Employment for F-1 Students

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

The information below relates to Post-Completion OPT. For information about Pre-Completion OPT please speak with International Education staff.

Eligibility

After attending school full time for at least two consecutive semesters as an F-1 student in good academic standing, you may apply for OPT.  You are not eligible to work until you receive notification of your OPT authorization card and the authorized start date on the card is reached. You must take the following steps to apply for OPT:

  1. Attend an OPT workshop within one year of applying for OPT. Check International Education's website for the latest dates for OPT workshops.
  2. Gather all of the documents you need for your application.
  3. Schedule an OPT meeting with International Education on Calendly.
  4. Once you have received your new OPT I-20, send your complete application to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox within 30 days of your OPT recommendation.
  5. Once you are approved for OPT, update your employment information on the SEVP OPT Portal online. 

OPT Employment Authorization

  • OPT authorization is granted by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). MICA's Office of International Education will help you to apply. Authorization is usually given, but is not guaranteed. The government, on average, takes three to five months to process OPT applications, so be sure to apply early.

  • OPT applications require an application fee, currently $410.

  • You must make an appointment with International Education to receive an OPT recommendation on your I-20.  Please bring your completed application and all required documents with you to this appointment. International Education will create your new I-20 that will include the OPT recommendation.  USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of International Education adding the OPT recommendation to your I-20. Please note that you cannot apply more than 90 days before your program completion date (listed on your I-20). If you do, your application will be denied.
  • Overseas travel while waiting for OPT authorization is not recommended.

Type of Work

  • OPT jobs must be in your field of study and require your level of education.

  • You may work for more than one employer on OPT. Self-employment is permitted, but note that you must carefully follow all appropriate business and tax laws related to self-employment.

Unemployment During OPT

  • Those approved for OPT are permitted to be unemployed for a total of 90 days during their entire OPT term.

  • Days unemployed add up in between positions worked and before you start working.

  • Days that count toward unemployment accrual include those wherein you have been working part-time, i.e. under 20 hours/week

  • You are encouraged to keep track of your days unemployed.

  • As soon as you reach 90 days of unemployment, you are expected to either leave the USA or otherwise change your immigration status.

Amount of Work

  • OPT is limited to a total of 12 months for each degree level (BFA, MFA, MA, or MAT). You will receive an additional 12 months if you begin a new degree program at a higher level (for example, if you complete a BFA and begin an MFA).

  • Your F-1 status and OPT employment authorization will automatically be extended if you are the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition requesting a change of status and an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. This benefit applies to all students on OPT.

Reporting Requirements

Students must report the following information on the SEVP Portal within 10 days of any changes:

  • Your U.S. address

  • Name of employer

  • Address of employer

  • Full time or Part Time (Full time is over 20 hours/week)

  • Start date of employment

  • End date of employment

Travel During OPT 

You must receive a travel signature every six months for international travel while you are on OPT.  Please see the procedures for requesting a travel signature

After OPT

If you decide to depart the U.S. and end your OPT early, please contact International Education. Students who work throughout OPT (without reaching their 90 days of unemployment threshold) have several options at the end of their OPT authorization period.

  • Plan to leave the USA? Students on OPT are permitted to remain in the U.S. for 60 days following their OPT end date.   They will not be permitted to work or study during this time.

  • Planning further study in the U.S.?  Please arrange to transfer your SEVIS record within 60 days after the end of OPT to your new degree program.

  • Employer sponsoring your U.S. work visa? Work with your employer and possible immigration lawyers to change your immigration status.