F STUDENT VISA--Regular Optional Practical Training
STAPLING OR CLIPPING YOUR APPLICATION
WILL DELAY PROCESSING.
What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
There are two types of OPT. This page discusses Regular OPT; for information about STEM OPT, please visit that web site. Regular OPT is temporary employment authorized by Immigration for F-1 visa holders for 12 months. It must be directly related to your major and gives you a chance to put your classroom knowledge into real world practice.
When should I submit my OPT application?
Between 14 weeks before graduation and 4 weeks after graduation. Once you pick up your application and new I-20 from ISSS, be sure to send it immediately to Immigration because your I-20 must be received by them within a short time frame.
Do I have to be graduating to apply for OPT?
Yes, with somewhat of an exception for Ph.D. students who have completed their coursework (discussed in detail in the OPT workshop). You must have already applied for graduation with the Registrar and undergraduate students must also have satisfied the writing requirement before submitting an OPT application to ISSS.
What are the eligibility requirements?
sufficient GPA: 3.0 for graduates and 2.0 for undergraduates
full-time registration for each fall and spring semester (9 credits for graduates, 12 credits for undergraduates)
passport valid for at least six months into the future
How long does it take for my application to be processed?
ISSS needs up to ten business days for checking your application and issuing your I-20. Immigration states that it takes 90 days to issue your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
Are there any special circumstances for PhD students?
Yes. If you successfully complete ALL requirements for your degree and the Registrar has approved your application for graduation, you may submit your application for OPT with documentation from the Registrar. Note that you are also able to apply for CPT, but that application must be processed before your OPT because SEVIS does not permit the issuance of a CPT I-20 after an OPT I-20.
What documents must I submit for OPT?
I-765 (filled out online and then printed and signed in BLUE ink)
Copies of ALL I-20s EVER issued to you by ODU and any other school
Copies of biographical information page from your passport (if the picture and/or expiration date are on different pages, include those as well)
Copy of most recent visa stamp
Copies of BOTH sides of your I-94
Copies of the front only of any previous EADs
- Personal check for $380 made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Your SEVIS ID number and "OPT" must be in the bottom left section
- If your name and full address are not on the check, please write them in.
- If you don't have checks, a cashier's check is acceptable.
- A money order is not acceptable.
- Two passport-style photos (be sure to save your receipt in case Immigration returns your application because the pictures don't meet requirements)
Should I submit my application in any special format?
NO STAPLES OR CLIPS MAY BE SUBMITTED and your application will be returned if there are any in your paperwork. No double-sided copies can be processed and document copies should show the actual size; no enlargements, please. The copies should also be on 8.5 x 11 paper ("American-sized"). Copies must be legible or Immigration will return your application.
After my OPT I-20 is issued, what are the next steps?
ISSS will send an e-mail to your ODU student e-mail account with information on how you will send your application to Immigration. We strongly recommend you send your application via FedEx or UPS to track its progress and, most especially, delivery confirmation.
What happens if Immigration has questions after getting my application?
Sometimes, Immigration will contact you because they can't read something clearly, your pictures do not meet requirements, you haven't submitted all I-20s or some other reason. This is called an RFE and is usually two pieces of blue paper. Simply respond to what they are requesting; if you want ISSS to be sure you are responding properly, you can scan the RFE in PDF format to our office e-mail address.
When does my OPT start?
Most student request to start the Monday after graduation. You may postpone the beginning of your OPT up to 60 days after graduation.
Can I work if my start date passes but my EAD hasn't arrived?
No. You must not work unless your EAD card is with you and the date on the card has arrived.
What happens if my requested start date passes and I still don't have my EAD?
Call the phone number on the receipt you get from Immigration to learn your options.
What if I want to start another degree program at ODU or another school while on OPT?
Unfortunately, Immigration requires that your OPT time is to be primarily spent working. Therefore, Immigration does not permit students to be degree-seeking in any program.
Do I have to notify you about where I am working?
