Optional Practical Training

OPT (Optional Practical Training ) for F-1 Students

Optional Practical Training is defined as temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student’s major area of study (8 C.F.R. 214.2 (f)(10)(ii).

General Information about OPT
  • Available to students who have been enrolled in a full course of study in the U.S. and have maintained F-1 status for at least one academic year, prior to the start date of OPT
  • Available to students who have not exceeded 12 months of full-time CPT.
  • Does not require an employment offer at the time of application
  • Can be submitted up to 90 days prior to the desired OPT start date
  • Requires recommendation from an ISSS Advisor (DSO) and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
  • Authorized once for each degree level (bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate) for up to 12 months
  • Must be received at USCIS within 30 days of the date DSO enters OPT recommendation in SEVIS
  • Employment can begin only on or after the start date on the EAD card
  • Allows for no more than 90 days of unemployment during the 12-month employment period. Thus, employment must begin no later than 90 days after the start date of the EAD card
Types of OPT

A) Pre-completion OPT (Code: (c) (3) (A))

  • Can be applied for at any time during program of study (after completing at least one academic year)
  • Granted prior to degree completion; cannot exceed program completion date listed on the I-20
  • Authorized part-time (20 hours per week or less) while school is in session, or full-time during the summer semester (if not enrolled full-time) and other official breaks and holidays, if currently enrolled and expecting to enroll for the next available semester
  • Deducted from the 12-month period of OPT eligibility (students must apply separately for post-completion OPT for the period not used as pre-completion OPT-90-day unemployment period does’t apply)

B) Post-completion OPT (Code: (c) (3) (B)))

  • Should be applied for during the semester in which student expects to receive the degree and up to 90 days prior to the desired OPT start date
  • Must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after the program completion date listed on the I-20
  • Authorization granted for full-time OPT up to 12 months (less any period of authorized pre-completion OPT)

C) Extension OPT (STEM) for eligible student in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Fields (Code: (c) (3) (C)) (please see below)

Graduate students who have completed all degree requirements except for thesis/dissertation may apply for either pre-completion or post-completion OPT. Students are eligible for the post-completion option only if all program requirements are completed prior to the desired OPT start date (coursework, qualifying examinations, proposal) except for thesis or dissertation hours.

Travel during OPT
  • Students engaged in Pre-completion OPT must follow the same travel requirements that apply to all F-1 students who are currently enrolled
  • Students engaged in Post-completion OPT should consult with ISS prior to making travel arrangements
    • Traveling before receiving EAD card and an employment offer should be avoided. When traveling, page 2 of the I-20 must have the DSO’s travel endorsement (valid for six months).
    • Traveling with a pending OPT application is not recommended.
    • Obtaining a new F-1 visa while on OPT can be risky.
    • Consulting with an ISS advisor before making plans to travel outside the U.S. is recommended - each travel situation is different and may require individual advising.
Reporting Requirements during Post-Completion OPT


The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will automate the SEVIS termination of any OPT record which does not contain the employment information by day 90 of the OPT authorization (calculated from the start date listed on the Employment Authorization Document your receive from USCIS in order to begin your OPT employment).

In order to ensure that all records are properly updated, we ask that you report your OPT employment to our office by submitting the OPT  Employment Update Form online. If this information is new or different from the information currently stored in your SEVIS record, we will print a new OPT I-20 for you and contact you for pickup or mailing arrangements.

FAU is responsible for the F-1 SEVIS record and I-20 for the duration of OPT. Students must keep ISS informed of the following:

  • Initial employment information within 90 days of the OPT start date (employer name, location, address, contact information, including email) as well as any subsequent changes in employment.
  • Completion of OPT prior to OPT end date due to change of status or return to the home country
  • Acceptance to another degree program in F-1 status will require SEVIS transfer if going to another school in the U.S.
  • Student’s current address and contact information (including a non-FAU email address); change of address information must be provided within 10 days.
Reporting Requirements during 24-month STEM OPT Extension


The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will send an email reminder to STEM OPT students to the email account associated with the student's SEVIS record (FAU email in most cases). During the STEM OPT period, students will be required to report every 6-months to confirm their participation and upload their I-983 training plan updates as applicable. Students are responsbile for submitting the STEM OPT reporting e-form to ISS for each of the reporting periods.

STEM OPT Reporting E-form

ISS Notification Requirements during OPT:

Persons engaged in OPT continue to be in F-1 status, and ISS continues to have responsibility for maintaining these records throughout the duration of OPT. Students engaged in OPT must provide ISS with the following information:

  • Initial employment information within the 90 days of the OPT start date - completed  OPT Employment Update Form.
  • Report to ISS every six months (confirm employment and current address). Second and third reporting will require I-983 evaluation submission to ISS.
  • Consequent changes in employment.
  • Changes of address (within 10 days of occurrence).
  • Change of status to another category.
  • Departure from the U.S. prior to the end date of OPT.
  • Transfer of schools to begin a new academic program prior to OPT completion.
  • Plans to travel outside the U.S. to renew F-1 visa.


