Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled for one full academic year and have applied for graduation in one of the Associate Degree programs or two semester Certificate programs at Houston Community College. Post-completion OPT allows students to work up to 12 months after graduation anywhere in the U.S. in a field related to the student’s major. Initial proof of employment is not required to apply for OPT with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Students in the Intensive English Program are not eligible to apply for OPT. source: 8C.F.R. 214.2 (f) (10) (ii)(A)
Steps to Apply for OPT
Step 1: OPT Tutorial
Review the OPT Tutorial
All your questions will be addressed during the workshop.
Additional instructions for the new I-765 electronic filing can be found on Step 6.
Step 2: Register for an Optional Practical Training (OPT) Virtual Workshop
The workshop covers all aspects of the OPT process. Eligible students should prepare all documents listed in Step 3. The documents will be reviewed by the Designated School Officials (DSO) during the workshop. At the end of the virtual workshop students will have understanding on how to assemble the complete set of documents for mailing to USCIS. Eligible students who attended the workshop will be assigned a OPT checklist to upload documents listed on the OPT Application checklist. SEVIS Form I-20 with OPT recommendation will be processed within 5 business days after the submission of the documents.
Before starting the registration:
- Verify your preferred email as listed in your HCC students account. You will receive confirmation and instructions about the workshop on this email.
- Apply for graduation
- Check your passport’s expiration date. Your passport should be valid at least 6 months from the filing date or you have to provide evidence for requested extension or renewal.
How to Schedule & Register via WebEx
- Click on Optional Practical Training (OPT) Workshop Request. Go to "Click here to display sessions" button, click and choose a date.
- You will receive an email with a WebEx Registration link. Register for the virtual workshop following the email instructions.
- Once you register, you will receive an email from webex confirming your registration. 15 minutes prior to event (not earlier), you will be able to join the workshop on-line to check the status of your audio/video settings.
Step 3: Attend the Virtual OPT Workshop. Required Documents for DSO review before the Form I-20 with OPT authorization is issued.
During the workshop you will receive guidance how to prepare the documents required by your DSO for the issuance of the Form I-20 with OPT authorization. The items below should be prepared and saved as .PDF documents. We will review the paper and electronic applications I-765 and expect draft copies of the listed documents be uploaded onto your OPT checklist that will be assigned 2 business days after you attend the workshop:
- OPT Commitment Letter (electronic signature is acceptable)*
- Completion Verification Form (CVF) **
- Form I-765 DO NOT submit the form to USCIS at this time! You need to wait for the I-20 with OPT authorization before you submit the application (see Steps 5 & 6).
- For electronic I-765 application, refer to OPT Online Filing; download "View draft snapshot" as shown on page 23. Do not pay the fee at this time! You can pay the fee after you receive the OPT I-20 (see Steps 5).
- For paper application, refer to the OPT I-765 Instructions (electronic signature is not acceptable for the paper application)
- Completed form G-1145 (typed, not handwritten) Required only if you apply by mail
- Copy of passport biometric page (at least 6 months from the filing date, or include a receipt for extension or renewal)
- Printout of I-94 https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home > click on Get most recent I-94 or I-797A Notice of Action for change of status to F-1
- Copies of all previous employment authorization documents (EADs) if any
**The CVF form should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your HCC ID number in your email. If you have already applied for graduation or for reduced course load (RCL) for this semester, the form should be part of your file and you won’t need a second one.
Step 4: Upload OPT documents to your Checklist
In two business days after the workshop (the presenter will give you the precise time), do the following:
- Log in to your account on the HCC Student System
- In Student Homepage, click on Checklists
- Click on the F-1 Student Checklist to upload the required documents listed on the Post-Completion OPT Application Checklist
* Monitor your Checklist for additional documents that may be required.
Step 5: Receive Form I-20 with OPT authorization by your assigned DSO via email
After reviewing and approving your documents, your assigned DSO will email your electronically signed I-20 with OPT authorization.
When you recieve the I-20, we reccomed you proofread the following information on the form:
On page 1:
Date of Birth
Major of study
Date of issuance of the I-20! (Remember the OPT endorsement on the I-20 will be valid for applying with USCIS only for 30 days)
Student signature (You need to sign the I-20)
On page 2:
OPT authorization with OPT Start and End dates
After receiving SEVIS Form I-20, sign the I-20 and now you can proceed to Step 6.
Step 6: File Online or by Mail Your OPT Packet to USCIS. Remember the 90-60-30 days rule!
