Optional Practical Training (OPT) FAQs

What is OPT?

Practical training that is:

  • Related to your major (not your minor)
  • Valid for 12 months (for post-completion OPT)

How do I know if I’m eligible for OPT?

  • To be eligible for OPT, you must:
    • Be an F-1 student in good academic standing
    • Complete one full academic year (both fall and spring) of full-time course study
    • Complete Central’s OPT application

Who is not eligible for OPT?

  • Students who have graduated and are beyond the 60-day grace period
  • Students who have already completed 12 months of OPT
  • Students who have already completed 12 months of full-time CPT

When can I use OPT?

  • Central allows post-completion OPT which is completed directly following graduation from Central

Are there any time restrictions for OPT?

  • OPT is valid for 12 months
  • Must work at least 20 hours per week
  • Students in a STEM related major which is recognized on the Dept. of Homeland Security’s STEM Designated Degree Program list can apply for a 24 month STEM extension if they are currently in an approved period of OPT

When should I apply for OPT?

  • It is a good idea to start the application process for OPT at least one month (and no earlier than 90 days) prior to graduation; however, a student can apply for post-completion OPT after graduation as long as the application is received by the USCIS before the end of the student’s 60-day grace period

What are the steps for applying for OPT authorization?

  • Complete Central’s OPT application
  • Bring the following documents to the Central College registrar’s office for mailing:
    • Photocopies of:
      • All prior Forms I-20
      • Any previous employment authorization documents (EAD)
      • Completed Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, marked with the code (c)(3)(B) for item 16 to indicate post-completion OPT
    • Write a check or obtain a money order for the Form I-765 filing fee, made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
    • Obtain two identical immigration-style phots, taken within 30 days of filing Form I-765
    • Photocopy or print out of Form I-94 (Both sides of cardstock I-94 or copy of electronic Form I-94 printout)

What happens after my application is mailed?

  • You will receive I-797 receipt notice letting you know that your 90-day processing time has begun
  • After your application is approved, USCIS will mail your OPT Employment Authorization (EAD) (usually within 30 days)

When can I start work?

  • You can choose to set a preferred start date of any date within 60 days of your graduation date.
  • If USCIS approves your application before this date, your actual start date will be your preferred start date
  • If USCIS approved your application after your preferred start date, they will set a new actual start date for you

What is my obligation to Central once I find job?

  • Once you find employment, you must contact the Central College SEVIS representative with the following information:
    • Employer name:
    • Job Title:
    • Employer EIN: (if available)
    • Start Date:
    • Full time or part time:
    • Employer Address:
    • Explain how this job relates to your major

What happens if I can’t find a job?

  • You cannot maintain valid F-1 status if you accumulate 90 days of unemployment during 12 months of OPT

How are the 90 days of unemployment figured?

  • Count only days between dates listed on the Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • Count all days, including weekends and holidays
  • Count any week in which you are employed less than 20 hours
  • Count days outside the U.S., if unemployed

Do I need to update my address if I will be living at a new address during my OPT?

  • Yes, the F-1 immigration regulations require you to report your local, U.S. address within 10 days of moving to a new address.

Can I take classes during OPT?

  • No, the regulations indicate your OPT is automatically terminated when you begin study at another educational level or if you transfer to another institution.