Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorizes an F-1 student to engage in practical training in their major field of study for up to one year, generally following the completion of studies. OPT is authorized by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

ISSS offers an online OPT worskshop through Canvas to explain eligibility and the application process for OPT

  • Types of OPT

    Pre-Completion

    • Work authorization for a period that will begin and end before the completion of the degree program
    • May work part-time (20 hours a week or less) while school is in session and full-time (more than 20 hours a week) during university breaks and the annual vacation term
    • If Pre-completion OPT is combined with on-campus employment, total hours worked while school is in session cannot exceed 20 (part time)
    • Pre-completion OPT time will deduct from post-completion OPT eligibility, at a rate of half time, (e.g. If you work part-time 4 months you use up 2 months of OPT)
    • May apply 90 days before desired employment/OPT start date

    Post-Completion

    • Work authorization after the completion of the degree program. Many students use all 12 months of their OPT time during post-completion OPT
    • May apply for post-completion OPT up to 90 days before graduation date and 60 days after graduation date
    • Start date must be within 60 days after the program completion date
    • Program completion date is the last last day of the term that you complete all degree requirements. Consult the university calendars for dates. For graduate students applying for OPT while writing a thesis or dissertation, contact an ISSS advisor to determine your program end date
  • Eligibility

    To apply for OPT, you must:

    • Currently be in F-1 status
    • Have been a full-time student for at least one academic year
    • Not have completed an academic program or degree at a higher level in the U.S
    • Not have previously been approved for 12 months of OPT at the current degree level or higher degree level
    • Not have completed 365 days or more of full-time CPT at the current degree level or higher degree level
    • Have completed ALL degree requirements excluding thesis or dissertation (post-completion only)

Application process

You must receive an I-20 with an OPT recommendation from ISSS before applying for OPT. USCIS will deny your application if you apply before receiving the I-20 with the OPT recommendation from ISSS.

  • STEP 1: REQUEST OPT RECOMMENDATION FROM ISSS

    Request an I-20 with an OPT recommendation by submitting the OPT Request online in the ISSS Portal.

  • STEP 2: ASSEMBLE OPT APPLICATION MATERIALS

    Use the I-765 guide to complete the paper or online I-765 form and the instructions in the OPT Request in the ISSS Portal to prepare the OPT application that you will submit to USCIS.

  • STEP 3: SUBMIT YOUR OPT APPLICATION TO USCIS (ONLINE OR BY MAIL)

    Option 1: Submit Your Application Online

    1. Create and log in to your myUSCIS account.
    2. Complete the online I-765. Complete all pages of the online I-765 and keep a copy for your records.
    3. Print page 1 and 2 of the new I-20 with OPT recommendation and sign by hand in black ink. Upload the signed I-20 and all other required documents.
    4. Pay the $410 fee. Keep a copy of your receipt number for your records. You can track the status of the OPT application through your myUSCIS online account.

    Once the application is submitted, USCIS will communicate with you through your myUSCIS account. You will receive notifications at the mobile number and/or email address you entered in the online I-765.

    Option 2: Mail Your OPT Application to USCIS

    1. Use the I-765 guide to complete the paper I-765.
    2. Follow the directions to assemble the application on the OPT mailing instructions included with the OPT I-20 from ISSS.
    3. Mail the entire OPT application to USCIS using delivery confirmation.

Learn More about the STEM OPT Extension

Learn More

OPT Reporting Requirements

Immigration regulations require F-1 students to report OPT employment within 10 days of starting or stopping work. Failure to report OPT employer details could result in the termination of F-1 status by USCIS.

Students can now report their OPT employer details through the SEVP Portal. The portal invitation will typically be sent on the first day of OPT work authorization as listed on the EAD. It is not possible to set up the SEVP portal prior to the start of OPT.

The portal account is linked to the student's DU.EDU email address which will remain active while on OPT. To access DU email, go to http://office365.du.edu.

  • Different Types of Employment Allowed on Post-Completion OPT

    The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has provided guidance on different types of employment allowed on Post-Completion OPT. This information is taken from the SEVP Policy Guidance 1004-03, Question 7.2.1, pages 17-18.

    This guidance will help you understand what types of information that you will need to report through the SEVP Portal and the documentation which you should keep as evidence of your work.

    Note that employment allowed under the STEM OPT Extension has different eligibility and reporting requirements. 

    Multiple employers. A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student’s degree program and, for pre-completion OPT, can not exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours.

    Short-term multiple employers (performing artists). A student, such as a musician or other type of performing artist, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration.

    Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment, where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, the student must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract period and the name and address of the contracting company.

    Self-employed business owner. A student on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. 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 or consulting firm. A student on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing he or she worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.

    Paid employment. A student may work part time (at least 20 hours per week when on post-completion OPT) or full time.

    Unpaid employment. A student may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for a student on post-completion OPT. A student must be able to provide evidence acquired from the student’s employer to verify that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.

  • Reporting Employment Through ISSS

    If a student is unable to report OPT employment through the SEVP Portal, ISSS can submit the information to SEVIS.

    Log into the ISSS PortalClick on the Control Center tab.

    Choose the Report OPT or STEM OPT Employment request. Enter the information then click Submit.

    If you wish for ISSS to generate a new I-20 listing the new OPT employer information, you should also complete the Travel Signature & I-20 Reprint request.

  • Other Reporting Requirements

    While in F-1 status on OPT, it is still necessary to report certain changes within 10 days of their occurrence:

    • Change of residential address including phone number or personal email address
      • Submit your new address in MyDU
      • Update the MAILING address to your current U.S. residential address. [Do not enter a non-US address even if you are temporarily outside the US.]
      • Update the HOME address only if your permanent international address has changed. [Do not enter an address inside the U.S.]
    • Report the following changes to ISSS 
      • Change of legal name - provide copy of new passport biographical page
      • Change of immigration status - include evidence of new status such as I-797 Approval Notice
      • Permanent departure from the United States