Optional Practical Training (OPT)

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 For students seeking simple on-campus employment during their period of study
For students seeking to partake in employment that is integral to their study
For students seeking temporary employment directly related to their academic program
For qualifying STEM degree recipients who wish to extend their OPT allowance
For students seeking information to refine or expand their understanding of employment benefits and responsibilities.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization that is related to an F-1 student’s academic program. The work done does not count towards course credit; therefore it is the student’s option to engage in employment. OPT may be used during a degree program (not recommended) as well as after completion of course requirements. The application process takes a minimum of three months for both initial applications and renewals.

The International Office recommends that you not apply for OPT until you are certain of your graduation date. Students are urged to apply as early as possible, but not later than the last day to apply according to your graduation date.

OPT tutorial thumbnail
You can use either the .PDF "tutorial" here or the written information below for guidance regarding the OPT process.

OPT Application - Quick Checklist

  • Quickly refer to the necessary steps
    1. Prepare your immigration documents and Academic Advisor's Recommendation Letter for your OPT application.
    2. Use those documents to complete the OPT application form for the Office of International Student Services.
    3. Receive your new OPT Recommendation I-20 from our office.
    4. Submit all documents to USCIS for their adjudication.

OPT Eligibility

  • Am I eligible for OPT?

    To be eligible for Optional Practical Training, ...

    • The student must have been in full-time status consisting of 12 months of full time enrollment preceding the OPT application.
    • The student must not have worked in the United States without authorization from the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services.
    • The student must be in valid F-1 status at the time of application.
    An offer of employment is not required to complete your initial OPT application and receive authorization to work. However, students should be aware that they will be expected to work during their authorized period, so obtaining an offer at least during the application process is advised. Employment must relate to your major of study.
  • When can I apply for Post-Completion OPT?

    Students seeking to apply for OPT:

    • Must apply within 30 days of your DSO entering the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record, and
    • May apply up to 90 days before you complete your degree, but no later than 60 days after you complete your degree. Refer to LU's Academic calendar for dates.
  • What materials and/or documents are required to apply for OPT?

    Documents copies you will need include, but are not limited to,:

    1. All previous I-20s issued to you
    2. F-1 Visa page and Passport ID pages (which include your photo, passport number and expiration date)
    3. Two recent photographs on thin, glossy paper per instructions from USCIS. Write your name and SEVIS number in pencil on the back of the photos. Do not cut to size or staple
    4. (If applicable) All previous employment authorization documents (EAD cards), including your current EAD card.
    5. Your Most Recent I-94 record (obtained here; Print or save as .PDF)
    6. Your academic advisor's recommendation form
    7. The completed USCIS I-765 form
    8. $410 payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. We highly recommend a cashier’s check or money order. Always check and ensure you are paying the correct filing fee amount by verifying the information on the USCIS I-765 webpage here.

OPT Application Steps

  • What should I do first?
    Gather all materials mentioned above (see "What materials are required to apply for OPT?"). For the next form, you will need to at least have the Recommendation Form and the Completed I-765 ready.
  • How do I complete the Academic Advisor's Recommendation Form?

    Contact your academic advisor for completing the form found here. In addition to their approval, you must seek the signatures of your academic department's Chair and the academic college's Dean.

    If you are an Graduate student, the Graduate Studies office must also provide a signature. For Undergraduates, the Associate Provost's office must provide a signature instead.

    Once all four required signatures are gathered and the form is properly filled, the document can be considered complete.

  • How do I complete the I-765 form?

    The purpose of the Form I-765 found here is used to request initial permission to accept employment. We encourage student's to carefully read and follow the form line-by-line in filling out the information. Here are some tips for completing the PDF form for OPT: 

    • Type this form, except for the signature box.
    • Part 1, Question 1: Check the first box labeled "1.a." ("Initial permission to accept employment").
    • Part 2, Question 5: Make certain that the address you put here will be valid for the next 90 to 120 days as this is where your receipt and EAD will be sent. Mail from USCIS will not be forwarded by the U.S. Postal Service.  If you have any doubt where your mail will be delivered after graduation, we strongly advise that you use the OISPS address: P.O. Box 10263, Beaumont, TX 77710. 
    • Part 2, Questions 13.a: If you have not yet been assigned a SSN for any employment, answer "No" and use the next few questions (through item 17) to request a SSN with USCIS' aid.
    • Part 2, Question 21.a: Enter the number from your online I-94 record here.   
    • Part 2, Question 27: Type the Post-Completion OPT Eligibility code: (c)(3)(B)
    • Signature: Sign in black ink and make sure your signature does not touch any text or line.
     Above advisement valid for form edition dated 08/25/20

    For detailed USCIS guidance on filling and completing the I-765, please see their document HERE.

  • What do I do with the Recommendation Form and I-765 now?

    You will now need to petition our office to obtain a new I-20 with our OPT Recommendation. You must do so by completing our online webform found here. This form will be your formal request to our office along with your confirmation of understanding the rules and regulations pertaining to your hopeful OPT allowance. Scanned copies of both the Recommendation Form and your I-765 must be uploaded within this online webform, so please ensure you have your scanned, digital copies ready to attach when asked.

    Again, Post-Completion OPT applicants should submit the following documents to the OISPS at least 60 days prior to the expiration of their Program End Date (check I-20). Allow our office 3 - 5 business days for review and processing. If there are concerns or questions, the advisor will attempt to contact you.

