OPT (Optional Practical Training)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an F-1 visa benefit that allows international students to work or train in a job or internship directly related to your academic major. You do not have to have a job or internship offer to apply.  

International students may apply for up to 12 months of OPT per degree level. The 12 months may be used before you graduate, after you graduate or split before and after graduation. You must have studied for at least one academic year before using OPT. Current UCAELI students at UConn are not eligible to apply for OPT.

A 24-month STEM OPT extension may be available after the initial 12 months of OPT for students who are studying in designated STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and meet other employment criteria.

OPT Eligibility

 

  • Your OPT must begin after you have studied full time for one full academic year (Fall/Spring or Spring/Fall)  
  • You did not have 12 months of full Curricular Practical Training (CPT) at your current degree level
  • You have not already been approved for OPT while in a degree that is higher than your current degree level, or used 12 months of OPT at your current degree level.
  • You must have attended an ISSS Practical Training Workshop for OPT (NEW FALL 2020). Dates/sign up will soon be released.

 

Types of OPT and When to Apply

Pre-Completion OPT

Pre-completion OPT is OPT that takes place while you are still an active student in your program.

When school is in session: You may apply for part time OPT to work maximum 20 hours per week, including any on-campus employment that you work. If you are a Plan A Masters or PhD student and have completed all degree requirements besides your Thesis/Dissertation, you may apply for full time OPT, even when school is in session, but you must remain enrolled full time in courses.  

During vacation term: You may apply for full time OPT to work more than 20 hours per week.  

If you are in your first academic year: Your application cannot be received by USCIS more than 90 days before your second semester ends, and your earliest start date can be the first day after your second semester ends.

If you have already completed one academic year: Your application should be received by USCIS within 90 days of your requested OPT start date.

Choosing OPT dates: You can only apply for part-time OPT or full-time OPT per application. Therefore your OPT dates must be consistent with the work hours you are choosing (for example, if OPT can only be full time in summer, you must choose dates that fall within the summer break term).

Post-Completion OPT

Post-completion OPT is OPT that takes place after you have graduated, or for Master’s/PhD students, after you have completed all academic work aside for thesis/dissertation.

Post-completion OPT must be full time (over 20 hours/week).  You cannot apply for part-time post-completion OPT.

If you are a Plan A Master’s or PhD student and have completed all degree requirements besides your Thesis/Dissertation, you may apply for post-completion OPT and finish up your thesis/dissertation while starting your employment. You will not be required to study full time, but you must enroll each semester in a continuing registration course (0 credit) for administrative purposes, and you must complete your degree by the end of your OPT period.  You may not pursue post completion OPT and maintain a UConn GA-ship or other student employment.

Choosing OPT Dates: You must select an OPT start date that begins no later than 60 days after you complete your program. Your end date will be 12 months after your requested start date, unless you do not have 12 months of OPT remaining. If you are a thesis/dissertation pending student, you may select any OPT start date.

The earliest USCIS may receive your application for post-completion OPT is 90 days before your expected date of program completion, and if you are a thesis/dissertation pending student, 90 days before your requested OPT start date.

How to Apply

Step 1: Attend ISSS OPT Workshop

OPT workshops are provided throughout Fall semester and you must attend a workshop before ISSS will process your application for post-completion OPT. You can find OPT Workshop details on the UConn Events calendar.
View Upcoming Practical Training Workshops

Step 2: Prepare Documents for OPT Application to ISSS

Prepare these documents and scan for uploading:

  • If you will file a paper-based application, prepare Form I-765 (download at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765). Review the tips for completing Form I-765  before uploading.  If you will file your application online, you do not  have to prepare this form, since you will complete it online after receiving your new I-20 with OPT recommendation from ISSS. 

 

  • Post-Completion OPT Only: Pay the ISSS 12 Month OPT/AT Processing Fee. This $150 fee is paid online through the UConn Bursar website. After paying the $150 fee, print or save the receipt to upload with your application documents.

Pay the 12-Month OPT Processing Fee

Step 3: Complete the Optional Practical Training (OPT) Record through the ISSS Portal

When starting the application, select the year in which you are requesting your OPT benefit to begin.

In the application, you will request a recommendation link be sent to your academic advisor. Your academic advisor will confirm your academic program and intended program completion date.  Your academic advisor is not your ISSS advisor.

We recommend that you meet with your academic advisor before completing the OPT record. Your advisor should be aware of and approve of your graduation plans, and it is courteous to let you advisor know they will receive the ISSS request to complete your OPT recommendation.  


