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Optional Practical Training

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OPT is intended for students to gain real employment experiences in their chosen profession for a period of 12 months at every educational level. You can apply before or after completion of studies. It is limited to a total of 12 months at 40 hours per week at every level of your studies. For example: after completing your AA degree, you will be recommended for a 12-month OPT and after completing a bachelorís degree, you will be recommended for another 12-month OPT.

A job offer is not required to apply for OPT. However, it must be recommended by your DSO/International Student Advisor and approved by USCIS. If your application is approved, an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) is issued to you for the duration of your OPT. 

Eligibility Requirement

  • Enrolled as full-time for nine (9) consecutive months.
  • On track to graduate in the semester OPT is requested.
  • Be in valid F-1 status including valid passport and SEVIS I-20.
  • Be in good academic standing.
  • Still have OPT remaining if any previously used
  • Apply for graduation in your myLoneStar account.

Important Note: You can only begin employment upon receiving your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS.

Planning your OPT Application

F-1 students can apply for 12 months OPT for every educational level. Once OPT is granted by USCIS, it will be extremely difficult to withdraw or cancel regardless of subsequent occurrences such as inability to find an appropriate job or loss of job or delay in completing requirements.

Post-Completion OPT
After completion of studies and submission to USCIS before date of graduation

Step 1: Request an OPT Request I-20 from your International Student Advisor/DSO

Before you can apply for OPT with USCIS, you must request an OPT Request Form I-20 from your DSO/International Student Advisor. A job offer is not required to request an OPT Form I-20. To request an OPT Request I-20:

  1. Complete the LSC OPT Request I-20 Form
  2. Contact your academic advisor to complete their portion of the OPT I-20 Request Form
  3. Submit to your DSO/International Student Advisor

If you meet all the eligibility requirements, the DSO/International Student Advisor will issue you a SEVIS I-20 recommending you for OPT and submitting your information into SEVIS. You will need to sign the I-20 and prepare the documents in the OPT Application Checklist below before submitting to USCIS.

Step 2: Prepare documents in OPT Application Checklist

After receiving your OPT I-20 from your LSC DSO/International Student Advisor, prepare the items in this checklist and mail to USCIS. It must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days from your last day of classes. Also, it must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date your DSO/International Student Advisor entered the OPT recommendation into your SEVIS record.

OPT Application Checklist and Instructions

Step 3: Submit Application for Optional Practical Training (OPT) to USCIS by Deadline

Application for OPT is authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for employment directly related to a studentís major area of study. However, before you can apply for OPT approval with USCIS, you must first receive an OPT Request Form I-20 from your LSC DSO/International Student Advisor. Then prepare the documents in the OPT Application Checklist and Instructions above.

Application Deadline

You must request an OPT Request Form I-20 from your DSO/International Student Advisor before applying with USCIS

If you are applying for post-completion OPT, you can apply to USCIS up to 90 days before graduation and need to have your complete OPT application mailed and received by USCIS within 60 days from your last day of classes. Also, it must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date your DSO/International Student Advisor entered the OPT recommendation into your SEVIS record. If not, you will lose your OPT benefit. Please meet with your advisor to discuss your OPT plans.

Step 4: Wait for OPT Decision from USCIS

Please give yourself about 60 to 90 days for approval from USCIS. USCIS will either approve or deny your OPT request. You cannot work until you are 1) approved for OPT AND 2) receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

Step 5: Receive Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS

You must wait to receive your EAD from USCIS before you can begin working.

Student Responsibilities/Requirements while on OPT

Limit on Unemployment

A job offer is not required to be eligible for OPT. However, if approved, you must secure a job that is related to your major field of study within 90 days of approval. If you cannot find a job within 90 days of OPT approval, you may be able to fulfill this requirement by volunteering in a position that is related to your major field of study.

Change of Employer

You may able to change your employer after your employment has begun provided the new job is related to your major field of study.

Travel Outside the U.S. 

It is risky to travel outside the US while your OPT application is still pending at the USCIS. Once you have received your EAD card, you can travel outside of the US with the following documents:

  • SEVIS I-20 signed in the past 6 months and SEVIS information updated
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card*
  • A valid F-1 entry visa
  • Have a letter from your employer. If your OPT has been approved and you depart before you get a job, your OPT ends and you cannot reenter. If you have a job, you may travel and re-enter to resume work at the same job

Review ICE Travel Information for F-1 Students

If traveling during the COVID-19 situation, please refer to the following travel resources:

*Note: You can verify your application status by using your USCIS receipt number which you will find in your Notice of Action I-797. To verify your application status, go to the U.S. Immigration website. Your receipt will also have a phone number you can call to verify your application status.

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