​​​​​​​​​​​​​Optional Practical Training (OPT) Information​

Who is Eligible for Optional Practical Training Application (OPT)?
  • F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year and have completed their program are eligible for authorization for up to 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) in their major field of study.
  • A student is eligible for only 12 months of OPT for each level they have completed. (i.e., one year for Undergraduate, one year for Masters and one year for a Doctorate program)
  • Post Completion OPT applications can be submitted to USCIS​ as early as 90 days prior to the end of the final semester of study.

**Students enrolled in the Intensive English Language Program are not eligible for OPT.
**Students in qualified​ STEM programs can apply for a 24-month extension in addition to the 12 months of OPT at the end of the approved post-completion OPT.
Steps to Apply for OPT
  • Check your I-20 and confirm the major of study listed on the I-20 is the same as the major you will be completing at UF.
  • Prepare the documents from the checklist below
  • Apply for graduation if you have not already done so
  • Decide your Start Date for OPT (see How to Decide Your OPT Start Date below) and receive the OPT endorsed I-20
  • Follow the UF Guidance to Online Filing Form I-765 OPT
Should you have any questions regarding any of the above steps, please call the Int'l Admissions office to schedule an appointment in person or via zoom with the Assistant Director of Immigration.
Documents to Prepare for the OPT Online Appointment Checklist​
  • I-94: Click the link below to obtain your I-94
  • Valid Passport: copy of the biographical data page
  • Visa: copy of visa page
  • Two new passport-type photographs: (pictures must be 2 X 2 and good quality or the application may be denied.
  • $410.00: To be paid by credit card at end of online application
  • CPT I-20
  • Forward the email notification you receive from the Registrar's office after you have submitted your application to graduate or Declaration of Candidacy for Graduate degree form to the Assistant Director of Immigration
    • To apply for graduation, log into your Workday account then go to your home page, academics, left hand corner select apply for program completion.
How to Decide Your OPT Start Date
  • Determine the last day of your program. This is the last day of classes for your last semester. It is NOT the graduation date.
  • You can choose any day, within 60 days from the last day of your program to start OPT.

Example: John's last day of his program for the Spring is April 26. John can choose any day to start the OPT within 60 days of April 26. He can choose a date between April 27 - June 26. He chooses May 25 as his start date to begin OPT.

Remember it can take 2-3​ months to be approved for OPT after you submit your application. You cannot start OPT until you have your EAD card in hand. If you are applying for OPT late in your semester you will want to allow time for the OPT to be processed in choosing your start date.

Example: John will mail his OPT application on March 20. March 20 to April 26 is a little over one month. April 27 to May 25 (his chosen start date) is about one month. This gives his application two months to be approved. If his card comes after May 25 he will have to wait until it arrives to start working. To be completely safe John could choose the start date June 19 which is a full three months after he mails in his application.

The OPT application must be submitted within 30 days from the date the new OPT I-20 is printed.
Waiting for OPT Approval
You will receive two items from the USCIS. The first is your I-797C Notice of Action letter and the second will be your EAD Card upon approval. Both items will come to the International Admissions Office and you will be notified the day we receive them.

I-797C Notice of Action Letter
Approximately two to three weeks after submitting your application a I-797C Notice of Action will arrive. This will tell you that they received your application, the date they received it and it also includes your “case number," which can be used to track your application on USCIS online system at www.uscis.gov.

The USCIS has 90 days from the “received date" to process your application. We cannot file any inquiries with the service center about the status of your application. If you have questions or issues you will need to call the 1-800 number in the letter.

The USCIS Site Says; I'm Approved!
Please remember: You cannot begin work until you have a valid and current EAD card in hand or before the start date of the EAD card, even if the USCIS Case Status website says that your application has been approved.
Employment Rules while on post completion OPT
Types of employment allowed during post completion OPT​
Paid Employment
Students authorized for post-completion OPT may work part time (at least 20 hours per week) or full time.

Multiple employers
Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student's degree program. Employment during pre-completion OPT cannot exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours.

Short-term multiple employers (performing artists)
Students who are musicians and other performing artists may work for multiple short-term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing a list of all gigs.

Work for hire
Work for hire means that an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. It is sometimes called “1099 employment" because people who “work for hire" receive Internal Revenue Service Form 1099-MISC – which shows how much money was earned for a particular year – from the contracting company. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.

