Contact Us

202-885-3350

Fax: 202-885-3354

isss@american.edu

ISSS office walk-in advising hours: Mondays: 12:00 noon - 5:00 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Contact:
Bakar, Senem S
Director, International Student & Scholar Services

Butler Pavilion, Room 410

Int'l Student / Scholar Svcs 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
410 Butler Pavilion
Washington, DC, USA 20016-8041 United States

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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

An employment option for F-1 students who wish to gain work experience directly related to their field of study. Eligible students may be authorized for up to 12 months total OPT per degree level. OPT can be used during a student's studies (pre-completion) or immediately after graduation (post-completion).

Pre-Completion

  • Work authorization for a period that will begin and end before the completion of the degree program.
  • May work part-time (20 hours a week or less) while school is in session and full-time (more than 20 hours a week) during summer or winter break.
  • Pre-completion OPT time will deduct from post-completion OPT eligibility, at a rate of half time, (e.g. If you work part-time 4 months you use up 2 months of OPT).

Post-Completion

  • OPT start date must be within 60 days of the completion of program date. The completion of program date is determined from the Certification Form for Completion of Academic Program (PDF) (typically, graduation date or last day of classes).
  • ISSS recommends that you clear your account balance before applying for post-completion OPT.

  • Must have been enrolled in a full-time degree seeking program for one academic year (Fall and Spring)
  • Job offer not required for application
  • One 12-month OPT per degree level
  • Degree levels are:
    • Associates (AA)
    • Bachelors (BA/BS)
    • Masters (MA/MS, LLM, MBA)
    • Doctoral (PhD, JD, SJD)
  1. Attend an OPT Session
  2. At these sessions, student learn about:

    • The documents and forms required for the OPT application and how to complete them
    • The rights and responsibilities of students engaged in OPT
    • The deadlines and processing time of OPT applications
    • Travel restrictions on OPT

  3. Submit a Completed Application packet to ISSS
    • Completed form I-765 (PDF)
    • Certification Form for Completion of Academic Program (PDF), completed by you and your academic advisor. Please note that pre-completion OPT start dates must begin and end before the completion of the degree program, while post-completion OPT dates must start within 60 days of the completion of program date
    • All previous and current I-20s (including I-20s from other schools) Valid passport (valid at least 6 months in the future)
    • F-1 Visa
    • I-94 (print-out from U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
    • Previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card, if applicable

ISSS will review your entire OPT application and issue a new I-20 with OPT recommendation noted. This process can take 5-7 business days.

While ISSS is reviewing your OPT packet please prepare 2 passport sized photos and a Cashier's Check, Personal Check or Money Order for $410.00 (payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security).

When your new I-20 is ready, ISSS will contact you to come pick it up. You will need to mail the packet, with new I-20, to USCIS. USCIS must receive your OPT application within 30 days of your new OPT I-20 issuance date. If not received within 30 days, OPT will be denied and appeal is not possible.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

USCIS will notify you by mail within 2 to 3 weeks that they have received your application. Please save this receipt as it will include your USCIS file number. With your USCIS file number, you can monitor progress on your application at the USCIS Case Status Service website. 

Students generally receive their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) cards within 8 -12 weeks. If 80 days have passed from the receipt date and you have not received your EAD card, contact ISSS immediately.

See the Optional Practical Training Reporting page for instructions on submitting your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card and reporting employment.

After you receive your EAD card please submit a copy (front and back of card) to ISSS through iEagle.

All students on OPT must report any change in employment or address during OPT within 10 days. This means:

  • Legally changing your name
  • Moving
  • Leaving the US and ending OPT early
  • Starting a job
  • Changing employment and/or ending a position

If you change status from F-1 to another status (e.g. H1-B, G-4, etc) please email isssimmigration@american.edu

Students on post-completion OPT are allowed only 90 days total of unemployment during their OPT period. Please contact ISSS with any questions about the unemployment period and how volunteer work can count as employment.

After 90 days of unemployment on post-completion OPT you can be considered in violation of your F-1 status unless you:

  • Transfer to a new educational program
  • Depart the US
  • Change visa status

Yes. 

Be mindful that some recruiters and placement agencies may engage in fraudulent activity. You should ensure the agencies you are using are trustworthy and reputable. Reputable recruiters will not modify your resume or academic background to secure OPT placement. 

If you witness a fraudulent activity by an OPT recruiter or company, please contact the ICE Homeland Security Investigations tip line

Students on pre-completion OPT should follow the regular travel protocol for full-time degree seeking students.

It is not recommended to travel during post-completion OPT until after you have found and started employment. During your OPT never try to re-enter the US on any other visa status (e.g. B-1/B-2, Visa Waiver, etc) as this can result in losing your OPT.

If you travel outside the US while on OPT you will need the following documents to re-enter the US:

  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card
  • Letter of employment on company letterhead and signed (If you do not have proof of employment, you may be denied re-entry to the US)
  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa (if your F-1 visa has expired you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa while you are outside the US)
  • OPT I-20 with travel signature from ISSS (signed within the last 6 months before the day you will re-enter the US)

Students become eligible to apply for an additional 12 months of OPT per higher level of degree study completed.

Example: A student completes a Bachelor's degree and gets 12 months of OPT. The student then completes a master's degree and is eligible for another 12 months of OPT because it is a higher degree level. The same student then completes a PhD and is eligible for a third 12 months of OPT because it is a higher degree level.

Only Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) majors have an option for a 24-month extension of OPT. A minor in a STEM field does not make you eligible for the STEM extension. If you are not a STEM major, then you may receive a maximum of 12 months of full-time OPT per degree level. For more information, see our webpage on the STEM OPT Extension.

If you are authorized for a total of 12 or more months of full-time CPT during your degree, you will lose your eligibility for OPT at that degree level.

Part-time CPT does not affect your OPT eligibility.

Yes, you can extend your AU Health Insurance coverage as long as you apply for the extension before you graduate and before the end of your current coverage. 

For more information contact the Student Health Center.

The "Cap-Gap" refers to the period of time where F-1 students on OPT have a gap in their visa status.

Find out if you are eligible for the Cap-Gap extension.

Students listening to workshop presentation.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) Sessions

F-1 students must attend a session before applying for OPT. Led by an ISSS advisor, the session covers the application process and timeline for OPT. 

Register