Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides an opportunity for F-1 students to apply theoretical knowledge gained from your academic program to a practical employment experience.
Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a type of work authorization for F-1 students. It permits F-1 students to gain work experience in their major field of study upon completion of their program. An F-1 student is eligible for a maximum of 12 months of OPT per educational level. OPT is a benefit of an F-1 student. It is NOT a type of visa.
Please note that students with certain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees may be eligible for a 24-month extension of their OPT. Please refer to the STEM-Designated Degree Program List and 24-Month STEM OPT Extension information.
To be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT), the F-1 student must:
- be in valid F-1 status
- have lawfully been enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year
- currently enrolled as a full-time student or authorized for part-time status
- have applied for graduation through the Office of Admission and Records;
- have passed the Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam (UDWPE).
Please note that you do not need a job or a job offer to apply for OPT.
**Government Sponsored students must submit updated financial documents. For further details, see OPT application process below.
Program completion date: The official last date of the semester. Please refer to CSUN's academic calendar to verify the official program completion date for each semester.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) recommendation date: The date that the foreign student advisor entered the OPT recommendation in SEVIS.
The application deadline is determined by a student's program completion date. Students can apply for OPT as early as 90 days prior to their program completion date, but no later than 60 days after their program completion date.
In addition, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must receive the OPT application within 30 days of the date on which the foreign student advisor entered the OPT recommendation in SEVIS. This is the date that is printed on page #1, the School Attestation "Date Issued" Section of the OPT I-20. This is the date that the foreign student advisor recommended the OPT. (Please verify the OPT Recommendation Date with the foreign student advisor at OPT Step 3.)
Students who wish to start working immediately after their program completion date should mail out their application 90 days before their program completion date.
OPT Application Process
STEP 1: Students interested in applying for Post-OPT are required to view Part I - Online instructions for F-1 students video. You may view Part II - Submitting Your Application to USCIS, however, you may want to review this again when you are ready for Step 3.
Please note that the information in this tutorial is for general purposes only as information pertaining to Post -OPT changes frequently. For any questions regarding Post-OPT, we strongly encourage you to meet with your international student advisor during advisement walk-in hours or email your advisor to schedule an appointment before completing the OPT steps.
STEP 2: Student will submit the following documents to IESC, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org:
- This is an online fillable form. Please type or print legibly in black ink.
- Answer all questions fully and accurately. If a question does not apply to you (for example, if you have not used any other names), type or print “N/A” unless otherwise directed. If your answer to a question which requires a numeric response is zero or none (for example, if you do not have a USCIS Online Account Number), type or print “None” unless otherwise directed.
- Check the box “Initial permission to accept employment.”
- Students who do not have a Social Security Number (SSN), may now apply for a SSN when completing Form I-765. To apply for the SSN, complete Items #13a. and 14-17b.
- Item #27: Type in the eligibility code (c)(3)(B)
- Leave Item #28 - 31b. blank
- Certification Section: Sign your name using a BLACK ink pen. Make sure your signature stays within the signature box without touching any words noted on the form.
- Use Part 6. Additional Information to provide all previously used SEVIS numbers and evidence of any previously authorized CPT or OPT and the academic level at which it was authorized.
¨ COPY of the most recent I-94 Departure Record Card/Electronic form
¨ COPY of your Passport Identification Page(s)
- Passport page(s) must show your name, photograph, date of birth, passport expiration and/or renewal date
- Passport must be valid at least 6 months into the future.
¨COPY of all previously issued I-20s with a different SEVIS number if any.
¨COPY of all previously issued I-20s with CPT/OPT authorization if you had OPT or CPT in the past.
- The student should ask previous schools for copies of I-20 if he/she does not have the originals.
¨ COPY of front and back of any previously issued EAD(s).
¨ FOR Government Sponsored Students ONLY- You will need to submit copies of updated financial documents. You may reference the Affidavit of Financial Support, please note you do not have to show funds for Tuition, Fees, Books & Supplies, and Insurance.
- Undergraduate student's financial documents must reflect $14,724 in USD.
- Graduate student's financial documents must reflect $14,894 in USD.
- Note: students must submit additional financial documentation for family members as indicated on the Affidavit of Financial Support.
Please allow three weeks approximately to review and recommend your Post-OPT in SEVIS. An FSA will email you when the Post-OPT I-20 has been issued and is ready for STEP 3.
STEP 3*: The student will return to IESC to pick up the Post-OPT I-20.
* At STEP 3, the student will receive the Post-OPT I-20 and will be asked to sign their Post-OPT I-20. The student must view Part II Post-Optional Practical Training (Post-OPT) - Submitting Your Application to USCIS video.