Self-employed business owner
Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student's degree program.

Employment through an agency
Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.

Unpaid employment
Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. These students must be able to provide evidence from the employer that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.
Related to Field of Study
OPT is an internship that gives you practical experience in the program you just completed. All employment MUST be related to your field of study. You will be asked to explain how the job relates to the field of study when you report employment.
Employer Reporting
Any and all employment MUST be reported to the University of Findlay within 10 days so that we can update your SEVIS record appropriately. You are responsible for reporting your employer information, which includes when your employment ends and new employment begins.

To Report Employment
Periods of Unemployment
Students on post-completion OPT are only allowed a total of 90 days of unemployment.
What counts as “unemployment time"
  • Unemployment time is counted each day during the OPT dates indicated on the EAD.
  • Students who have OPT extended due to the cap gap provisions continue to accrue unemployment time and are subject to the 90-day limitation on unemployment.
  • If you have a job offer that begins more than 90 days after your OPT begins, you will exceed your allowable unemployment time. Receiving a job offer within the 90 days is not sufficient, you must be employed in one of the employment types listed above.
  • If you travel outside of the United States while unemployed, the time spent outside the United States will count as unemployment against the 90 day limit.
  • Permanently leaving the U.S. without notifying the Office of International Admissions and Immigration Services can result in the accidental accrual of unemployment. For this reason, you must contact the Assistant Director of Immigration if you decide to abandon your OPT.
What does not count toward “unemployment time"
  • If you travel abroad while employed either during a period of leave authorized by an employer or as part of your employment, the time spent outside the United States will not count as unemployment.
Consequences of exceeding allowable period of unemployment
  • If you exceed the allowable period of unemployment while on post-completion OPT, you are considered to have violated your status.
  • If you cannot find employment that meets the definition of OPT employment, you may have the following options:
    • Apply to UF or another university to continue your education by a change of level or transferring to another institution.
    • Depart the United States (be sure to notify the Assistant Director of Immigration if you abandon your OPT and leave).
    • Change status to another legal status if possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I travel out of the country while I am on post completion OPT?

If your post-completion OPT has been approved (EAD card has been issued by USCIS) and you have a job or a job offer, you may leave and re-enter the U.S. in order to begin or resume employment. 

After USCIS has issued an EAD card for post-completion OPT, in order to have the best chance of re-entering the U.S. without problems, you should be sure you have the following documents:
  • Passport (valid for six months after you plan to re-enter the U.S.)
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport (this requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens)
  • I-20 (with a valid travel signature no older than six months*)
  • EAD card
  • Evidence that you already have a job in the U.S. or that you have a job offer.
If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa, you should also be sure to have your EAD card and evidence that you already have a job in the U.S. or that you have a job offer in addition to the usual documents required for a visa application.

* Regulations state that during post-completion OPT, the travel signature should be no older than six months. It is recommended while on post-completion OPT that you get a valid travel signature every six months. Source: 8CFR214.2(f)(13)(ii)
If a student who has an EAD card but does not have a job or a job offer leaves the US during the post-completion OPT period, OPT ends. Border officials might not allow someone in this situation to re-enter the U.S. Thus, students who do not have a U.S. job or a U.S. job offer but who plan to leave and re-enter the U.S. after their EAD card has been issued (their OPT has been approved by USCIS) are taking a risk.

For more information, see U.S. Department of Homeland Security FAQ for Travel.

What if I want to work in the US longer than I am authorized to work with OPT?

Only students on a qualified STEM program may apply for a 24 month extension to OPT.

What is my status while on OPT?

During OPT you are still on the U of F I-20 as an F-1 student. Remember to report your new address to our office within 10 days, when you move. If you continue your studies after OPT, meet or contact the Assistant Director of Immigration to find out about transferring your SEVIS record.

Can I study while on OPT?

You cannot go to school full time while you are on OPT. If you switch educational levels (i.e. Bachelor's to Masters or Master's to Doctorate) you will lose any remaining OPT time. You can take “incidental" classes.

What if my EAD card is lost?

You will need to resubmit your entire application and the I-765 form (check the box that states you are renewing a lost or stolen card.) You will need to pay the $410.00 fee again.