Optional Practical Training (OPT) FAQs

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
OPT is off-campus employment that is directly related to your major area of study.

What types of OPT are available?
There are two types of OPT: part-time OPT and post-completion full time OPT. If you've been in F-1 status for one full academic year, you can apply for part-time OPT. However, part-time OPT will be deducted from the full-time 12 months OPT (e.g., six months part-time OPT will lead to a deduction of three months full-time OPT).

How much OPT can I have as an F-1 student?
In general, 12 months of full-time OPT for each educational level (e.g. 12 months after a Bachelor's degree and another 12 months after a Master's degree).

Who is eligible for OPT?
You must have studied full time for one full academic year prior to applying for OPT. In addition, you must have a valid I-20, valid passport, full time enrollment, etc, and be in lawful F-1 status at the time of application.

What are the requirements needed to apply for OPT?
You don't need any job offer in order to apply for OPT. For post-completion OPT, your application must be received by USCIS not earlier than 90 days before course completion and not later than 60 days after course completion.

How long can I stay in the U.S. if I decide not to pursue OPT?
You need to leave the U.S. within 60 days after your I-20 expires.

After you mail your OPT application

How do I know if the USCIS has received my application?
We recommend that you mail your documents ‘return receipt requested' so you will receive a receipt from the US Postal Service. The International Admissions Coordinator will contact you as soon as the USCIS Receipt Notice has been received.

How can I check if my application has been approved?
Refer to the phone number and Web site listed in the USCIS Receipt Notice and enter your LIN number to inquire about your case.

After you are approved for OPT

When can I start work under OPT?
You can begin to work when the EAD card is in your hand and on /after the authorized start date listed on the card.

Do I have to apply for a Social Security Number?
Yes. Once you find a position, you will need to apply for Social Security number at the local Social Security Administration. Take your passport, I-20, EAD card, and a letter of job offer with you to apply.

Can I take classes during my OPT?
Yes. You may enroll for classes part-time as long as it is at the same educational level. If you transfer to another school, your OPT will automatically be terminated.

Can I travel outside the U.S.?
Yes, you can travel as long as you have the following documents:

  • Your I-20 with a valid signature (signed within the last 6 months)
  • A valid F-1 visa
  • A valid passport
  • Your EAD
  • Letter from your employer confirming that you are working. If you don't have a job, we recommend that you do NOT leave the U.S. The USCIS regulations state that you may be permitted to return to the U.S. to resume working.

What happens if I'm approved for OPT but won't graduate due to (a) failed class(es) or not meeting the minimum required GPA?
If you don't complete your course of study, you have to leave the U.S. within 15 days.

Can I continue to enroll in the international student health insurance plan while I am on OPT?
Yes, you can enroll in CityU's health insurance while you are on OPT. Be sure to contact your international student advisor before the registration deadline to set up and pay for your insurance.

What happens if I can't find a job?
If you're unemployed for a combination of 90 days or more during any post-completion OPT, you have to leave the U.S. or you may be in violation of U.S. immigration law.

Do I need to report anything to the immigration?
While on OPT, you must tell us about any change of address within 10 days of your move. You're also required to report the name and address of your employer so we can update your SEVIS record.

What happens if I lose my job?
You can stay in the U.S. as long as

  • you try to find a job in the field of your study, and
  • you're not unemployed for more than 90 days combined.

Can I change jobs?
Sure. Just keep it in mind that your job has to be related to your major. You also need to give us the name and address of your new employer so we can update your SEVIS record.

After you finish your OPT

How long I can stay in the U.S. after my OPT expires?
60 days.

Can I return to school after completing OPT?
Yes, but only if you obtain a new I-20 within 60 days of your OPT expiration date. If you want to stay with CityU, let us know at least 10 business days before your OPT expires.