The student will be responsible for assembling the Post-OPT Application Packet and mailing the packet to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox based on the address that is printed on the student’s Form I-765. For students living in California, please mail your packet to Arizona USCIS Lockbox Facility. For students living outside of California, please refer to the Form I-765 Application Instructions (www.uscis.gov) for the appropriate lockbox location.
It is important for the student to review the Post-OPT checklist and ensure all documents are included in their packet. The student will need to prepare and add the following documents to their application:
¨ 2 U.S. Passport-Style photographs with small envelope.
- Photos must meet U.S specifications (not taken in home country). Refer to I-765 instructions on page 20 for photograph requirements.
- The student must write his/her name and A-Number (if any) on back edge of each photo lightly in felt pen or pencil.
¨ The filing fee for Form I-765 is $410
- Payments by check or money order - $410.00 payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" from a bank or other financial institution located in the United States and must be payable in U.S. currency.
- Payments by credit card - Please see Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions, at www.uscis.gov/G-1450 for more information. (Do not submit this form or any payment to the IESC)
¨ Completed Form I-765 - USCIS will consider a photocopied, faxed, or scanned copy of the original, handwritten signature valid for filing purposes. The photocopy, fax, or scan must be of the original document containing the handwritten, ink signature
- Complete Form G-1145 and attach it to the first page of your application, when filing Form I-765 at one of the USCIS Lockbox facilities, to receive an email and/or text message notifying you that your application has been received.
Important: IESC does not require ANY fees for the services it provides to international students. No fees, under any circumstances, shall be submitted to IESC.
|Mail OPT Packet||Mark your calendar.|
|G-1145||Receive an email or text message within 24 hours upon receipt of application from USCIS Lockbox.|
|Certified Return Receipt||Receive Green Postcard within two to three weeks.|
|Notice Receipt (I-797)||Receive official notification within three to four weeks from time of mailing.|
|Online Case Status||Track the status of the OPT application after receiving I-797.|
|OPT EAD||Receive EAD 90 - 120 days from date on I-797.|
Duration (Start and End Dates) of OPT
An F-1 student is eligible for a maximum of 12 months of OPT per educational level. Students may request an OPT start date as early as the day after their program completion date, but no later than 60 days from their program completion date (See information below). Employment authorization will begin on the start date that was requested or on the date the OPT application is approved, whichever is later. If the OPT application is approved, the student will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS via mail. The start and end dates will be printed on the EAD. These dates are the authorized period for OPT. Students may not work before or after the authorized OPT
Program Completion Date/I-20 End Date: 05/22/2020
Students completing their studies on spring 2020 must choose a start date between 05/23/2020 and 07/21/2020
Program Completion Date/I-20 End Date: 08/18/2020
Students completing their studies on summer 2020 must choose a start date between 08/19/2020 and 10/17/2020
Program Completion Date/I-20 End Date: 12/23/2020
Students completing their studies on fall 2020 must choose a start date between 12/24/2020 and 02/21/2021
End of OPT when transferring your SEVIS record or beginning a new program.
Transferring the SEVIS record to a different school prior to the OPT end date will automatically end the OPT status.
In addition, if a former CSUN student on OPT begins a new program at CSUN and is issued a change of level I-20, the OPT ends on the program start date or when the OPT ends, whichever is earlier.
During the OPT Period
F-1 Students must maintain all of the following requirements while on OPT:
- The student must work in a job that is directly related to his or her major field of study.
- Students must work full-time (20+ hours per week) during OPT.
- Types of employment allowed during the POST-OPT period
- Paid employment
- Multiple employers
- Short term employers
- Short-term multiple employers
- Work for hire (1099 contract based employment)
- Self-employed business owner
- Employment through an agency or consulting firm
- Unpaid employment - must not violate any labor laws; must work at least 21 hours per week
- Volunteer work
- Unpaid internship
- Change of U.S. address
Students who have submitted their application and are changing their address but have not yet received a receipt should contact Customer Service toll-free at 1-800-375-5283.
If the student has a receipt, he/she can report the change of address from www.uscis.gov, using USCIS' Change of Address online. Remember to report the change of address to IESC as well.
- OPT Reporting Requirements
Post OPT students are responsible for reporting their U.S. address, employment details, company name and address to the SEVP Portal once your OPT is Approved. While on OPT, the student must report any changes in the student's address and employment information to the SEVP Portal within 10 days of the change(s). Failure to do so may affect your OPT status. Your information will be updated automatically. Also, please email a copy of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to email@example.com. Please include your full name and CSUN ID number in the subject line.