OPT Online Workshop & Quiz

How to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

Whether you plan to apply online or by mail with USCIS you must first apply for and receive a new I-20 from ISS specifically recommending you for OPT on page 2. Please follow the steps below:

Step 1: Please review the online OPT workshop and complete the quiz before you submit the paperwork to International Student Services office. (When you receive a score of 100% Total Points 100/100. Please be sure to print your results to include your score, Email, Name, Z# and attach to your OPT application.  Note: OPT applications without confirmation of 100/100 quiz score will not be processed.)

OPT Online Workshop

OPT Quiz

Step 2: Please submit electronically your OPT application form and upload through this e-form all required documents listed (copy of filing fee, I-765, etc). Please note this e-form will be routed to your academic adviser for review and then the final processing will be done by ISS. It is the student's responsibility to follow-up with their academic adviser to ensure the secondary approver portion is completed.

Step 3: It will take 7 -10 business days to process your OPT request.

Step 4: ISS office will send you an e-mail to inform you the new OPT I-20 is ready, which will be attached as a scanned copy to the same email. Detailed instructions will be provided in that same email. You will be responsible for mailing all the necessary documents to USCIS on your own.

If you have any questions, please contact ISS at 561-297-3049 or send an email to  isss@fau.edu.

OPT Application Deadlines

Applications are accepted the third week of classes to accommodate SEVIS registration (OPT I-20 must be received by USCIS, no sooner than 90 days before the program end date, and no later than 60 days after the program end date).

To view USCIS processing time information please click here.

Please note that ISS has no control over the USCIS processing time. It will take up to 10 business days for ISS to issue the new I-20 for your OPT application. After receiving the new I-20 you will need submit your complete application to USCIS and it will take on average 1 to 3 months (or more) for USCIS approval. Students are encouraged to apply towards the beginning of the application window as seen below.

Dates below are in the format MM/DD/YYYY

Semester OPT Beginning
Application Date
Recommended Deadline Final Deadline End of 60 day
Grace Period
OPT Requested
Start Date*

Spring 2024





05/02/2024 - 06/30/2024

Summer 2024





08/03/2024 - 10/01/2024

Fall 2024





12/12/2024 - 02/09/2025

*You will need to choose an OPT requested start date as part of your application for OPT. Please refer to the table above to see the date range from which you may choose a start date. The OPT requested start date must be a date that is within your 60-day grace period. 

While waiting for your OPT you can visit USCIS website to track your petition status, review general OPT processing times and create USCIS online account:


Check your case status  <- after you have receipt notice (takes 2-4 weeks to arrive by mail)

Check processing times  <- select I-765 – Service center is listed on receipt notice

Create a USCIS account   (to file online or upload receipt for a paper filed by mail case)

To-do AFTER OPT Approval

Important: After your OPT has been approved and once you have employment, please be sure to complete the mandatory OPT Employment Update Form

For job search guidance and career building skills, please meet with a Career Center advisor: https://www.fau.edu/career/students/ The Career Center is available to FAU students and FAU alumni to assist with interview skills, resume review, job search resources and more.

Post-completion OPT Employment Reminders:

  • Only start working after your OPT has been approved and only work within the official authorization dates printed on the EAD card - employment authorization document/work permit.
  • Student must report employment (complete e-form above) before accruing 90 days of unemployment time, which begins from the official OPT start date printed on the EAD card.
  • You must report at least 20 hours per week minimum of employment as paid or unpaid work.
  • There is no maximum to the number of hours worked per week.
  • The work should directly relate to the I-20 major as printed on the form I-20 for which the OPT is being approved for.
  • Unpaid internships/volunteer work may be acceptable for post-completion OPT if the work is related to the degree and is 20 hours per week.
  • Employment must be for a US-based employer; foreign employment cannot be reported as OPT employment.
  • Self-employment is permitted during 12-month post-completion OPT. ISS cannot advise extensively on opening a business, but you may review this helpful government site to get started: https://www.sba.gov/
  • You may work for more than one employer during the OPT authorization period. Each employment, including self-employment, must be reported via the OPT Employment Update Form.
  • For students working on-campus positions: you can only work up until the final date of classes (in final term of study), which will reflect as your new program end date (page 1 of I-20) after receiving the new I-20 issued with OPT recommendation.
    • You may only resume working on or after the official OPT start date as printed on the EAD card (following USCIS approval). The work must relate to the major and be 20 hrs per week minimum.
    • Do not work during any gap period between I-20 program end date and official OPT start--doing so is considered unauthorized employment!