Step 4: Submit your OPT Application to USCIS

After reviewing the OPT Application, ISSS will return to you:

1)   An updated Form I-20 with OPT recommendation on page 2. Sign this on page 1. 

2)   Your Draft Form I-765 with any suggested revisions (if you submit one).

3)   An OPT Filing Procedures checklist - Instructions on what, when and where to submit your OPT application packet. This will be customized for you, but you can review the document now, to learn what support documents will be needed for both the online and paper-based application.

After receiving your documents from ISSS, you can submit your application to USCIS to request an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You may not begin working until you receive the EAD and the start date on the EAD has been reached.

Submit your application either online, or according to the paper-based filing instructions. If completing the application online, you can refer to the ISSS Tips for Completing Form I-765 webpage for guidelines.

Step 5: After Filing Application with USCIS

Receive I-797 (Receipt Notice): Several weeks after receiving your application, USCIS will send you a Receipt Notice (I-797). This will list the Service Center where your application is being processed, the date your application was officially received, and a case number assigned to your application. Carefully review the notice to make sure your name is spelled correctly and the correct mailing address is listed.  If it is not, call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) number listed on your receipt notice immediately. 

Receive I-797 (Approval Notice):  After processing your OPT application, USCIS will mail you an approval notice (I-797).  This is a notification on your application status, NOT your work authorization/permission.  

Receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD): You will receive an EAD separately in the mail from USCIS. This is your proof of employment authorization. You may not start working until you receive your EAD and the start date becomes effective. EADs cannot be forwarded by the post office, so if you move or change your mailing address you MUST notify USCIS with the updated address for EAD mailing.

OPT Requirements

Reporting Requirements

While on OPT you must:

  • Submit a copy of your EAD through the Immigration Document Update
  • Report your employer, or changes to your employment status within 10 days to ISSS by completing an OPT Employment Update with each change.  
  • Report changes in personal information within 10 days through the ISSS Portal:
    • Update U.S. and home country address  and phone number changes following the instructions on this webpage.

    Employment Requirements

    While on post-completion OPT you are required to have active employment to maintain your valid visa status. You may have up to 90 days of unemployment while on post-completion OPT, counting days between jobs. If you accrue more than 90 days over your post-completion period, your OPT status is no longer valid and you should depart the U.S. Contact your ISSS advisor before you reach 90 days of unemployment.   

     

    All employment worked on OPT must be directly related to your field of study.  You may hold multiple jobs, if all are OPT appropriate. Both paid work and unpaid internships can count as active OPT employment, but remember to report them through the OPT Employment Update form!

     

    End of OPT

    If you have not accrued more than 90 days of unemployment time, you will have a 60 day grace period to prepare for departure from the U.S. at the end of your OPT period. During your 60 day grace period you may also transfer to a new full time study program, if you meet all the transfer requirements to keep your F-1 status, or change to a new visa status.

     

    You must notify ISSS of your plans (departure, transfer or change of visa status) by completing the appropriate end of program form.

     

    SEVP Portal

    After your OPT is approved, you will receive an email from the U.S. government, Student and Exchange Visitor Program, inviting you to activate your account in the SEVP Portal. The SEVP Portal provides you the ability to directly view and edit certain information in your SEVIS record while on OPT or STEM OPT.

     

    Updating your information in the SEVP Portal is optional, not required. If you submit your OPT Employment Update to ISSS, your information will be updated by UConn in your SEVIS record. All students are required to submit information updates to ISSS using the methods described on our webpage under OPT Requirements.  However, the SEVP Portal is a good option if you need to update certain required information as soon as possible.

     

    Sometimes the SEVP Portal sends you automated email triggered by certain changes made to your SEVIS record by either you or ISSS. Do not panic if you receive such an email. You may verify with ISSS whether any action is needed in response to any messages you receive.

    OPT Video Resources

    Post-Completion OPT for Undergraduate and Plan B Master Students (skip to 4:10 for workshop start)

    WATCH: Post-Completion OPT for Undergraduate and Plan B Master Students

    Post-Completion OPT for Thesis/Dissertation Students (skip to 4:00 for workshop start)

    WATCH: Post-Completion OPT for Thesis/Dissertation Students

     

    OPT Resources

    ISSS Post-Completion OPT Flyer

    USCIS Form I-765

    USCIS Optional Practical Training for F-1 Students

    USCIS Case Status Online

    USCIS Processing Times Information

    Study in the States Training Opportunities

    SEVP Portal Login

    SEVP Portal Help