F-1 Optional Practical Training

Optional practical training is a type of work authorization available for eligible F-1 students. It allows students to get real-world work experience related to their field of study (as listed on the Form I-20).

OPT Quick Links

 OPT Video   ISSAlink - Request OPT I-20

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Students applying for Post-Completion OPT often have three initial questions:

  • Do I need a job offer to apply for OPT? No. Students can (and should) apply even if they do not have an offer.
  • Where do I apply? Students will request an I-20 with OPT Recommendation from ISSA and file the I-765 OPT application with USCIS
  • When can I apply? Students cannot file their I-765 OPT application with USCIS more than 90 days before the program end date on their I-20, but we recommend students request their I-20 110 days before the program end date and apply as early as they are eligible. 

Eligibility Requirements for Post-Completion OPT

To be eligible to apply for post-completion OPT employment authorization at the current academic level, the student must:

  • be in valid F-1 status at time of the application
  • have been enrolled full-time in the U.S. for at least one consecutive academic year
  • not have completed OPT at this same academic level
  • have less than 12 months of full-time CPT authorization at this academic level  
  • be present in the U.S. when filing

USCIS Filing Timelines for Post-Completion OPT

Regardless of whether the student files by mail or online, they must ensure USCIS receives the completed application:

  • No earlier than 90 days prior to the program completion date on their form I-20 
  • No later than the end of the 60-day grace period following the program completion date on their form I-20.
  • No later than 30 days after the student is endorsed for OPT by the ISSA advisor.

Information about the Post-Completion OPT Application process can be found here

Employment during Post-Completion OPT authorization period

All employment during the authorization period must be directly related to (1) the student's major area of study listed on their Form I-20, (2) reported to ISSA or SEVP Portal, and (3) be at least 20 hours a week. Available employment types can include: 

  • regular paid employment,
  • payment by multiple short-term employers,
  • independent contractor positions,
  • self-employment,
  • employment through an employment agency, or
  • volunteer or unpaid internships, where no labor laws are violated.

It is the student's responsibility to maintain documentation of all reported employment and report all changes of employment within 10 days of the change. 

More information about responsibilities while on Post-Completion OPT can be found here

Replace an EAD Card

If the EAD card is lost, stolen, or incorrect, the student can apply to USCIS for a replacement card. The process is very similar to the original application process, and generally the student will need to pay the filing fee again. 

To apply for a replacement card because the card was lost or stolen, the student will need to gather and submit the following documents to the same service center they submitted their original application: 

  • New original Form I-765 indicating:
    •  1.b. Replacement of lost, stolen, or damaged employment authorization document.
    • they HAVE previously applied for OPT/STEM and include all application receipt numbers on page 7
  • current I-765 filing fee (if lost in the mail, student may be eligible to apply for a filing fee waiver but this requires a letter from USPS that it was lost)
  • 2 U.S.-style passport photos, taken in the last six months and not used for any other application
  • letter explaining original EAD has been lost, stolen, or not delivered by mail  
  • copy of current I-20 with OPT Approval (request an updated I-20 in ISSAlink, if necessary)
  • copy of passport bio page
  • copy of F-1 visa stamp, if applicable
  • copy of I-94 record
  • copy of I-797 receipt notice and approval notice (if available)
  • copy of all previous EAD cards
  • additional documentation, as applicable (e.g. police report if card was stolen, letter from USPS confirming that it was not delivered)

If there is an error on the card (e.g. misspelled name), USCIS provides two correction options, based on who made the error

If your EAD contains incorrect information that is not due to a USCIS error, the student must submit the list as noted above plus the card containing the error. The letter will explain how the card needs to be corrected.  

If your EAD contains incorrect information because of a USCIS error, they will make the appropriate correction at no additional cost to the student. In these cases, the student not need to submit a new Form I-765 or a filing fee. Instead, they must submit:

  • the original card containing the error,
  • a letter containing a detailed explanation of the card error,
  • copy of the original I-20, and
  • supporting documentation on the correct information. 

We strongly recommend that before sending your card away for a correction: 

  • make a photocopy of the card,
  • have already provided the card for your employment hiring process, SSN application, or Driver License renewal, and
  • do not have any international travel plans in the next 1-2 months.

Contact ISSA with any questions regarding this process. Students are responsible to ensure they using the current version of the Form I-765 or completing the online application correctly.

Pre-Completion OPT

If an F-1 student is looking for off campus authorization during their program of study, and they are not eligible to apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT), they may be authorized to participate in Pre-Completion OPT. The student must be enrolled full-time and have completed one academic year of their program on the current SEVIS ID record. Any authorization for Pre-Completion OPT subtracts from available Post-Completion OPT authorization. Contact ISSA for information about the application process.

Other OPT Topics

Health Insurance on OPT

Student's Notre Dame health insurance generally ends within 60 days of the program completion date (or mid-August after a May graduation). While students are not required to obtain health insurance while on OPT, we strongly recommend reviewing the options available on our health insurance page to ensure they have the necessary resources for managing medical care and emergencies.  

H-1B Cap-Gap Extension

If the student was picked in the H-1B lottery and received a receipt notice for the cap-subject H-1B petition prior to the end of their OPT, their F-1 status and OPT authorization will automatically be extended to either September 30 or date of H-1B denial, whichever is earlier. They can submit the "Updated I-20 Request" Form in ISSAlink.nd.edu to receive the updated document.

Taxes on OPT

Students are obligated to continue filing taxes while on OPT. Eligible students who can still file as Non-residents for Tax Purposes can also utilize the ISSA sponsored Sprintax codes.

Canceling OPT

F-1 students who have applied for Optional Practical Training may cancel the application only under specific circumstances. USCIS will consider the cancelation of a pending application for OPT only if the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) has not yet been issued or, if the EAD has been issued, the EAD start date has not yet been reached.

The cancelation of any request for OPT that has already been mailed to USCIS requires the student to write a letter to USCIS requesting the cancelation. A copy of the cancelation letter will need to be submitted to ISSA before we can provide official supporting documents for your case. 

OPT cancelation remains at the discretion of USCIS and is not guaranteed. Students who consider requesting cancelation of an OPT application are required to consult with an immigration advisor in ISSA before filling out the application through ISSAlink. Before you submit your application via ISSAlink, you will be required to upload a copy of your cancelation letter and any other supporting documentation, if applicable.