STEM OPT Employment Reminders:

  • You must work a paid position for at minimum 20 for per week for an employer that is e-verfied.
  • Self-employment is NOT permitted during STEM OPT.
  • A new training plan form I-983 is required whenever a STEM OPT student is changing employers.
  • You may work for more than one employer during STEM OPT, however, the second employer must meet all the STEM OPT critera: 20 hours minimum worked per week for each employer; position must be paid; employer must be e-verified; training plan form I-983 is required for each STEM OPT employer.
  • In addition to the 90 days unemployment time during post-completion OPT, STEM OPT grants an additional 60 days unemployment time for an aggregate total of 150 days unemployment time.
  • STEM OPT overview on employment requirements: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub/additional-resources/stem-opt-extension-overview.

STEM Extension OPT

What is the STEM OPT Extension?

STEM OPT Extension (USCIS filing category C3C) can only be applied for during a valid period of post-completion OPT (USCIS filing category C3B). F-1 students who receive Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degrees and who are employed by employers enrolled in E-Verify, and who have received an initial grant of post-completion OPT related to such a degree are eligible to apply for a 24-month STEM OPT Extension.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published a new F-1  STEM OPT extension rule  which is now effective as of May 10, 2016

The STEM OPT Extension is a 24-month period of temporary training that directly relates to F-1 student’s program of study in an  approved STEM field

STEM Degree List

Please review the links below for a list of STEM degrees currently offered by FAU as well as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Designated STEM List. Please note that the FAU STEM List may change per academic year.

How to apply for 24-Month STEM OPT

Step 1: You can apply for the 24-month STEM OPT extension no sooner than 90 days prior to your current post-completion OPT end date and no later than the day your current EAD card expires. USCIS must receive the new form I-20 recommending STEM OPT and application before the current 12-month OPT expires. As long as your application is received by USCIS by your current EAD end date, you will be allowed to remain in the U.S. and continue employment for 180 days or until a decision is made on your application.

Step 2: Review and complete the  STEM OPT Application E-Form  (detailed instructions provided within e-form)

Step 3: ISS will email you a copy of the new I-20 recommending STEM OPT on page 2. This I-20 will need to be printed and signed by you using pen. You will then need to include a copy of this I-20 with your submitted STEM OPT petition for USCIS.

What is E-verify?

E-Verify is a web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. E-Verify employers verify the identity and employment eligibility of newly hired employees by electronically matching information provided by employees on the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, against records available to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

An employer must be registered in E-verify and the student needs to provide the 4 to 7 digit long e-verfiy number on their I-765 at the time of requesting the STEM OPT extension benefit

Visit the following website to learn more and how employers can enroll at no cost:  https://www.e-verify.gov/

Reporting Requirements during 24-month STEM OPT Extension


The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will send an email reminder to STEM OPT students to the email account associated with the student's SEVIS record (FAU email in most cases). During the STEM OPT period, students will be required to report every 6-months to confirm their participation and upload their I-983 training plan updates as applicable. Students are responsbile for submitting the STEM OPT reporting e-form to ISS for each of the reporting periods.

STEM OPT Reporting E-form

Frequently Asked Questions

This list of questions and answers will be updated regularly as ISS receives more questions from students and alumni and clarifications from the Department of Homeland Security.

Q: I am currently working on post-completion OPT, authorized after a non-STEM degree, but I have earned a previous STEM degree from a US institution. If I am eligible to apply for a STEM OPT Extension based on the previous STEM degree, can I continue working in my current job?

A: Given the limited guidance provided by DHS, if you did not apply for STEM OPT Extension based on the earlier earned STEM degree, you may be eligible to apply for a new STEM OPT Extension based on that previous STEM degree. However, the job you are pursuing must be directly related to the STEM degree. If your current job is not related to the STEM degree, you may apply for the STEM OPT Extension if you change to a new position which is directly related to your current degree and your previous STEM degree.


Q: I am applying for STEM OPT Extension and I need to travel outside of the U.S. Can I travel outside the US while the STEM OPT Extension is pending?

A: Based on the processing times and current DHS guidance, we recommend that a student not travel while the STEM OPT Extension application is pending. If a student’s current EAD card expires while the STEM OPT Extension application is still pending, a student can continue to work under the terms of the authorized OPT while he/she is waiting for its approval. While a student can travel while the current OPT Employment Authorization (EAD) card is still valid, if your current EAD card has expired you should NOT leave the US as you will need the new EAD card for the approved STEM OPT Extension in order to re-enter the US and, if needed, apply for a new F-1 entry visa stamp at the US Consulate while abroad in order to re-enter the US.


SEVP Portal

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) launched the SEVP Portal, which streamlines the SEVIS update process by enabling F-1 students participating in post-completion optional practical training (OPT) to report personal and employer information directly to SEVP. Link to the SEVP Portal:  https://sevp.ice.gov/opt/#/login

Through the portal, students can now:

  • Add or edit their phone number.
  • Add or edit their mailing and physical address.
  • Add or edit their employer information.

* * Current regulations, however, dictate that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) OPT student trainees must still have their designated school officials (DSO) add or change their own employer information via the Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.”

For more information on how the SEVP Portal works click  here.