Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization allowing eligible F-1 students the opportunity to obtain real-world work experience related to their field of study in the U.S.

Eligible F-1 students must request OPT recommendation on their I-20 from a CSULB International Student Advisor before applying for a work permit with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If the OPT is approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), also known as Form I-766. The student may begin OPT only on the date indicated on the EAD.

You are eligible to apply for standard, post-completion OPT, if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are currently in lawful F-1 status and have accrued immigration benefits for one full year since entry into the U.S. 
  • You have been enrolled in a full course of study or equivalent for at least one academic year.
  • You are in good academic standing.
  • You have completed, or are in the process of completing your degree required coursework.
  • You have not already participated in post-completion OPT at your current degree level or exceeded 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT). One OPT is granted per degree level.
  • Students in English language training programs are ineligible for practical training.

The Post-Completion OPT application packet, including the OPT I-20, can be received by USCIS as early as 90 days before the eligible F-1 student program end date as shown in the table below, but no sooner. CIE will not accept a request for an OPT I-20 after 50 days from the program end date. USCIS can take up to 90 days or more to process your application.

The eligible F-1 student must have an OPT I-20 with OPT recommendation from a CSULB International Student Advisor before applying for a work permit with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

Post-Completion OPT Application Deadlines

If Applying for the Following Term:  Program End Date/
Graduation Date *
Submit the OPT I-20 Request to ISS Between: 

 

​Available OPT Start Dates:​ USCIS Must Receive Your Application Between: ​
Fall 2022 12/23/2022 09/14/2022-02/11/2023 12/24/2022-02/21/2023 09/24/2022-02/21/2023
Winter 2023 01/18/2023 10/10/2022-03/09/2023 01/19/2023-03/19/2023 10/20/2022-03/19/2023
Spring 2023 05/19/2023 02/08/2023-07/08/2023 05/20/2023-07/18/2023 02/18/2023-07/18/2023
Summer 2023 08/11/2023 05/03/2023-09/30/2023 08/12/2023-10/10/2023 05/13/2023-10/10/2023

* Please note: Students cannot work on campus or be eligible for CPT after the program end date/graduation date.

Instructions

Step 1
Review OPT eligibility to ensure you qualify for Post-Completion OPT. You must file Form I-765 while in the United States.

​Step 2
Prepare your OPT Application Forms and supporting documents.

  • Complete OPT I-20 Request Form [PDF]. Save it as a PDF document. Scanned copies will not be accepted.
  • Complete Form G-1145 - Typed only
  • Complete Form I-765 — Type the complete form except for the signature.
  • Prepare a personal check, cashier’s check, or money order payable to: U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Review instructions here. For all other payment options visit the USCIS website, where you can also confirm current applicable fees.
  • Prepare two recent U.S. passport-style photos. See USCIS Photo Requirements for guidelines.
  • Prepare photocopies of all your travel and immigration documents:
    • Passport Information/Photo page  
    • I-94 Card  (front & back of the paper card or electronic printout). Save it as a PDF/JPEG document.
    • Copy of F-1 Visa
    • Copy of all previously issued I-20s
    • Copy of any previously issued EAD cards (front and back), if applicable.

Step 3
Request an OPT I-20 by completing the Online OPT Self-Assessment. The Online OPT Self-Assessment will prompt you to watch OPT training videos, answer review questions, and it will allow you to upload the following supporting documents to request the OPT I-20:

  • OPT I-20 Request Form
  • Form I-765
  • Most recent I-94 record

Step 4
The International Student Advisor (also known as the Designated School Official (DSO)) will issue your new OPT I-20 within 15 business days of the request. You will receive an email from the ISS Advisor when your OPT I-20 has been processed.

As a reminder, you must have an OPT I-20 with OPT recommendation from a Designated School Official (DSO) before applying for OPT with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

Step 5
File your complete OPT application packet to USCIS along with your supporting documents.

Specific filing instructions will be provided in the Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) Cover Sheet [PDF] you will receive from the International Student Advisor/DSO.

Please note - your application will be DENIED if:

  • USCIS does not receive it within 30 days from the day the advisor enters it in SEVIS (The issuance date on the I-20 does not always reflect the date of entry by the advisor but is very close).
  • You file the application sooner than 90 days of your program end date or after 60 days of your program end date.

  • Work can begin only after receiving the EAD and on or after the start date on the EAD.
  •  If your application for OPT is still pending contact a CIE Advisor for further advice.
  • Work at least 20 hours per week. If work schedule is variable, work an average of 20 hrs. per week within a month. 
  • Work must be directly related to your major field of study.
  • Valid “employment” for OPT includes: 
  • Maintain evidence - for each job - of the position held, proof of the duration of that position, the job title, contact information for the your supervisor or manager and a description of the work.
  • Cannot be unemployed for a total of more than 90 days. If you are unemployed for more than 90 days during your OPT, you will be considered out of status and your status will be terminated. You must leave the U.S., transfer to another institution, change degree levels, or change your immigration status.

International Students completing Post-Completion OPT are required to report the following changes within 10 business days of the change:

  • Termination of employment
  • Unemployment periods
  • Changes to your name
  • Changes to your U.S. mailing address and contact information
  • Termination of your OPT period
  • Change of status or Academic level

You have two options to update your Information while in Post-Completion OPT:

SEVP Portal

The SEVP Portal will be accessible to you on the OPT start date approved by USCIS. You will receive an email to set up your individual SEVP Portal from do-not-reply.sevp@ice.dhs.gov. Use the SEVP Portal to report the following information only:

  • Physical home address
  • Mailing address
  • Telephone numbers
  • Employment information

After you set up your SEVP Portal, you can access it here. For help with the SEVP Portal visit SEVP PORTAL HELP.

