F-1 Optional Practical Training

OPT Quick Links

 OPT Video   ISSAlink OPT Application

This page includes information on:

  • OPT Application Eligibility Requirements
  • OPT Application Process
  • Types of Employment allowed on OPT
  • F-1 Student Responsibilities while on OPT
  • Replacing an EAD Card
  • Other OPT Topics (health insurance, canceling, taxes, etc)

Students applying for Post-Completion OPT often have two 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.
  • How early can I apply? Students cannot submit their application to USCIS more than 90 days before the program end date, but they can request their I-20 with OPT Recommendation up to 110 days before their program end date. We recommend student apply as early as they are eligible.
  • Who authorizes my OPT? USCIS authorizes  OPT but the student will need to request an I-20 with OPT Recommendation from ISSA to submit in the application process. 

Application Eligibility Requirements

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.

Application Process

Students can schedule a virtual advising appointment or stop by 105 Main Building during walk-in hours, Tuesday-Wednesday, 2-4:00pm, with OPT questions.

After watching the OPT Information video, students must complete the following steps to apply for employment authorization with Optional Practical Training:

  1. In ISSAlink, under F-1 Practical Training, submit the Optional Practical Training (OPT) Application form. 
    • The student's academic advisor will receive an email from ISSA with a link to the OPT Advisor Recommendation form. It is the student's responsibility to ensure their advisor submits this form.
  2. Upon approving the form, ISSA will issue an updated Form I-20 with OPT Recommendation and email the student an electronic copy. The student is responsible to review the program information and OPT Recommendation; if accurate, they will print and sign it.
  3. Create a free online USCIS account and file the I-765 application online. The student will prepare the following documents for uploading to the online USCIS I-765 Online Application:
    • An electronic copy of the updated I-20 with OPT Recommendation
    • An electronic copy of the passport biographical page (color or black and white)
    • An electronic copy of the F-1 visa page (color or black and white)
    • 2X2 color passport style photo that meet USCIS guidelines (see page 25, section C)
    • An electronic copy of the most recent I-94 record
    • Copies of any I-20s with CPT Authorization (if applicable)
    • Copies of any previously issued EAD cards (if applicable)
    • Credit card information for online payment of $410.00 filing fee

4. After submitting the OPT application, the student should monitor the site for a receipt notice. Generally, USCIS will issue a receipt notice within 48 hours when filing online.  

5. Receive Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card issued by USCIS. The student is not authorized to begin working until they receive the EAD and the start date has been reached.

6. Student must report all changes to employment via the SEVIS OPT Portal or ISSAlink no later than 10 days after the change.

Employment on OPT

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. 

Student Responsibilities During OPT

Students responsibilities to Maintain Status while on OPT

Students authorized for OPT remain in F-1 status and must continue to maintain their F-1 status, which means:

  • Maintain a valid passport
  • Maintain a valid I-20
  • Use the SEVIS OPT Portal or ISSAlink to report these changes within 10 days of the change:
    • change of U.S. address
    • all employment information and changes
    • change in immigration status
  • If traveling outside the U.S.:
    • Travel signatures must be valid within six months of reentry
    • Valid F-1 visa is required for re-entry
    • Enter the U.S. in F-1 status for the duration of OPT

The F-1 status and SEVIS record are the student's responsibility to manage, and SEVIS has made it easier by launching the SEVP OPT Portal, which allows ACTIVE F-1 students on OPT to manage their mandatory reporting requirements directly through the SEVIS website. Through the portal, the student can add/edit their phone number, add/edit their  address, and add/edit their employer information, including the initial employment.

Note: as of August 2020, students cannot report employment start dates more than 10 days after the start date. Any late reporting will result in the accrual of unemployment days. 

Student reporting responsibilities include:

  • Monitor unemployment. Students cannot accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during standard post-completion OPT. If SEVIS registers that a student has exceed the unemployment limit, they can terminate the SEVIS record and the student will need to exit the U.S.  
  • Notify ISSA if student permanently departs the U.S. before OPT authorization period ends.
  • Notify ISSA if student plans to begin a new full-time academic program before the end of the OPT. This will end the OPT authorization. 
  • Monitor work eligibility. After the program end date on page 1 of the I-20, the student may not work on campus unless they have received their EAD card, the start date has been reached, and the employment is related to your program of study.
  • Pursue appropriate employment. All employment while on OPT must be related to the student's major/s and fall within the authorization dates printed on the EAD card.  

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 detailed explanation of the card error, and
  • Supporting documentation on the correct information. 

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, they may be authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT. They must be enrolled full-time and have completed one academic year of their program on the current SEVIS ID record. Contact ISSA for information about eligibility and 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. 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 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.