OPT application packet must be received and receipted by the USCIS Service Center within 30 days of issuance of the I- 20 with OPT recommendation. The 30-day count starts on the date DSO signed the I-20 indicated on page 1 of the I-20. OPT applications received later than the 30 days will be denied by USCIS.
|Day 1||Day 30||After Day 30|
DSO requests OPT in SEVIS
30-day countdown begins
30-day countdown ends
USCIS must receive the application
Applications received by USCIS after day 30 will be denied
- OPT application packet must be received and receipted by USCIS no later than 60 days after your I-20 end date of your program of study.
- You can apply for OPT 90 days before completion of your program of study (no earlier)
We encourage students who are concerned that the I-765 will not be receipted within 30 days of the DSO’s signature to request a new recommendation and reprint of the I-20 before shipping materials to USCIS and if students are approaching 60 days after program study completion must reach out to their DSOs for guidance.
|File Online||File by Mail|
For online application go to:
Create an account: https://myaccount.uscis.gov/
See an example of OPT Online Filing
You can download the OPT mailing list by clicking on OPT Mailing List
OPT Online Packet
Create an account: https://myaccount.uscis.gov/
When you have paid your fee, your form will be submitted
NEVER submit the form without the Form I-20 with OPT recommendation!
OPT Mail in Packet:
Assemble all documents according to the OPT Mailing Checklist. Use paper clips; do not use staples to attach documents together.
For latest filing fees instructions, go to https://www.uscis.gov/forms/filing-fees
**We strongly recommend that the form is typed on a computer, and only printed for an original signature. USCIS recommends using the most recent version of Adobe Reader for best functionality of the form. Upon receiving the application, USCIS will scan the forms, and handwritten responses can lead to misinterpreted characters, etc.
After Applying Online
Step 7. After USCIS Receives Your OPT application
After USCIS receive your application packet, they will receipt your I-765 application by assigning a receipt date and a case number and notify you electronically (email/text). If you applied by mail, you will receive by regular mail service the I-797C receipt notice within 2-3 weeks of USCIS receiving your OPT request. Review your name and mailing address listed on the receipt notice to ensure accuracy.
Check the Status of Your Application on USCIS website
The receipt number is printed in the upper left corner of the USCIS Form I-797 “Notice of Action” receipt. If you have your receipt number, you can check the status of your application on the USCIS Case Status web page.
USCIS Timing, Request for Evidence (RFE), Rejections, Most Common Reasons for OPT Denial
USCIS processes most I-765 requests within 90 days of the receipt notice. While most cases are processed within 90 days, there is a chance your application could take longer. Please review USCIS’s case processing times page to find out more about the expected processing times for your application. If you believe your case is outside normal processing time, you can submit an inquiry to USCIS regarding the status of your application.
USCIS issues request for evidence (RFE)
USCIS may determine that additional information is necessary in order to adjudicate your request. USCIS will stop the processing of your application and issue a letter or RFE explaining what additional documentation is required. USCIS will communicate a deadline for when you must respond with the additional support documentation. If you do not provide the requested evidence by the deadline, USCIS will deny your OPT application. Once USCIS receives the additional information, an officer will resume the processing of your petition and the “processing clock” will resume.
OPT application is rejected by USCIS
If your application is rejected by USCIS, USCIS will return your OPT packet along with a letter explaining the reason for the rejection. In this case, your OPT packet will not be receipted by USCIS. Please immediately contact your assigned DSO and provide a copy of the rejection letter. Your DSO will assist you with understanding the reason for rejection and provide guidance on eligibility for refiling the I-765 request. Please note, if you receive the rejection notice after your filing window for OPT (60-day rule), you may no longer be eligible to apply for the OPT benefit.
OPT application denied by USCIS
If your application is denied by USCIS, you must immediately contact your assigned DSO and provide a copy of the USCIS denial letter.
Most common OPT denial reasons:
- Payment problems:
Check or Credit Card payment: Money is not in account at time of processing; credit card is denied r payment is contested
Incorrect fee amount. - Check the current fee at: https://www.uscis.gov/i-765
Check, money order, or credit card form not completed properly – Wrong dates on check, money order (U.S Date style = MONTH/DAY/YEAR = MM/DD/YYYY)
- Copy of OPT I-20 (pages 1-3) is TOO OLD – New OPT applications: USCIS must receive your complete OPT application no later than 30 days after the ORIGINAL OPT I-20 ISSUE DATE on page 1 of the I-20.
