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) 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:

  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 or you have to provide  evidence for requested extension or renewal.


How to Schedule & Register via WebEx

  1. Click on  Optional Practical Training (OPT) Workshop Request. Go to "Click here to display sessions" button, click and choose a date.
  2. You will receive an email with a WebEx Registration link. Register for the virtual workshop following the email instructions.
  3. 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: Prepare Documents and Attend the Virtual OPT Workshop

You will receive an email from HCC Forms with details about your OPT Workshop and a link to register for the Virtual Workshop.

Prepare ALL the documents that will be reviewed during the workshop:

  1.  OPT Commitment Letter   (electronic signature is acceptable)*
  2. Completion Verification Form (CVF) **
  3. Completed form I-765 (electronic signature is not acceptable);  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 or I-797A Notice of Action for change of status to F-1
  7. Two (2) recent US passport style photos. Write lightly your name and I-94# at the back.
  8. $410 (fee changes to $550 starting October 2, 2020) money order or personal check payable to US Department of Homeland Security 
  9. Copies of all previous employment authorization documents (EADs) if any


*How to Add Signature to PDF Document

**The CVF 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: Upload OPT documents to your Checklist

 In one business day after the workshop, do the following:

  1. Log in to your account on the HCC Student System
  2. In Student Homepage, click on Checklists
  3. 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.

How to Upload OPT Documents on your To Do List


Step 5: Receive SEVIS 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. You will need to sign it before mailing the OPT packet to USCIS.


Step 6: Mail Your OPT Packet to USCIS . 30-day Limit of the OPT I-20

OPT applications must be received 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.

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

All applications received on or after October 2, 2020 will be charged  the updated fee of $550.

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.