Yes. Every six months and/or when there is change in your employment, you must submit the OPT Employment Update within five days. If you know where you are working when you apply for OPT, your first OPT Employment Update will at your 6-month mark or if a change happens before you reach your sixth month. If you don't know where you will be working when you submit your OPT to ISSS, your first OPT Employment Update will be 10 days after you get your EAD card.
Do I have to have a job before applying for OPT?
No, many students have no idea where they'll be working when they start their OPT. You may have a maximum of 90 days' unemployment on Regular OPT; this time counts both inside and outside the U.S.
What if I can't find a job within 90 days?
Before the end of 90, you must do one of the following:
leave the U.S. and continue your job search from your home country (but in another visa status)
return to school for a new degree program (but lose OPT)
change to another visa status
Do I still need to update my addresses with ISSS?
Yes. Your OPT is granted on an ODU I-20 and, therefore, we are the office who forwards your address updates to Immigration. Current information is required to properly maintain your status. The following pieces of information must be current at all times while on OPT:
If I change my visa status, what do I need to do?
Please submit a PDF scan of your new visa status information to ISSS so we can make the proper updates in our file and your SEVIS record.
Is there anything else I need to keep updated with ISSS?
Yes, along with your addresses and visa status updates, we also ask that you submit a black and white scan of your EAD.
How does OPT affect travel outside the U.S.?
While Immigration is processing your Regular OPT application, ISSS recommends you not leave because they may contact you for additional information. If you aren't here, you won't be able to provide it.
A travel signature is required just as when you are studying but you can only return to the U.S. on OPT if it is to begin or resume a job. You must have a job offer letter and, if you were previously working the company, pay stubs as well.
What if my visa stamp has expired?
You must get an F-1 visa to re-enter for your OPT. Special travel conditions apply for trips to Mexico, Canada and islands adjacent to the U.S.
My major was Accounting but I now work at a restaurant. Will Immigration ask me about this?
If your job is "borderline" (may not appear to be directly related to your major), ask your supervisor to write a letter on company letterhead to justify the connection between your education and your position. Keep this letter for future reference. In this example, the student is actually the accountant for the restaurant.
My OPT I-20 expires on my graduation date. Don't I need to extend it?
No. Your OPT I-20 is valid together with your EAD. Your OPT I-20 expires when your EAD expires.
Can I take a class for fun or for my job?
Yes. You can take up to two nondegree courses per semester as an OPT participant.
Is it possible for me to expedite the processing done at Immigration?
Unfortunately, Immigration has not informed us of any procedure that will achieve this.
Can I work for more than one employer?
Yes. You can work anywhere that applies to your major and as long as you submit an OPT Employment Update for each position.
How many hours per week can/must I work?
To qualify as being employed, you must work at least 20 hours per week. There is no maximum to the number of hours you can work.
Can I volunteer to stop the 90-day clock?
Yes. You may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern while on OPT where it does not violate labor laws. Check with the HR office at the company or a labor lawyer to verify this. The volunteer work must be at least 20 hours per week. You must still obtain a letter from your supervisor for the volunteer position to verify that you are not being paid and that you are volunteering at least 20 hours per week.
Do I have to submit an OPT Employment Update for a volunteer position?
If you are ONLY volunteering and the position meets the criteria mentioned above, yes. If you have a primary position and are doing something for, say, the Red Cross in your free time, no.
How do I renew my driver's license?
You need your OPT I-20 and EAD to do this. If you don't yet have your EAD, you can request a letter from ISSS and take that along with your OPT I-20 to the DMV along with their other required documents.
Do I have to continue with ODU's insurance requirement while on OPT?
No, but we strongly recommend you maintain insurance until you get a job where it is offered to you. You are eligible to continue with ODU's insurance
The other information on this page is under revision. Please attend an OPT workshop, read the presentation above or e-mail ISSS (firstname.lastname@example.org) for questions until the inofrmation is re-posted. Thanks!