    OISPS will notify you by email when your OPT I-20 is ready for your pick-up or mailing. Those choosing to have the document mailed to them must arrange payment and shipping through eShipGlobal (detailed instructions will be given with the notice). You may opt to have a friend pick up your I-20 for you by notifying the OISPS via an email (international@lamar.edu) that includes the authorization statement, the student's name, and his/her LU ID.

  • What happens after I receive the I-20 with the OPT Recommendation?

    The updated SEVIS I-20 will be submitted by the student with their I-765 application and all other documents/materials listed. It is the student's final responsibility to ensure they are correctly filing their petition to USCIS. OISPS always recommends that students should carefully read and review the filing instructions for submitting their I-765 application to USCIS, which can be found here in the links below:

    To receive a electronic notice from UCSIS when they accept your packet, please also include the G-1145 (application and instructions found here).

    In addition to typical physical application instructions, USCIS is now allowing I-765 applicants to file their I-765 application online. Students will be required to create an online account with USCIS in order to take advantage of this feature. Students may go to https://myaccount.uscis.gov to create their account. Any questions regarding this service should be directed at USCIS.


  • Approval of OPT allowance
    If your I-765 is approved, USCIS will issue you a Form I-766, “Employment Authorization Document” (or EAD card). This is your proof that you have authorization to work in the United States under your current status. You must carry this card with you when you travel. You may not begin to work until the date listed on your EAD; it also lists the date when your employment authorization ends.

OPT - Rules and Regulations

  • Quick-reference: Characteristics of F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)
    • Student must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis at a DHS-approved school for one full academic year before being eligible for OPT. Available both before and after completion of the educational objective, but different rules apply to pre- and post-completion OPT. Students in English language training programs are not eligible for OPT. OPT must be “directly related to the student’s major area of study.”
    • Students may engage in OPT for any employer for the duration of OPT authorization, as long as the employment qualifies under OPT standards.
    Hours per week
    • 20 hours/week limit for pre-completion OPT done while school is in session and student still has coursework to complete.
    • Full-time employment can be requested for pre-completion OPT done during official school breaks, and for students who have completed all requirements for their degree except for thesis or dissertation.
    • For post-completion OPT, according to SEVP guidance a student must be adequately employed to avoid limits on unemployment.
    Field / level of work
    • Must be directly related to the student's course of study.
    Offer of employment
    • No offer of employment is required to apply for standard OPT, but the student is expected to work during the OPT EAD validity period. Students on post-completion OPT are limited to a maximum of 90 days of unemployment.
    • To apply for a 24-month STEM extension, student must have an offer of employment from an employer registered with E-Verify.
    Effect on other work
    • Prior use of full-time Curricular Practical Training for one year or more eliminates eligibility for Optional Practical Training.
    Approval Process
    • DSO recommends OPT in SEVIS.
    • Student files I-765 application for EAD with USCIS Lockbox Facility.
    • Work can begin only after receiving EAD issued by USCIS, and on or after the start date on the EAD.
    • Special rules govern applications for the 24-month STEM OPT extension.
    • If doing pre-completion OPT, must maintain a full course of study during the period of employment (unless done during school breaks).
    • Degree candidates that have completed all coursework must continue to make normal progress towards completing the thesis or dissertation required for their degree.

    Note: F-1 students with approved employment authorization (OPT) from USCIS Service Center must present their EAD card when applying for a social security card.

  • Types of activity that constitute employment while on OPT

    The following activities are considered allowable employment on both pre-completion and standard post-completion OPT, provided that the job is directly related to the student's program of study. While a student engages in such activity during a period of post-completion OPT, he or she is not considered "unemployed":

    • Regular paid employment in a position directly related to the student's program of study.
      • For post-completion OPT, the work must be for at least 20 hours per week.
      • Students may work for multiple employers, as long as it is directly related to the student's program of study.
    • Payment by multiple short-term multiple employers. SEVP says that "Students, such as musicians and other performing artists, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration."

    • Work for hire. SEVP says, "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, students should be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company."

    • Self-employed business owner. SEVP says, "Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student should be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program."

    • Employment through an agency. SEVP says, "Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency."

    • Volunteers or unpaid interns. SEVP says, "Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work should be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. A student should be able to provide evidence, acquired from the student's employer, to verify that he or she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment."
      • Note that a volunteer position or unpaid internship would be a valid option for someone who otherwise might not meet the minimum employment requirement.

    For additional information regarding OPT requirements, refer to USCIS web site here.

  • Changes during OPT allowance

    While on OPT, a student is required to report the following to their DSO:

    • Change in student’s legal name.
    • Change in student’s address while on OPT.
    • Changes in employment or interruption of employment.
    Keep in mind that you are still considered as a F-1 student while engaging in Post-Completion OPT. Therefore, you must be mindful to keep in active contact with our office's DSOs if sudden changes occur that could affect your lawful visa status.
  • Unemployment while on OPT
    While students are not required to have an employer when OPT is requested in SEVIS, students authorized for post-completion OPT are expected to be employed. A student on post-completion OPT can be unemployed for a total of 90 days. If more than 90 days of unemployment is accrued, SEVP official can manually Terminate a student's SEVIS records, and the student will be expected to depart the US as soon as possible.
  • Finishing initial OPT allowance
    As your 12-month Employment Authorization comes to a close, students should choose their next course of action. Students are allowed a 60 day grace period following the OPT expiration date to either leave the US, change their visa status, or transfer their F-1 to a new degree program or university. STEM degree holders may also consider timely filing for an STEM OPT Extension, allowing them to continue to work.