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Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students

F-1 regulations state that an F-1 student is entitled up to a 12-month period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) after each completed higher level degree program. All authorized Optional Practical Training will be counted toward each 12-month limit. Students enrolled in English language programs are not eligible for Optional Practical Training.

A student's request to participate in OPT is requested through the Office of International Admission at Muskingum and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and authorized by USCIS. A fee of $410 is required in order to apply. Application packets are available from the Office of International Admission. You must make an appointment with the Designated School Official in the Office of International Admission in order to apply.

Optional Practical Training After Completion of Degree Program

Eligibility requirements for post-completion OPT are: student must be in valid student status for at least one academic year (minimum of 9 months); student has continuously maintained a full-time program of study, with the exception of authorized Reduced Course Loads; student must be maintaining valid F-1 status; have completed a program of study/degree program (to start work in OPT); and student must intend to work in a job directly related to his or her course of study.

A job offer is not required to request OPT. OPT must end no later than 14 months from your completion of study's date. Completion of study date is usually the date a student completes the actual degree requirements (last day of finals), not the date of the graduation ceremony.

After completion of a studies/degree program, OPT may be authorized for any period up to the maximum amount allowed (12 months) or the time remaining when other OPT has been deducted from the 12 months aggregate. For example, if a student did not use OPT during his course of study, the student will have 12 months available; or, if a student has used several months of OPT before the completion of her degree program, re may request the remainder of the 12 months not previously approved.

Please Note: Regulations prohibit a student from working full time and studying (even part time.) Example: Working at company for 40+ hours and taking graduate courses for a new degree program is prohibited.

Application Procedures for OPT - Before and After Completion of Program

Application for after completion-of-program OPT must be made far enough ahead of time for USICS to receive and acknowledge your application before your completion of studies (usually the last day of final exams). Two weeks before your expected date of completion is the latest you should apply. Neither the Office of International Admission nor USCIS will process applications submitted after the completion of your program.

Pick up an OPT packet from the Office of International Admission. Please complete the forms included in the packet and assemble the rest of the required documents. Make an appointment with your Designated School Official (Meri Linn) and bring all the required documents with you your appointment with her. A copy of your complete application will be made for your file.

The following are required to file the OPT application:

  • Check or money order to US Citizenship and Immigration Services for $410
  • Form I-765 completed
  • 2 passport style photos in an envelope, with your name and I-94 number in pencil on the back
  • I-20 with DSO endorsement for OPT – make an appointment for this when you have everything else assembled
  • Copy of current I-20 and all I-20s
  • Copy of passport identification page (and expiration date page if different)
  • Copy of current or most recent student visa
  • Copy of I-94
  • Copy of previous EAD (if you’ve ever had one)
  • Graduation Audit from the Registrar’s office (if applying for post completion OPT), with the confirmation that the classes you are currently taking (or have enrolled in for the summer term), if successfully completed, will meet all of your graduation requirements.
  • Transcript/Academic Record
  • Advisor form, completed and signed by your academic advisor
  • Form I-538 completed and signed by DSO

The DSO will review the above information. If everything is correct and complete, the DSO will complete the form I-538, and issue a new SEVIS I-20 with the recommendation for OPT. The letter from the advisor, transcript, graduation audit, and I-538 are retained in the student’s file. A copy of the I-20, along with all copies of all I-20s (pages 1 and 3) is sent with the completed application (above forms) to the USCIS Service Center servicing the area of the school the student attended . Original I-20s are returned to the student.

USCIS will review the application. If all is acceptable, USCIS will issue a plastic photo ID card called an Employment Authorization Document, or "EAD," valid for the OPT period requested on page 3 of the student I-20. The EAD card will be sent to the address listed on the I-765. Employment is not permitted until the student receives the EAD and the employment start date listed on the EAD is reached. Working before receiving the EAD or reaching the start date is considered illegal employment by USCIS, and USCIS will consider the work as a violation of F-1 status.


Non-Cancellation of Optional Practical Training

Once authorization to engage in OPT is granted, it may not be rescinded or canceled after the beginning date of the work authorization. This means that unexpected delays such as completing degree requirements, inability to find an appropriate job and loss of a job may result in loss of otherwise eligible time to work. Once permission to work for 12 months has been granted, it is gone. Exception: If you receive the EAD card before the work is to begin, you might be able to cancel the OPT. But once the OPT approval date has begun, you cannot cancel the OPT.

Social Security Number

If you plan to work in the U.S., you will need a valid Social Security number). If you have not previously received an SSN, you will need a letter of employment; a letter from a DSO confirming your student status and eligibility to work; and a government-issued form of identification (US or foreign), that includes your birth date, and which is over one year old but not expired (a passport is ideal). The Office of International Admission can make arrangements to take you to the Social Security office. Processing your application and issuing you a number will take about two weeks.


In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for less than five years are exempt from social security taxes (also known as F.I.C.A. tax). You should be sure to notify your employer because many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax laws. The information is in Tax Publication 519.

F-1 students authorized for practical training employment are subject to all other taxes that may apply: federal, state and local. You should consult an accountant or tax attorney for more information.

Employment Eligibility Verification

Within the first three days of beginning work, you and your employer must complete a form entitled Employment Verification (USCIS FORM I-9). This form will be kept on file by your employer and must be updated each time you receive a renewal of your work permission.

Travel Abroad and Re-Entering the United States

Please note: while the OPT application is pending at USCIS, travel outside the U.S. is discouraged.

F-1 students who have been authorized for OPT can travel outside the U.S. if they have the necessary documents. You will need (1) a form I-20 endorsed by Office of International Admission within the last six months; (2) a valid U.S. visa stamp; (3) the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by USCIS or the receipt notice; and (4) proof of employment. If you do not have these documents, you may not be allowed to reenter the U.S.

If your F-1 visa stamp has expired, you will need a new one to reenter the U.S. As this may be difficult to do in some instances, you are urged to consult with Office of International Admission before making your travel plans.