Optional practical training (OPT) is defined in the regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study.” Students in F-1 status are eligible to apply for this benefit as long as they have been lawfully enrolled full-time for one academic year. An academic year would include fall and spring terms only. Like Curricular Practical Training (CPT), the training MUST be directly related to the area of study and not just serve as an opportunity to work. Students may engage in OPT for any employer in any location for the duration of OPT authorization, as long as the employment qualifies under OPT standards.
Post-completion OPT is authorized to be worked after the student's program end date.
Graduate students who have completed all coursework and have only their thesis or dissertation to complete would qualify for post-completion OPT. (Note: If a thesis/dissertation student who selected the post-completion OPT option does not finish his or her degree by the end of the post-completion OPT, he or she will not be eligible for a program extension.)
In special circumstances where a student has an opportunity to pursue post-completion OPT but needs to begin earlier than the end of his or her program, the DSO may shorten the student’s program in SEVIS. The student must have a compelling reason to shorten the program such as unexpectedly completing all courses early and having a job opportunity already available.
A student cannot begin OPT employment until the start date indicated on the EAD issued by USCIS. The effective date of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by USCIS for standard post-completion OPT will be either the start date requested by the DSO when the recommendation was done in SEVIS, or the date USCIS approves the application for work authorization, whichever occurs later. For standard post-completion OPT, "a student may not request a start date that is more than 60 days after the student's program end date."
Travel outside the U.S. during the OPT application process is at the student's own risk. In some cases, students have been denied re-entry to the United States even with proper documentation.
Duration: Post-Completion Optional Practical Training has a limit of 12 months per educational level. Those with STEM degree designations may qualify for a 24 month extension (see STEM Extension Policy and Procedure for more information). Note that previous use of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for one year or more eliminates eligibility for Optional Practical Training.
Employment: A job offer is not required in order to apply for Post-Completion OPT; however, a student is limited to an aggregate of 90 days of unemployment during post-completion OPT and any time of unemployment counts as part of the 12 month limit. Once the student has gained employment, it is his or her responsibility to submit this information to the Baylor ISSS Office.
Applying: The student is responsible for the application process for OPT. This includes submitting a request to the Baylor ISSS Office. The student must also submit Form I-765 with USCIS up to 90 days before the program end date and up to 60 days after the program end-date, provided that it is filed within 30 days of the date the DSO enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.
The student makes a request for OPT to a Baylor DSO.
After determining eligibility, the DSO updates SEVIS with an OPT recommendation.
The DSO prepares a new Form I-20 and the I-765.
The student files documents within OPT filing deadlines and within 30 days of the Baylor DSO recommendation. Documents sent to USCIS should include:
Photocopy all prior Forms I-20
Photocopy any previous employment authorization documents (EAD)
Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, marked with the proper code at item 16:(c)(3)(B) for standard post-completion OPT
Check or obtain a money order for the Form I-765 filing fee (currently $410 but check the DHS website), made payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security."
Two identical immigration-style photos, taken within 30 days of filing Form I-765 (see 16.9 Photo guidelines for visas and immigration benefits and see 16.9.2 USICS applications requiring photos)
Photocopy of Form I-94 (both sides on cardstock I-94 or copy of electronic Form I-94 printout)
USCIS reviews and approves or denies OPT request.
If approved, USCIS sends an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card to the Baylor ISSS Office.
The Baylor ISSS Office staff will open the EAD card and confirm accuracy and make a copy then email the student to come to the office to pick-up their card, or the card will be mailed to the student.
The student notifies Baylor ISSS of the employer name and address and the student’s address.
The student must keep the Baylor ISSS Office updated with work and home address information.