action early enough so that by the end of the 90th day of unemployment, you have another option already in progress. If you are unemployed for more than 90 days, you may be considered to be out of status.

 

ISS will not take any adverse action on your SEVIS record regarding unemployment. ISS’s responsibility is to report interruptions in employment that you report to ISS. Failure to report that information, or the accrual of more than 90 days of unemployment, may result in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) not approving future benefits or requests or terminating your SEVIS record.

What do I need to do to maintain my OPT status?

Report certain information to MISS by submitting the OPT Report Form for periodic SEVIS record updates. Note that this is a regulatory requirement, and you will be considered to have violated your F-1 status if you do not comply. Areas of required reporting for SEVIS Compliance include:

 

Changes in your personal information (ex. local/home country addresses, email address, name as listed on your passport, departure from the U.S. without intentions of return, etc.) within 10 days of the move and/or update.

 

Employment information (ex. employer contact information, breaks in employment, employer changes, etc.) immediately as updates and/or changes occur.

 

Changes in academic plans (admittance to a degree program at another institution) as soon as the changes and/or updates have occurred.

 

Changes in immigration status to a visa status other than F-1 as soon as you have received your Notice of Approval of change of status or entered the U.S. under another status.

What happens when I go past the 90-day unemployment limit?

F-1 OPT students are permitted a maximum of 90 unemployment days between the start and end date on their EAD card. The SEVIS database automatically calculates unemployment days based on the information students submit in their SEVP Portal account. Students may use unemployment days in increments of any size before, between, or after OPT activities.

Students who exceed the 90-day unemployment limit begin to accrue
unlawful presence, which may jeopardize access to future U.S. immigration benefits, including readmission to the United States. OGS recommends that students depart the United States and contact their IS Advisor to close their F-1 record in order to avoid accruing unlawful presence.

Students who exceed the 90-day unemployment limit may not transfer their F-1 status to begin a new academic program and do not have an F-1 grace period. Students should consult an experienced
immigration attorney for further guidance on the implications of unlawful presence in the United States.

Am I required to have health insurance on OPT?

Medical insurance is an extremely important consideration while you are on OPT. The cost of medical care for an accident or illness in the US can be more money than you earn in an entire year of OPT employment.

Health insurance in the U.S. is typically linked to your employer. If your OPT activity is not with an employer that offers insurance, or if your employer's plan does not cover medical evacuation/repatriation for people living internationally, then you should purchase additional coverage.

Can I have more than one employer while on OPT?

Yes. Since OPT is not linked to one employer, you can have more than one employer while on OPT as long as every job is directly related to your field of study.

Are holidays and weekends counted as unemployment days?

Yes. There is no longer an exception for weekends or federal holiday days. It is counted as calendar days.

Can students switch employers during the OPT year?

Yes, students can change employers as long as their job matches their field of study.

Is there a limit on how many hours I can work on OPT?

There is no limit on how many hours you work while on OPT.