Please note: New I-20s are not issued when reporting updates.
 
You can continue to update your personal information in your CSULB Single Sign-On while on OPT. Preferred email may be changed by submitting a student request.

F-1 Students on OPT must carry the following documents:

  1. I-20, signed for travel by an International Student Advisor within the last 6 months.
  2. Passport, valid for at least 6 months beyond your expected date of entry into the United States.
  3. Valid F-1 student visa in passport (except students from Canada)
  4. Unexpired EAD or a copy of the OPT Receipt/Approval Notice, if the EAD has not yet arrived.
  5. Letter from your current or prospective employer verifying that you are returning to the United States to continue or to accept new employment.
  6. Contact information of your DSO.
  7. Make sure you have not exceeded unemployment time and that you continue to maintain F-1 status by fulfilling all mandatory reporting requirements.

Report the end of your OPT period at any time by submitting OPT end date information as a student request. 

Grace Period
F-1 students who complete their OPT period successfully until the end of their Employment Authorization Card (EAD) have a 60-day grace period. During the grace period, students must prepare to depart the U.S., gain a new F-1 status, or change to another immigration status.

Transfer Out Request must be submitted to ISS within the grace period if you plan to start a new academic program at a school other than CSULB.

H1-B Cap Gap Extension
Your OPT work authorization will be automatically extended if you are the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting change of status and an employment start date of October 1 (the first day of the following fiscal year).

To determine your eligibility for the Cap Gap or to request an I-20 with the Cap Gap notations, contact an International Student advisor or view the request form

Can I do CPT or work on campus while my application is being processed?
It is very likely that your program of study, listed in your original I-20, will be shortened in order to process your OPT request. With this in mind, you will not be able to work on campus or be eligible for CPT after the end of your program, as printed in the OPT I-20.

How much time do I have to find a job?
You may not begin working until you receive your OPT approval (EAD card) and your start date on your EAD card has begun. During your OPT period on your EAD card, you can have only up to 90 days of unemployment. However, you could start your job search as early as you would like. Make sure to be prepared to explain OPT and its implications to your potential employers. Career Development Center is a great place to visit to start your job search. Workshops on job search specifically for international students are also offered each semester so please make sure to check your email inbox for announcements.

How long does it take for OPT to be approved?
It takes ISS a minimum of 15 business days to process your application. After you mail your OPT application to USCIS, it takes USCIS approximately 90 days to approve your OPT.

I heard there is Pre-Completion OPT in other schools. Can I apply for Pre-Completion OPT?
No, CSULB does not approve Pre-Completion OPT.

Can I apply for OPT when I am completing all my coursework except for the comprehensive exam, project, or thesis?
Yes, you can apply for OPT as long as you have completed or are in the progress of completing all the courses required by your degree program. Please be advised that if you do not complete your project/thesis/comprehensive exam by the end of your OPT period, you will not be eligible for a program extension on your I-20 (see 8 CFR 214.2(f)(5), (10), (11), and (12) and 247a.12(c)(6)(iv) and (v) ). If you have any questions, please contact an International Student Advisor.

How do I choose my OPT start date?
You will need to choose an OPT start date between the day after your program end date and 60 days after your program end date. However, your authorized OPT start date on your EAD card will be either the preferred start date you requested or the date USCIS approves your application, whichever is later. You may not begin working until you receive the approval (EAD card) and the start date on your EAD card has begun.

What do I do after OPT?
If you qualify for STEM OPT Extension, make sure to plan and apply in a timely manner. Other F-1 students who complete an OPT have a 60-day grace period. During the grace period, students need to leave the U.S., gain a new F-1 status, or seek another immigration status. CIE usually provides a workshop regarding visa options after OPT each semester so please make sure to check your email inbox for announcements.

What visa or status would I be on when I am doing OPT?
You will still be on F-1 status when you are on OPT. Therefore, when you travel and re-enter the U.S., you will need a valid F-1 visa.

How do I maintain my F-1 status during OPT?
Maintain your F-1 status on OPT by having qualifying employment with less than 90 days of unemployment and reporting employment and addressing updates

Can USCIS expedite my OPT application?
No expedited service is available for OPT applications. To ensure timely processing of your OPT application, please make sure of the following:

  • Your contact information on your MyCSULB account is updated.
  • A copy of your current passport on file with International Students and Scholars.
  • Your application documents are complete and correct.
  • Your registration holds are cleared.

What are the common mistakes students make when applying for work under OPT?
The following common mistakes can delay your OPT application processing or even result in a denial of your application:

  • Application is not submitted within the timeframe
  • Application is incomplete
  • The check is dated too far away in the future
  • Pictures do not follow the requirements
  • Failure to respond to the Request for Further Evidence (RFE) by the given deadline

How do I report my employment status?
Fill out the official OPT Employment and Address Update Form.

Do I need to inform CIE if I decide to cancel my OPT?
Yes, you must inform a CIE advisor about your decision to cancel the OPT request, end your OPT early, and your plans after the completion of your OPT period. The OPT Employment and Address Update form can be used to inform CIE about your plans.

Can I get a Social Security Number (SSN) with my OPT authorization?
Yes. All individuals who will be employed in the United States must have a SSN. You will need your EAD card and new I-20 to apply for the SSN.

Do I need to pay taxes?
Any income you earn in the United States must be reported by filing taxes. If you earn any type of income in the U.S., you must file a tax return by April 15. For more information, please visit the Study in the States - Filing Taxes 101 page.

I lost my EAD - how do I apply for a replacement card?
Contact International Students and Scholars at cie-student@csulb.edu.