- I-765 problems:
Resubmission after OPT Rejection or Denial: If your OPT is REJECTED OR DENIED you must NOTIFY your assigned DSO that your OPT has been rejected or denied. You will need to request a NEW OPT I-20 recommendation from your DSO before you resubmit your OPT application. Again- USCIS must receive your new, complete OPT reapplication no later than 30 days after the OPT I-20 ISSUE DATE on page 1, item#10 of the I-20.
Incomplete or incorrect form fields
Not signed, or not signed in ink by hand
Not filed within 30 days of the date that your DSO enters the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record
Wrong version of the form
- OPT application was not mailed within 30 days of getting I-20 OPT recommendation
- Students did not apply before the 60th day after completion of the program of study
- Students did not use mailing address that is valid for 3 – 5 months
While on Post-Completion OPT
What the student needs to know
- You are still in F-1 Status (OPT is a benefit of F-1 Status)
- Do not attend school full-time while you are on OPT; you are limited to part-time attendance as non-degree seeking student only. Check with a DSO prior to enrolling
- The U.S. Post Office will not forward the EAD, so make sure that you or someone reliable will be at the address you place on your I-765 form to receive the mail. Undeliverable mail will be returned to the Service Center.
- Always check with a DSO if you have questions about any of the above.
- There are limits on total days you can remain unemployed without affecting your F-1 Status. You cannot accrue more than 90 days of unemployment status during the 12 months of PostCompletion OPT; any unemployment period exceeding the 90 days may result in violation of your F-1 status.
What the student needs to do: EAD, SEVP Portal, Reporting requirements
- Submit a copy of your EAD to your assigned DSO*
- Actively search for employment
- Any time your personal information changes, report it within 10 days by emailing your DSO
- Report any changes to your employment situation (i.e. start a new job, quit current job, laid off from current job)
- Report changes to your US address and telephone information.
- All changes must be reported via the online SEVP Portal within 10 days.
- An email with instructions on how to create an SEVP Portal account will be sent from do-not-reply.SEVP@ice.dhs.gov on or after the approved OPT start date. Once you have reported your information, you do not need to confirm with OISS that it has been updated. For step-by-step instructions on how to use the SEVP Portal, please visit SEVP Portal Help.
*When the OPT application is approved, you will get an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in the mail at the address you provided on the I-765. The EAD is your proof of employment authorization. For OPT, you may begin work only after you have received your EAD from USCIS and after the start date printed on the EAD.
You cannot work before the start date or after the end date printed on your EAD card. Please check the start and end dates on your EAD card when you receive it, because the USCIS sometimes adjusts your requested dates.
OPT Employment Requirement & Job Description Examples
As a student in F-1 OPT you are responsible to only engage in practical training opportunities that are directly related to your major area of study. Federal regulations require that F-1 students on OPT provide a description of how their employment relates to their major area of study. There must be a logical connection between the duties involved in the practical training opportunity and the student's major area of study. In the written description, the regular duties should be explained and the connection between those duties and the degree should be described (see examples below).
Job description examples:
- Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering:I work full time as an Electrical Engineer at ABC Corp., a government contractor. In my job, I analyze client requirements for electrical systems and provide them with cost estimates of such systems. My work requires understanding of electrical circuit theory, which I studied in-depth at the University of ABC.
- Bachelor's degree in Business:I work full time as a Loan Officer at a mortgage company, Happy Homes, where I meet with clients and evaluate, authorize and recommend approval of loan applications. On a daily basis, I use the knowledge I gained in my credit analysis, sales and marketing classes that I took as part of my major program of study.
- Master's degree in Music:I am working at a hospital playing the harp in patient rooms. I also conduct hands-on harp beginner workshops for long-term patients. On average, I work at the hospital 35 hours a week. My duties directly utilize the skills and knowledge I acquired from my coursework and degree in music therapy.
- PhD in Computer Science:I am employed as a Computer and Information Research Scientist at ABC Research Institute. I work as part of a team of scientists and engineers that designs experiments to test the operation of various software systems. My work builds on research in complex algorithms and machine learning, which I studied as part of my dissertation.
- Master's degree in Kinesiology:I am working 25 hours a week in a health food store as a consultant for Self-Made Inc., designing and teaching exercise classes that are incorporated into a customer's overall nutrition and exercise plan. My designs and customer instruction draw upon my studies and classwork in exercise therapy and physical reconditioning.
