Center for International Services & Programs

Optional Practical Training

All students who are interested in doing CPT or OPT have to attend a practical training workshop conducted by International Students Advisor.

For workshop schedule click here. For OPT FAQ click here.

F-1 international students who have maintained their status and have completed one academic year of study in the U.S. may be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Approval for OPT is recommended by the International Student Advisor (ISA) and granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The USCIS may take 90 days to process your application. Once you receive an EAD from the USCIS, it is impossible to revoke it. You cannot work while you are waiting for the EAD to arrive.

What is Optional Practical Training?

Optional Practical Training is temporary employment related to the area of study indicated on your Form I-20. You may use your OPT time during your course of study or after the completion of your studies. You are allowed a maximum of 12 months during your entire academic career in the US.

Part time employment is 20 hours per week or less. Full time employment is 21 hours or more per week. You may apply to use your OPT time as you wish during your academic career in the US per the following guidelines:

  1. While school is in session (part-time only)
  2. During vacation (part-time or full-time)
  3. After completion of all course work but before completion of thesis or dissertation (part-time or full-time)
  4. After completion of your studies (full-time ONLY)

To apply for OPT that will be used before completion of your studies:

  1. Complete the Practical Training Application (Green) Form
  2. Submit: Form I-765 and application form to the front desk at the International Center MC 412

To apply for OPT that will be used after completion of your studies:

  1. Apply no earlier than 90 days prior to your completion date and no later than 10 days before your completion date
  2. Complete Practical Training Application (Green) form
  3. Have your academic advisor complete (yellow) form as proof of completion
  4. Receipt of express mail payment (
  5. Submit: yellow form, Form I-765 and application (green) form to the front desk at the International Center MC 412
  6. A job offer is NOT required to apply

Form I-765 FAQs (download form here)

Complete the form online, using the fillable form.
Check one of the three boxes at the top of the form:
I am applying for: _________ Permission to accept employment

1 Your legal name
2 Other legal names you may have used or leave it blank if this is not the case
3 Make sure this is clear since this is where the USCIS will mail your EAD card
4 The name of country whose passport you are using
5 The name of the town, state/province and country where you were born
6 Your birth date
7 Gender
8 Current marital status
9 Social Security Number
10 You will NOT have an A#. Write your Form I-94 number
11 If you have applied for economic hardship, OPT or have had a J-2 or have otherwise applied for work permission from the USCIS, indicate YES. CPT does not count since permission is not granted by the USCIS
12 Give the date of you last entry to the US. A visit to and from Canada does not count unless you are a citizen of Canada or they issued you a new I-94 card
13 Give the name of the city that checked you thru immigration upon entry. Trips to Canada do not count as a true departure unless you are a Canadian citizen
14  Indicate if you arrived as student, visitor etc.
15 Your current status-most likely "Student"
16 (C) (3) (A) for pre-completion OPT, (c)(3)(B) for post-completion OPT, and (c)(3)(C) for a 24-month STEM OPT extension is the OPT code. see page two of the Form I-765 for an explanation of the codes

The CSU International Center will mil the following to USCIS (For both OPT to be used before and after completion of studies)

  1. A photo copy of your SEVIS Form I-20 with the recommendation for OPT (sign the copy)
  2. A photo copy of your passport ID pages (make sure that photo is clear)
  3. A photo copy of your Form I-94 card 
  4. Two passport photos (effective September 1, 2004)
  5. Original Form I-765 
  6. Copies of all previous CPT Form I-20s
  7. $410 check or money order made payable to US Dept. of Homeland Security

Form I-765 application must be sent to a designated USCIS Lockbox facility. Applications will be reviewed and sorted at the Lockbox facility, and complete applications will be forwarded on to the appropriate Service Center for processing.
There is an ability to request an E-Notification of the receipt of the application at the Lockbox facility by including the Form G-1145, “E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance” to the first page of the application.

CISP will express mail all the documents to USCIS for you. 


For further information contact:

Optional Practical Training(OPT) FAQ

What is F-1 Optional Practical Training?

Practical training is the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off campus. Optional practical training is authorized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for F-1 students. This authorization can take 60-90 days to obtain. The maximum amount of time granted to work in F-1 practical training status is 12 months.

What are the Eligibility Requirements for F-1 Optional Practical Training?

(1) You have been in full time student status for at least one academic year (9 consecutive months),
(2) You are maintaining valid F-1 status at the time of the application, and
(3) You intend to work in a position directly related to your major field of study.
(6) You are eligible to apply for an additional 12 month period of OPT if you complete a full-course of study at a higher level of degree. (For example: MS to PhD)

How can I use optional practical training before I complete my academic program?

Students meeting the eligibility requirements listed above may apply for optional practical training (1) Part-time while school is in session, (2) Full-time during annual vacation periods, and/or (3) Full-time after you completed all course requirements for the degree and have a thesis requirement remaining. Any periods of optional practical training used before the completion of your studies will be deducted from the total allowable period of 12 months. Part-time practical training will be deducted at one-half the full-time rate. In other words, four months of part-time practical training will result in two months deducted from your 12 month total.

