What is OPT?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is the one year of off-campus work permitted for each level of study obtained in the U.S. (Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD). Unlike COOP/Curricular Practical Training (CPT), OPT does not have to be included as a required internship or practicum listed in your curriculum. You are authorized to work off-campus in your field of study.

Who is eligible for OPT?

F-1 students are eligible for Optional Practical Training after maintaining full-time student status for at least one academic year (2 semesters).

Types of OPT

  1. Pre-Completion
    1. Full-time during the summer vacation semester;
    2. Part-time during the academic year and;

 2. Post-Completion (After Graduation): Full-time after completion of all course requirements.

  1. STEM OPT extension
    1. Your degree must be on the approved STEM CIP list
    2. You must already be in post-completion OPT

Application Policies

Applications cannot be submitted:

  • any earlier than 90 days prior to your program end date
  • any later than 60 days after your program end date

You cannot have done one year or more of full-time cumulative COOP/Curricular Practical Training (CPT). USCIS must receive your application before the end of your 60-day grace period (60 days after your program end date).

It is not necessary to have an offer of employment before applying for OPT; many students apply before finding a job. You can also choose the date you would like to start OPT. That date can be anywhere between the day after graduation to 60 days after graduation. Example:

Graduation is May 7th.

Start date can be anywhere from May 8th to July 7th.

Your OPT must be complete within 14 months of your program end date. This means, if you start working 2 weeks after the start date on your EAD card, you will have accumulated 14 days of unemployment. You can only have a total of 90 days unemployment; after that, you are considered to be out of status. (Unemployment is not vacation time; it is time in which you do not have a job or employer.)


How can I check the status of my application?

After applying for OPT, you should go to https://my.uscis.gov to set up an account and activate case status alerts in order to get notifications. You can also click on the following link to check the status of your case using the receipt number on the Notice of Action (I-797C).

What is the employment authorization document (EAD)?

The EAD is a laminated ID card bearing the your picture that provides beginning and ending dates for the employment authorization. You will receive the EAD (OPT card) within 3 months after you submit the OPT application. If you do not receive the EAD card 91 days after the date on your Notice of Action, please call USCIS. If you would like the International Student Advisor to call on your behalf, please schedule an appointment with the International Student Advisor. The EAD is not employer specific, so you may change employers at will.

Can I go in for training before I get the EAD card?

Sorry, no! USCIS considers this as working.

Do I need a Social Security Number?

If you do not have a Social Security Number (SSN) already, you will be required to get one for tax reporting purposes. With the online application, you can now apply for your SSN at the same time. Just select ‘Yes’ to the consent of disclosure and provide your information when asked if you want to be issued a Social Security card.  

Can I volunteer (unpaid) until my card comes in?

Sorry, no! USCIS considers this working.

Can I travel (ex. go home) while my opt application is in progress?

Yes, though it is not advisable to travel out of the US while your OPT application is being processed.

Can I travel during my OPT period?

Yes, you may travel as long as you have your:

  • EAD (Employment Authorization Document)
  • Most recent I-20 with a valid travel signature (no older than 6 months)
  • Unexpired F-1 visa
  • Valid passport with the expiry date more than 6 months after your return

OPT Application Instructions

  1. Read and initial the OPT Responsibilities Statement and return it to the International Student Advisor by email.
  2. Gather the following documents in electronic format on your laptop  
    1. A scan of your passport photograph page  
    2. A scan of the front and back of any previous EAD (Employment Authorization Doc) cards (if applicable)  
    3. A scan of any previous I-20s with CPT or OPT information (if available)  
    4. A digital copy of your I-20 with an OPT recommendation (CIP will provide this for you when you are ready to apply)  
      • Must be issued within the last 30 days for post-completion OPT and within the last 60 days for STEM extension OPT. You MUST make an appointment with your International Student Advisor at the CIP to receive a new I-20 form endorsed for OPT before filing for your OPT 
      • The I-20 must be signed by an International Student Advisor/DSO and by you. You can use a digital or handwritten signature.
    5. Your most recent form I-94. Go to https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home and select “Get Most Recent Form I-94.”
    6. A credit card with which you can pay the filing fee  ($410)

***The application process for the STEM extension is more involved; ask if you are qualified and interested.

Once you have everything, make an appoint with the International Student Advisor to get your OPT-authorized I-20 and fill out the OPT application. During the appointment you will go to https://myaccount.uscis.gov/ to apply.

While filling out the Form I-765, we recommend that you use a reliable address where you can receive mail for a 2-3 month period. If you are unsure about your address, you can use our address below, and we will notify you when any correspondence arrives.

  • Center for International Programs
  • 1500 N Patterson Street
  • Valdosta, GA 31698 - 0037

You should also use your VSU email address for the application since you will need to check that for correspondence from the ISA during the OPT period.


Working is NOT optional; you must work at least 20 hours a week. You can not accrue more than a total of 90 days of unemployment during the 12 months of post-completion OPT. When you accept a job, remember it needs to be relevant to your degree. You will be asked to explain how it relates to your field of study. You must stop your employment when the end date on the EAD card is reached.

Reporting Requirements

  • Initial reporting in the SEVP Portal and to your International Student Advisor must include
    • your address and phone number
    • name, address, and EIN of employer
    • your job title and how the work relates to your degree
    • supervisor’s name, email address, and phone number
  • Subsequent reports for
    • changes of address, phone number, name
    • interruption in employment
    • changes of employer
  • You will be required to report to the International Student Advisor every six months even if nothing has changed

A loss of F-1 status will result from failing to report at the beginning of your employment, any changes of information or periods of unemployment, or an aggregate of 90 days of unemployment.

After OPT

As your OPT approaches its end date, you want to consider what you want to do next. You have three options for remaining inside the US. If you choose one of these, you should start working on it well before you EAD end date. They are:

  • Apply for a STEM extension
  • Apply for a new degree at VSU or another school
  • Apply for a change of status (you should start this as soon as you decide you want it; the process can be very long and drawn out)

If you choose not to pursue one of those routes, you may remain in the U.S. 60 days after the expiration of your EAD. This is a time for you to travel within the U.S., pack your things, relax, etc. You can not work or study during the 60-day grace period.