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F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

This type of practical training is available for degree seeking students for a total of at least 12 months (or more) per degree level. Moving to a higher degree level resets this 12 month period. OPT can be used during breaks in study or after completion of your final degree requirement. OPT requires that you pursue employment in your area of study, but does not require a specific employment opportunity at the time of application. However, a total period of 90 days of unemployment during post-completion OPT will result in loss of status unless in a 17-month STEM extension (see below). For students on the 17-month STEM extension, students may be unemployed for a total of 120 days throughout the 29 month period. Any student on post-completion OPT must report changes in residential address and employment to the ISO within ten days of any change. Changes should be emailed to issp@virginia.edu. See the link below for more information.

To apply for OPT you must first obtain Form I-20 from the ISO documenting eligibility for OPT and subsequently submit an application for employment authorization to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

You must be in lawful F-1 status at the time of filing, and your period of OPT may commence no earlier than an immediately prior full and continuous academic year, meaning Fall-Spring or Spring-Fall semesters..

Applications for post-completion OPT may be filed no earlier than 90 days prior to the completion of study or during the grace period, if you have not departed the U.S. after the I-20 expires, and within 30 days of the issuance date on the original OPT-endorsed Form I-20. NOTE: If you have not completed all coursework for your degree and are unsure that you will complete your degree on time, you should not apply for post-completion OPT until you are sure or have completed your degree.

Students may request OPT to begin any date from one day after the date of completion of studies up to 60 days after the date of completion of study. Applications for OPT can take three months or more for the USCIS to adjudicate so it is very important to plan accordingly. Students may not begin working pursuant to post-completion OPT unless they are in possession of a valid OPT employment authorization card issued by the USCIS and the start date has been reached.

To begin the process, watch the OPT Application Presentation:

 

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This presentation can be viewed in full screen by clicking here: F-1 OPT Presentation

 


 

How to Apply for F-1 OPT

 

Step One: Review carefully the F-1 OPT Instructional Workshop (PDF) (SWF)

Step Two: Ask your advisor to complete the Academic Advisor Recommendation Form (MS Word).

 

Step Three: Complete a Request for I-20 (MS Word) and Form I-765 (PDF) - For more I-765 information, including the USCIS instructions, visit the USCIS website. Please complete Form I-765 electronically, save it and print it to bring to the ISO for review.

Step Four: Submit the materials (including Form I-765) to the ISO during office hours.  If applying for post-completion OPT, do not submit to our office earlier than the 90 days prior to the end of your I-20, or end of studies, whichever is earlier.  See the online presentation for more precise instructions.

Step Five: Pick up the endorsed Forms I-20 and Form I-765 from the ISO, and follow the OPT USCIS Filing Instructions. The OPT I-20 and full application must be in the hands of Immigration no later than 30 days after the OPT I-20's issue date.

Step Sixth (optional): Complete the Form G-1145www.uscis.gov/files/form/g-1145.pdf, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance if you wish to take advantage of receiving email and/or text messages when your application has been received.  NOTE:  USCIS will continue to mail the receipt notices to you.  Completion and submission of this form for email and/or text message notificaton is an option for you and not a required form.