Do I need to have a job to apply for optional practical training and can I change jobs?

No. You do not need to have a job offer before applying for optional practical training. However if you are applying for optional practical training during your course of study or vacation periods, you will want to either have a job offer or a firm job prospect because periods of optional practical training can not be rescinded once the period requested has been authorized. You may change employers during your authorized period of OPT as long as the employment is directly related to your field of study and academic level. You must notify the ISA, at CISP, of changes of employment.

How will I know if my practical training application has been approved?

You will receive from the DHS a small photo identification card, called an Employment Authorization Document. This card will state the type and length of the period of employment authorized. When you receive this card, check to make certain all the information is correct.

Should I send my application in the regular mail?

The Center for International Services and Programs (CISP) recommends that you pay extra to have your application sent certified mail or post office express, or another service that allows you to track or confirm that your application has been received by the USCIS. If sending by Fed Ex, you must use the courier address listed in the instructions.

Where can I download Form I -765 and other immigration related forms?

All the Immigration and Employment Authorization (Form I-765) forms can be downloaded from USCIS website. Please visit the following link to download the required forms:

Download Form I-765 in PDF format here:

Should I keep a copy of my application?

Always keep copies of all official documents that you send through the mail.

How can I check on the status of my application?

When the USCIS sends you your receipt notice in a month to six weeks, you will receive a receipt number which beings with the letters "LIN". You can use this "LIN" number to access information about your application by calling the USCIS phone number 1-800-375-5283. Unfortunately, this line is almost always busy. You can check your case status online via the USCI's website.

Will I be able to travel outside the U.S. while I'm on OPT?

In order to re-enter the U.S. after you have completed your program of study; you must have an Form I-20 which has been signed by an CISP advisor in the past six months and your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card). You cannot travel without your EAD card. If you need a new visa, you should bring your Form I-20, your EAD card, and a letter from your employer. You must have a job to re-enter the U.S. while on OPT. Remember that there is never a guarantee that you will get a new visa.

Why does my EAD card say "not valid for re-entry"?

This means that your EAD card is not valid for re-entry in and of itself. You must have a valid visa, a signed Form I-20 and your EAD card.

What if I change my mind and I want to cancel my application for OPT?

Once you have sent in your application and your EAD card is approved, you cannot cancel your OPT. Even if you only use a few months and then go back to school, you CANNOT recover the remaining months of OPT and use them at a later date.

SEVIS Form I-20

All actions including the recommendation of OPT must be entered in SEVIS. When you apply for OPT, you will be given a SEVIS Form I-20 that has the recommendation on it.

If I work on OPT for a year after I finish one degree and then I go back and get a higher degree, will I get 12 months of OPT when I finish my next degree?

Yes, according to a new regulation, effective January 1, 2003, students who complete one degree and then pursue a higher degree may apply for an additional 12 months in the new program of study. For example, Bachelor's degree to Master's degree.

Will I have to pay U.S. taxes for income earned while on practical training?

In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for fewer than six calendar years are exempt from social security (FICA) and Medicare taxes. You should be sure to bring this to the attention of your employer, as many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax law. You will be subject to all other taxes that may apply: federal, state and local. You should check to see if your country is one of the few that has a tax treaty with the U.S. allowing students to exclude a limited amount of earned income from federal taxation.

Should I be concerned about how my EAD card is mailed to me?

Many students move from the time that they apply for Optional Practical Training and the time that their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) arrives. If the USCIS sends your EAD to the wrong address, you may experience extreme delays in receiving your card - or you may not get it at all. Follow these recommendations to avoid problems.

1. The Post Office will NOT forward mail from the USCIS.
You are required to supply your mailing address on the Form I-765, included in your application. If you think that you might change your mailing address within four months of sending your application to USCIS, please write a friend's mailing address or the address of CISP on this form. If you want your mail to be sent to you at a friend's address, fill out the first three lines in the Form I-765 according to the following example:

1. Name (family Name in CAPS) (First) (Middle) EXAMPLE: SMITH, Robert John
2 . Other Names Used (include Maiden Name) (put a line through this)
C/O Elizabeth Jones (you must write C/O, which means "care of")
3. Address in the United States (Number and Street) (Apt. Number)
712 Oak Street, Apt.7D

4. (Town or City)(State/Country) (ZIP Code)
Columbus, OH 43210

If you place a forwarding order on your mail, the U.S. Post Office will still return any mail sent from the USCIS back to USCIS.

2. Make sure your name is on the mailbox
The U.S. Post Office will only deliver mail from the USCIS to you if your name is on the mailbox. If you live with roommates, make sure that your name is listed on the box separately. If your last name is different from that of your spouse, make sure both names are listed on the box. If you name is not on the box, you EAD may be sent back to USCIS.

3. If you must change your address
Contact CISP and we will contact the Service Center to alert them of your new address.