Optional Practical Training is temporary employment authorization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Employment must relate directly to a student’s major field of study. OPT may be used either during a degree program after one year of study (pre-completion OPT) or upon completion of an academic program (post-completion OPT). Most students use OPT upon program completion.
- Plan early! OPT can take around 3 months or more to obtain.
- You don't need a job offer to apply for OPT.
- Students must have completed two long semesters at UT to be eligible to apply.
- Students may apply for post-completion OPT as early as 90 days before their graduation date or as late as 60 days after their graduation date.
- Students who finish all coursework required for graduation and plan to enroll in absentia for the following semester must apply for OPT before completion of their coursework.
- An OPT Administrative Fee of $100 for post-completion OPT and $175 for the 24-month OPT extension is charged once a student has attended the OPT workshop and is eligible to apply for post-completion OPT or STEM OPT.
- While engaged in Post-Completion Optional Practical Training, you are still considered to be in F-1 student status. To maintain your status, you cannot accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment from the start date listed on you EAD. If you do, you must immediately leave the United States. You must also report any change in employment or address to the ISSS within 10 days or be in violation of your status.
At UT, you must attend an OPT Workshop before you may apply for post-completion OPT. Students applying for pre-completion OPT are not required to attend the workshop, though it’s highly encouraged.
During the workshop you will learn:
- General information about OPT
- The application timeline and considerations
- Detailed instructions on how to prepare a successful application
- Your immigration responsibilities while you're using OPT
- Information about traveling while on OPT
We offer the OPT Workshop 1-2 times per week at the International Office. A reservation is required to attend.
- Attend an OPT workshop.
- Once you have attended the workshop, charge and pay the OPT Administrative Fee. This should be paid 24 hours before your advising appointment.
- Make an International Student Advising - OPT Application appointment. An advisor will review your OPT application, issue an OPT I-20, and help you prepare the application for mailing to USCIS.
Bring the following documents to your appointment:
- Completed and printed out I-765 form (PDF).
- Graduation letter - Official Letter on letterhead from The Office of the Registrar OR Official Letter on letterhead from your Academic Department containing your name, major, current degree level, and graduation semester.
- Two copies of your newest passport.
- Two copies of your F-1 visa (or most recent entry visa).
- Two copies of your most recent I-94. If you have an electronic I-94, be sure to print it out before the appointment.
- Passport photos. Be sure your photos meet the required specifications. If you plan to get your photos from the International Office Passport Services, do this before your scheduled appointment.
- Check or money order for $410 USD made payable to the Department of Homeland Security.
- Completed and printed out G-1145 form (PDF).
Report OPT Employment
Please report your OPT employment or volunteer work within 10 days of your start date and anytime there is a change. Reporting your employment is important because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must verify that you are employed and not in violation of the 90-day unemployment rule.You can update your employment details directly to your SEVIS record through the SEVP Portal. Personal contact information should be updated in MyUT.
Once your OPT is approved and your EAD card arrives, upload a copy for ISSS to review. This is an important step because it allows ISSS to review important details in your immigration record and make any corrections if necessary.
Any time there is a change to your employment, report the change directly to your SEVIS record using the SEVP Portal.
You will receive an email with instructions on creating a portal account once your OPT is approved. This email will come from firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do not see the email, check your spam or junk mail folder. If you still do not see it, contact email@example.com to have the email sent again.
SEVP has created an SEVP Portal Help page with instructions on using the portal. If you have any questions about the portal or need assistance, call the SEVP Response Center at 703-603-3400.
If you change your immigration status, upload a copy of your Change of Status Approval Notice notifying us of your new status. An international student advisor will review your information to confirm that USCIS appropriately completed your record.
If you decide to return to your home country and not use your OPT authorization, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm that you don’t want to use the remainder of your OPT along with the date you plan to leave the United States. An international student advisor will complete your SEVIS record and report your departure from the United States.
OPT Frequently Asked Questions
Provide a U.S. mailing address on your application that is valid at least 5 months from submitting your application. This is where all correspondence will be sent once your application has been processed by USCIS, so having a stable address is important. USCIS will not forward immigration mail. If you move while the application is pending, be sure to update your address by contacting the USCIS National Customer Service Center as soon as possible.
Please note: ISSS does not allow students to use the International Office address on their I-765.
Yes. You must be physically present in the United States when you apply for OPT and when USCIS receives your application.
