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Optional Practical Training

In this Section

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is benefit given to F-1 students that allows you to work off–campus in a job related to your field of study. This training must be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) and requires an application process and fee.

NOTE - you do not need a job to apply for OPT. You can submit an application once your coursework has been completed.

You are given a benefit of OPT for a total of 12 months per educational level. This does not accumulate or carry-over to higher educational levels. OPT is further categorized into (3) types - 

  1. Pre-completion (c-3-a) - training completed prior to the completion of your program
  2. Post-completion (c-3-b) - training completed after the completion of all course requirements excluding thesis or equivalent
    1. NOTE - students needing to complete a thesis or special project may do so while on post-compmletion OPT
  3. 17-month STEM extension (c-3-c) - students with a science - technology - engineering - or - mathematics degree may be elgibile for an addtional 17 months of OPT
  4. NEW : 24-month STEM extension (c-3-c) - Effective May 10, 2016 - Details to follow...
    • Please visit Study In the States STEM OPT Hub for detailed information - 
    • STEM Extension Application has been updated...
    • Note - Application pending on May 10, 2016 will be sent a 'Request for Information' to include new 24-month requirements - please notify CU ISSO if this is received.
    • Note - Applications approved prior to May 10, 2016 will be given the option to maintain the 17-month extension - or - apply between May 10, 2016 - August 8, 2016 for the additional 7-month extension period. This is a new application with eligibility under the 24-month extension requirements.

How to apply 

1 - Download and print the OPT checklist

2 - Prepare the items noted on the checklist - make sure that you have all items to ensure a smooth and successful application I would strongly encourage attending the OPT information sessions to be scheduled each semester. 

3- Once you have gathered all of the items noted on the checklist - make an appointment with the ISSO. You must bring all of the following items to the appointment

  • Your completed F-1 OPT request form (NOTE - this form is used for advising purposes only and is not sent to USCIS)
  • Your completed form I-765 signed in blue ink (NOTE - I will review this form prior to actual application submission)
  • Copies of all previously issued I20's from all  schools attended
  • Copy of your passport (picture & signature page only)
  • Copy of your visa stamp (not required for Canadian students)
  • Copy of either your paper I94 (front & back) or your electronic I94 
  • Two (2) U.S. passport style photos taken within the last six months  (this is very important - failure to provide correct and current photos could result in significant delays to your application)
  • Check or money order made payable to USCIS for $380

4 - During our appointment I will review your application and discuss your requested start date for OPT. Once finalized I will make your OPT recommendation in SEVIS and provide you with your new I-20 showing the OPT recommendation on page 3. I will provide you a copy of this document to include with your application. You will keep the original.

5 - MAIL your OPT application to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox within 30 days of my recommendation - failure to mail this within 30 days will result in denial of your application. 

6 - REVIEW your responsibilities while on OPT

Other Reminders while on OPT:

    • You must continue to report any change of address to the ISSO within 10 days of your move. Failure to do so may place your status in jeopardy.
    • You must report your employer information and any changes in employment while on OPT
    • Employment may not begin until your EAD card has been received.
    • You may only begin working once USCIS approves your OPT and only during the validity period approved
    • OPT will allow you to work only in a job related to your major area of study and you must work at least 20 hours per week.
    • Once authorized – you may accept employment anywhere in the United States – provided the employment is within your field of study.
    • While on OPT – you must get your I-20 signed every six months
    • If you transfer to another University to enter another degree program – your OPT authorization will automatically be terminated.
    • Review the FAQ’s on travel while on OPT.

General Information:

Optional Practical Training - Instructions  (updated 12/2015)

F-1 OPT Request Form this form has been revised and will be completed the student and the academic advisor

USCIS Application for Employment Authorization - Form I-765

Form I-765 Instructions

Form G-1145 - e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance

Photo Requirements

Travel while on OPT

OPT Updates/Requests 

OPT Updates/Requests Form - please use this to update your OPT contact/employment information or to make extension requests

OPT Employment History Form

STEM Extension Information:

STEM Extension Application

Responsibilities While on 17-Month STEM Extension

STEM Validation Report - must be completed every 6 months on 17-month STEM extension (mandatory)