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.
- 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.
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 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.
Step 1: Prepare Documents for OPT Application to ISSS
Prepare these documents and scan for uploading:
- Form I-765 (download at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765). Review the tips for completing Form I-765 before uploading.
- 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.
Step 2: Complete the Optional Practical Training (OPT) Record through the ISSS Portal
When starting the application, select the term in which you are requesting your OPT benefit to begin (example, OPT starting in July would select Summer term. OPT starting in October would select Fall term. OPT starting in January would select Spring term).
In the application, you will request a recommendation link be sent to your academic advisor. Your academic advisor will confirm your academic program and 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 3: Send 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.
2) Form I-765 with any suggested revisions
3) Instructions on what and where to send your OPT application packet.
Documents to prepare for USCIS Application:
- Form G-1145, if you want to receive email/text message application status updates.
- Two recent color passport style photographs (write name and SEVIS ID number softly in pencil or felt pen on back of photos). See I-765 Filing Instructions for further photo details.
- $410.00 USCIS Filing Fee. This can be paid by personal check, bank check or money order made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. While it is possible to pay by credit card, we do not recommend that students do this.
- Completed Form I-765, typed and printed and signed in blue ink.
- Photocopy of the new Form I-20 with OPT recommendation on page 2. Sign the bottom of your form before making a photocopy.
- Photocopy of all previous Forms I-20 (all pages). Include Forms I-20 received from other schools, if applicable.
- Print out of most recent I-94 admission record OR photocopy of I-94 card (front and back) if you have a paper I-94 attached to your passport OR I-797 approval notice with attached I-94 (if you changed status to F-1 within the U.S.).
- Photocopy of any previous Employment Authorization Document (EADs), if applicable.
- Photocopy of your most recent visa stamp. The visa can be expired and/or of a different visa category.
- Photocopy of biographical page of your passport. If your passport will expire within 6 months, you should renew it with your home country’s embassy or consulate before you submit your OPT application.
Make a photocopy of all your paperwork for your records before mailing your application, and mail all application materials to an appropriate USCIS Lockbox facility (based on the mailing address on your I-765). The Lockbox will take in your initial application and forward it to a USCIS Service Center for processing.
Step 4: 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.
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 StudentAdmin or the ISSS Portal:
- Log in to Student Admin to update: Current Local Address, U.S. telephone number.
- Click the Edit Profile button on your ISSS Portal User Home Page to update your personal email address, non-U.S. telephone number or non-U.S. home address.
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!
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.
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.