You may choose to end OPT before the end date on your EAD and do any of the following:
- Return home immediately
- Transfer to another college and get a new SEVIS I-20 Form
- Apply to start a secondary program at HCC and get a new SEVIS I-20 Form.
Frequently Asked Questions: Post-completion OPT
What is OPT?
OPT is an acronym for Optional Practical Training, a specific work authorization granted by the Department of Homeland Security to allow students to obtain training in their field of study. In most cases, this application is filed as post-completion OPT in the graduating term of an Associate Program and, if approved, grants the student a full-time work authorization for up to 12 months in a field related to his/her program of study.
Who is eligible for post-completion OPT?
Students must have completed one academic year (fall and spring semesters) as a full-time student and be in F-1 status at the time of application. Student must have applied for graduation in one of the Associate Degree programs or two-semester certificate programs at Houston Community College.
Who is not eligible for post-completion OPT?
Students in the Intensive English Program are not eligible to apply for OPT. Also, students who have already completed OPT at the community college level or a higher degree level are not eligible to apply for OPT.
Do I get another year of post-completion OPT if I complete a new degree?
Students become eligible for another 12 months of OPT benefits upon completion of another degree at a higher level (e.g. Associate to Bachelor, etc.). Students are only eligible for one OPT period at the associate level. If the student applied for OPT benefits on a certificate level, and uses the same credits to complete an Associate’s Degree in the same program of study, this student is not eligible to apply for OPT benefits on that Associate Level.
When should I apply?
You may apply for post-completion OPT 90 days before the completion of your studies BUT PRIOR TO 60 DAYS AFTER THE COMPLETION OF YOUR STUDIES. Since the application process may take up to 90 days and employment cannot begin until you have received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), we recommend that you apply early. Your application must arrive at the U.S. Texas Service Center and be officially receipted before the 60th day after the completion date of your degree program.
What if I am planning to move to a new address while my application is pending?
The US post office will not forward your EAD. Make sure that the address provided on the application (Form I- 765) is where the student or some other (authorized) reliable person will be to receive the EAD when it arrives 2 to 3 months from the application date.
You must report a change of address within 10 days of moving within the United States or its territories.
If your case is pending and you have the Receipt Number, report your change of address online to USCIS.
You have to also report the change of address in the HCC Student System, where you can update your Mailing and SEVIS addresses.
When will my OPT begin?
Your employment authorization does not necessarily begin when your EAD arrives. The authorized employment period is indicated on the EAD card with a start date and an end date.
You cannot work before the start date or after the end date printed on your EAD card. Please check the start and end dates on your EAD card when you receive it, because the USCIS sometimes adjusts your requested dates. Always email a copy of your EAD card (front and back) to your assigned DSO.
Can I travel while waiting for my OPT approval?
When you are pending to receive your OPT card, we recommend you not to travel outside the U.S. unless you have an emergency. In this scenario, please schedule an appointment with your Designated School Official to discuss the risk and the required documents.
Can I travel while I am on OPT?
If your OPT has been granted, you should be able to travel with the following documents:
- Valid F-1 visa
- Passport valid at least 6 months into the future
- Valid EAD card
- Employment letter (s) It is best to have an official letter of employment and 2 to 3 recent pay stubs.
- Proof that you have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment
- SEVIS Form I-20 with valid travel endorsement (Please be aware that the travel endorsement for OPT is valid only 6 months from the date of signature on Page 2)
Time spend outside the U.S. counts towards your total 90 days of unemployment unless you are employed and take approved vacation or business travel.
Can my dependents travel when I am on OPT?
It is best to have an official letter of employment and 2 to 3 recent pay stubs. Your dependents must have their own I-20, passport, F-2 visa and copy of the F-1 student’s SEVIS Form I-20, copies of the EAD card and your employment letter in order to travel.
May I get a temporary employment card if my application is delayed in processing?
No. This option is no longer available.
How is OPT different from Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?
With OPT, the student receives an EAD from the Department of Homeland Security. With CPT, the authorization is granted by a Designated School Official (DSO) and is indicated on Page 2 of the student’s SEVIS I-20 Form. Participation in CPT does not affect your future OPT benefits as long as you work less than one year full-time under the CPT program. If one year or more of CPT is used, the student is no longer eligible for OPT for that degree level. CPT must be an integral part of the curriculum. OPT does not have to be connected to the curriculum, but it does have to be in the field of the student’s major.
What do I do if I am not going to complete my degree as expected?
You should report immediately to the Office of International Student Services for further guidance.