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 2018-2019 

All your questions will be addressed during the workshop.


Step 2: Register for an Optional Practical Training (OPT) Workshop

The workshop covers all aspects of the OPT process. Eligible students should present 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 workshop students will have the complete set of documents (with the exception of the I-20 Form with OPT recommendation) assembled for mailing to USCIS. SEVIS Form I-20 with OPT recommendation will be processed within 5 business days after the workshop.

Before starting the registration:

  1. Verify your preferred email as listed in your HCC students account.  You will receive confirmation and instructions about the workshop on this email.
  2. Apply for graduation
  3. Check your passport’s expiration date. Your passport should be valid at least 6 months from the filing date; if not,make sure to bring to the workshop a receipt for its extension or renewal.


REGISTER for a OPT Workshop using the OISS Workshop Registration Form.

Workshop rules:

  • You can schedule only one appointment at a time – multiple appointments will be monitored and cancelled.
  • Late arrivals are not allowed, so plan to come at least 30 minutes in advance to have time for parking and locating the workshop room.
  • No children are allowed during the sessions (secure a babysitter for your children in advance).


Step 3: Prepare Documents and Attend the OPT Workshop

You will receive an email from HCC Forms with details about your OPT Workshop.

Bring ALL the documents that are required to the workshop.

Print out the Post-Completion OPT Application Checklist and arrange all documents in order with the Checklist Form on top:

1. OPT Commitment Letter

2. Completion Verification Form (CVF) *

3. Completed form I-765 (typed, not handwritten);  refer to the OPT I-765 Instructions

4. Completed form G-1145 (typed, not handwritten)

5. Copy of passport (at least 6 months from the filing date, or include a receipt for extension or renewal) 

6. Printout of I-94  https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home > click on Get most recent I-94

7. Two (2) recent US passport style photos. Write lightly your name and I-94# at the back.

8. $410 money order or personal check payable to US Department of Homeland Security

8. Copies of all previous employment authorization documents (EADs) if any


*Note: The form should be submitted to hcc.f1advisors@hccs.edu.  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: Pick up OPT packet from OISS

Pick up completed OPT packet / SEVIS Form I-20 with OPT recommendation from the Office of International Student Services after being contacted by your Designated School Official (DSO). Normal processing time is 5 business days. You will be asked to sign the new Form I-20. A copy of the I-20 with OPT recommendation should be added to the mailing packet. You keep the original Form I-20.

Location and parking instructions:

3200 Main St.
Houston, TX 77002 
Entrance is located at the intersection of Elgin and Travis, on the street level of the parking garage.

Parking is available in the parking lot on Rosalie Street behind the HCC Administration Building. If you are a current HCC student, please make sure your student parking placard (you can access this from your Student System Sign-In account) is displayed on your vehicle. 



Step 5: Mail Your OPT Packet to USCIS

After receiving SEVIS Form I-20, mail all documents to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

OPT Mailing List


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

  • Submit a copy of your EAD to your assigned OPT contact (the DSO who assisted with your OPT)
  • 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.

 SEVP Portal - Student Guide


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.


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.


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.