Please see the "Report your OPT Employment" section to find out more information about how to access your SEVP Portal.
- 90 Days Unemployment Rule
Effective April 8, 2008, F-1 status is dependent on employment while the student is on OPT. Students may not accrue an aggregate of 90 days of unemployment during their OPT period. Students who accrue more than 90 days of unemployment will be considered out of F-1 status. Student must notify their foreign student advisor if they are nearing their 90th day of unemployment to discuss their future plans to remain in correct immigration status. Otherwise, students will need to depart the U.S.
- The I-20 shows the program completion date on page 1, section "Program of Study" (program end date). IESC will adjust the date to the program completion date when appropriate.
- Students who's OPT application is pending and fail to complete their program requirements as planned MUST contact their FSA to change the program completion date on the I-20.
- Undergraduate Students who are authorized for OPT, but fail to meet graduation requirements are permitted to work part time only until they complete all graduation requirements. The student can work full time after all graduation requirements have been completed. (Exception: Undergraduate students can work full time during summer and winter breaks while completing graduation requirements.)
- Graduate Students who are authorized for OPT, but then fail to meet graduation requirements are permitted to work full time while they complete all graduation requirements.
- Student will contact a FSA if he has not received the EAD within 90 days from the date shown on the I-797 Notice of Action.
- If the student loses a valid EAD, he/she must re-apply to USCIS with all required documents as well as the application fee. The student will contact a FSA for current information.
Traveling Outside the U.S.
The student must use the new OPT I-20 for all purposes including travel.
Travel risks –Please note that the EAD states "Not valid for re-entry to the United States." F-1 students must have a valid visa in order to re-enter the U.S.
With a pending OPT application, the student will need:
- A Travel signature – each signature is valid for six months at a time
- Valid passport- Must be valid at least six months into the future
- Valid F-1 visa- students with an expired F1 visa must contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in their home country to renew their F1 visa prior to their return to the U.S.
- The I-797 Notice of Action (payment receipt) from USCIS
With an approved OPT, the student will need:
- A travel signature – each signature is valid for six months at a time
- Valid passport- Must be valid at least six months into the future
- Valid F-1 visa- students with an expired F1 visa must contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in their home country to renew their F-1 visa prior to their return to the U.S.
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- An offer of employment or verification of employment on company letterhead.
Options After OPT
At the end of OPT, the student can select one of the following options: (must be done within 60 days of the EAD expiration date).
- Return to home country
- Apply to CSUN for a higher degree (CSUN issues a new I-20)
- Transfer out to another school (New school issues a new I-20. Please note that if the student transfers the SEVIS record to another program prior to the expiration of OPT, he or she will forfeit the remaining period.)
- Change Status within the U.S. (The best option here is to consult with an immigration attorney).
H-1B Cap Gap Extension
- Duration of F-1 status and work authorization will be extended for a student on OPT who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting an employment start date of October 1 of the following federal fiscal year (October through September). This would apply to all students on OPT, not just STEM students.
- The student must submit proof of a filed or waitlisted petition and request that the work authorization period be extended accordingly.
- The extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf.
Report Your OPT Employment
Post OPT students are responsible for reporting their U.S. address, employment details, company name and address to the SEVP Portal once your OPT is Approved. While on OPT, the student must report any changes in the student's address and employment information to the SEVP Portal within 10 days of the change(s). Failure to do so may affect your OPT status.
To report your employment information, log in to your SEVP Portal:
Check your email from SEVP: for the link to create your SEVP Portal account. Be sure to check your spam or junk mail folder. If you do not receive the email from SEVP, you may call the SEVIS Coordinator’s at the IESC office.
For more information about the SEVP Portal, please go to SEVP Portal Help.
Your account may lock if you unsuccessfully log in three times with an incorrect SEVIS ID number or password or if you have not logged-in to your SEVP Portal account for more than 90 days once it has been created. Please contact the IESC office immediately if your SEVP Portal is locked.
When you report your "Employment Information" to the SEVP Portal, please use the following template to "explain how your current employment is related to your field of study" to meet the SEVP reporting requirement:
- "I majored in (major). I work (Full-time / Part-Time or total number of hours you work per week) at (company name). I am working as a/an (Job Title). In my job, I (clearly state the relationship between job duties and your major area of study)."
WARNING! Students may not accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment during their OPT period. Students who accrue more than 90 days of unemployment will be considered out of F-1 status.
IMPORTANT: IESC must have a copy of the (FRONT and BACK) of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. Email your EAD card to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name and CSUN ID number in the subject line.