If you have an OPT application pending with USCIS and have not yet graduated, you can travel as you normally would as an F-1 student. For instance, if you applied for OPT in May, are enrolled during the summer, and will graduate in August, you may still travel as a student until the official summer graduation date. It is important to note that re-entry to the US immediately before your official graduation date carries an increased risk of denial of entry. Please refer to the Registrar's calendar to find official semester graduation dates.
The International Office does not recommend international travel after graduation while your OPT application is pending. Traveling during this period can jeopardize the approval of your application. We recommend discussing your travel plans with an International Student Advisor before departing the U.S.
If you depart the US after graduating and your OPT application is approved, you will need to make arrangements with a friend or family member to have your EAD card mailed to you. USCIS does not forward EAD cards, so it is very important to provide a valid US mailing address on your application.
- Original I-20 with OPT recommendation. The travel signature/endorsement is valid for 6 months from the date of signature while you are on OPT. This is different from when you were an enrolled student and the travel signature was valid for 12 months.
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) from USCIS
- Offer of Employment Letter from your employer that includes the dates of your employment, a description of your duties, your salary, location where you will be working, and number of hours of work per week. You should also be prepared to discuss how this job experience relates to your major field of study. If your employer is sponsoring you for a work visa, this information should not be included in your letter for travel while on OPT. Any mention of plans to change visa statuses could be interpreted as a misrepresentation of your intentions in the U.S. by a Port of Entry Officer. A volunteer position letter is acceptable.
- Valid F-1 visa Do not use other types of US visas (i.e. tourist visa or visa waiver) if you plan to use OPT upon your return to the U.S.
- Valid passport
If you are going to Canada or Mexico or other contiguous territories (except for Cuba) and staying for less than 30 days, you can re-enter the U.S. on your expired F-1 visa stamp, a valid passport, EAD card, and an I-20 with a valid travel signature. This process is called Automatic Visa Revalidation (AVR). Tell the immigration official at the port of exit (border) that you intend to stay outside the U.S. for less than 30 days and that your U.S. visa is expired. Make sure to have all your documents before you travel and present those documents to reenter the U.S. Additional details about AVR can be found on our page Know Before You Travel.
If you are traveling elsewhere and your F-1 visa is expired, you must visit a U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for a new F-1 visa. Please reference our Visa Information page for more information on the visa renewal process. In addition to the documents listed on the Visa Information page, you will also need to bring your EAD card and employment letter with you to the visa appointment.
Many UT students successfully travel and renew their F-1 visas while on OPT. However, the risk of denial for an F-1 visa renewal while on OPT is slightly higher than when you are enrolled in an academic program. The fact that the focus of your stay in the U.S. while on OPT is working rather than going to school could be seen as an avenue for an adjustment of status to permanent residency. As the F-1 student visa requires applicants have intentions to return to their home country upon completed their academic program, the visa application could be denied if the embassy official is not convinced of your intention to return home. During your visa appointment it is important to demonstrate that your intent still matches the purpose of the non-immigrant F-1 student visa category. Be prepared to answer how your stay in the United States is temporary and be prepared to demonstrate that you do not intend to immigrate to the United States. You can do this by showing strong ties to your home country, such as family, property, or employment waiting for your return. Evidence can often be subjective, so use your best judgment to decide what documents you want to take with you to your visa appointment.
Please consult an Immigration Attorney for guidance regarding international travel if you plan to pursue the H-1B process, have an H-1B petition pending with USCIS, or have an I-797 H-1B approval notice.
For international travel, the travel signature on page 2 of your I-20 should be less than 6 months old by the date of your return to the US. If you are in the Austin area, you may visit our office during advising hours to request a travel signature. No appointment is necessary for this service.
If you are unable to stop by our office, you may request a new I-20 with travel signature online.
In order to sign your I-20 for travel, we must have an employment report on file. Please be sure to report your employment on our website before requesting your I-20.
Still have questions?
International Student Advisors are available to assist you while you are on OPT. For general questions or requests, please email email@example.com. For non-general inquires, please schedule an appointment to speak with an International Student Advisor. If you are no longer in the Austin area, you may schedule a phone appointment by listing your phone number in the comment section of your appointment reservation. Please keep in mind that International Student Advisors are trained in student visa topics. For information on employer-sponsored visas or residency applications, please consult with your employer's representative or a qualified Immigration Attorney.