Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training is defined in the regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." The student can use it during or after program completion. To be eligible, the student must have been enrolled for classes for at least one academic year (fall and spring semesters). Pre-completion OPT is always part-time and can be used at any time during the degree program. Post-completion OPT is full-time and is granted only after graduation or completion of the degree program. A maximum of 12 months of OPT employment is permitted for each higher educational level.
Applying for OPT:
You should make an appointment to meet with your International Student Advisor. Please bring the ORIGINALS (UFIC will make the necessary copies) of the following documents with you for your appointment:
- Your current I-20
- The Departmental Confirmation letter, on department letterhead (see sample letter)
- Your ORIGINAL passport, visa, and I-94 card (no photocopies – UFIC will make copies)
Two passport-regulation photos of yourself, which must be taken within 30 days of the filing of the application and meet the USCIS color photograph requirements. Print your full name and I-94 number in pencil or felt tip pen (thin sharpie) on the back of each photo. You may obtain passport photos at the UF Mail & Document Services, Bldg. 715, Radio Road or at a local Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, etc.
- OPT Questionnaire
- Completed I-765 Form (Application for Employment Authorization). Items 3 and 16 on the I-765 have been completed for you
- $380.00 Fee for processing your application - this should be a personal check (preferred), money order, or cashier's check, made payable to the Department of Homeland Security)
- If applicable, copies of any previously issued EAD cards (front and back)
Your International Student Advisor will review your documents and process a new I-20 for you showing the information for the OPT Employment Authorization on the third page. The Advisor will also prepare your OPT package for you to mail to USCIS. This packet must be mailed and arrive at the USCIS Service Center within 30 days of the day it is prepared. After you send the application packet to USCIS, we will receive a Notice of Action at our office. This will serve as a receipt of your packet, and will contain a receipt number for you to check your case status online. We will then receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which is your OPT card. When these items arrive at our office, we will copy them for your file, and then send an email to your UFL address so that you can pick them up.
- If you choose to apply for OPT, you must do so between the 90 days before graduation or during the 60 day grace period from your graduation day. The OPT application MUST arrive at the USCIS Service Center before the 60 day grace period expires.
- Students planning to apply for CLEAR PRIOR must apply for OPT between the 90 days before the Clear Prior deadline or during the 60 days after the Clear Prior deadline. The OPT application MUST arrive at the USCIS Service Center before the 60th day after the Clear Prior deadline. Please click here for more information.
- You must be in valid full-time student status for at least 2 semesters at the time of application (fall and spring semesters only).
- Post-completion OPT is granted to students who will work after graduation/completion of the degree program.
- You are only eligible for 12 months of full-time OPT for each higher degree earned.
- You may apply for OPT either within 90 days before you graduate or complete your coursework, or during the 60 day grace period following the graduation day.
- OPT is obtained through the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
- The earliest you can apply for post-completion OPT is 90 days before your graduation or completion date.
- If your OPT is approved, you will be issued an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card, which you must have before you begin working.
- You choose the date you wish to begin working, but the start-date cannot be more than 60 days after your graduation/ degree completion.
- You do not need to have a job when you apply for OPT.
- You must work in a position directly related to your field of study.
- Post-completion OPT is considered full-time employment.
- Application fee for OPT is $380.00, payable to the Department of Homeland Security.
- Leaving the country after graduation but before you begin working is risky.
- If you leave the country, be sure to have your EAD card, your I-20 (signed within the last 6 months), a job or job offer, a valid passport, and a valid visa for re-entry.
- OPT Employment / Home Address Reporting: You are required to maintain contact with UFIC while on OPT to keep your SEVIS record updated with your current address and email, and with your employment information.
How long does it take?
It can take up to 3 months for you to receive your EAD card. If you have your SRC (receipt) number from your Notice of Action, you may check the status of your application at the USCIS Dashboard.
What happens if I start a new program or my OPT expires?
When a student is admitted to a new program or transfers to another program, the remaining portion of OPT is terminated when the sponsoring school registers the student for the new program in SEVIS.
At the completion of OPT, students will have a 60-day grace period to leave the country, change visa status, or transfer to a new program of study with a starting date no later than 5 months after OPT completion date.
For more information, please visit:
You may request withdrawal of your OPT application* if you are unable to meet an academic requirement for degree completion and are therefore unable to graduate. However, if you wish to withdraw your OPT application, you must do so BEFORE the expiration date on the OPT endorsed I-20 and BEFORE USCIS approves or produces the OPT card.
*If you will request withdrawal of your OPT application, you must submit an I-20 Extension application along with the OPT Application Withdrawal form. You must request an I-20 extension before the I-20 expires.