Employment / Practical Training

There are legal restrictions on employment as an international student. You are not allowed to work off-campus except as part of an approved internship. Before engaging in any kind of employment, internship or volunteer activities, please read the guidance found here. Contact us with any questions and concerns. 

               Did you miss the "U.S. Job Searching for Internationals" Workshop? Find the recording here.

Optional Practical Training

Undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status can work towards getting practical training to complete their field of study. This is called Optional Practical Training (OPT). There are two types: pre-completion (before you graduate) and post-completion (after you graduate)

Are you eligible for OPT?

You must be in the U.S. in active F-1 status for at least 1 full academic year, and have a valid passport for at least 6 months to be eligible to apply. If you are applying for post-completion OPT be sure that you are in your last term or semester. You are eligible to apply for a new OPT at each education level (associates, bachelors, masters, doctorate). Keep in mind that your employment must be related to your major. If you realize after applying that you have to take more courses, you will lose a substantial portion of your OPT as it will be reduced to part-time OPT until you complete your studies. 

Watch our "Understanding OPT" workshop video 

Fill out an OPT Request on your OISS portal

Find your OPT application instructions, checklist, Q&A links on your OISS Student portal under "OPT Request". You do not need to schedule an appointment with the OISS to apply for post-completion OPT, unless you have questions about the process. If you are applying for pre-completion OPT, please schedule a time with a Designated School Officer (DSO), so we can determine your eligibility. 

Access your OISS Student Portal 

Apply for your OPT on MyUSCIS

Once the OISS has reviewed your OPT request, we will issue you an "OPT Requested" I-20, which is a required supporting document. The online filing option allows F-1 students to apply for the post-completion OPT, request a Social Security Number (SSN) (if needed), upload supporting application documents, pay the filing fee, track the status of their application, communicate with USCIS and receive all notifications from USCIS via their online account (these include pending notices, requests for evidence (RFE), denials, and approvals).

Create your MyUSCIS account 

Maintaining your OPT status

You should not travel outside the U.S. while you have an OPT application in pending status. If travel is unavoidable,  we advise you to travel with the I-797 Notice of Receipt and all other travel docuements listed on the Maintaining Status page under "Travel Outside the U.S."

If your OPT application is approved and you decide to travel, you need to carry an employment letter (example) which states when you will return, a valid visa, a signed I-20 from the OISS office, and your EAD card.

Once you are in possession of your employment authorization document (EAD card) , please make sure to upload your EAD card (front and back) to your OISS student portal. and submit an "Update my I-20" request on your OISS Student Portal. 

You must let us know when you have updated the SEVP portal when you report your employment so that we can issue you an updated employment I-20 or if you are ending your OPT early. For OPT STEM students, make sure you report on your program participation every 6 months via the online "STEM-OPT Reporting" on your OISS Student Portal. 

**Students who have applied for OPT will receive an email invitation from "do-not-reply.SEVP@ice.dhs.gov" to create an SEVP Portal account after the following conditions are satisfied: The student's EAD card has been approved and issued. The student's OPT Start Date has arrived or passed.**

Contact the OISS office to report OPT portal updates 

Changing status from OPT to H-1b

To change your status from F-1 OPT to H-1b, you must be sponsored by your employer while still on OPT. The application window for H-1B selected registrants starts on April 1st. Your H-1b application has to be filed on April 1st. After you do so, you can continue working on your OPT until a decision is made beyond the expiration of your OPT. If approved, your H-1b will start on October 1st. This extension period is called "Cap Gap". The OISS office will issue an extended I-20 to reflect the Cap Gap when provided with evidence of a pending application.

Request a cap-gap extension