Optional Practical Training (OPT) after Graduation

University of Indianapolis Photo

Eligibility Requirements

An international student applying for Optional Practical Training must have maintained their F-1 immigration status for at least one full academic year before applying for this benefit.

If you have not been here for one full academic year, you must submit an application for OPT no earlier than 90 days (3 months) prior to being enrolled for one full academic year provided that the period of employment will not begin until the completion of the full academic year.

Students requesting OPT must have completed all degree requirements in the academic program and be eligible to receive the degree. In addition, the student must possess a valid passport for the OPT period. Employment during OPT must be directly related to your major area of study and commensurate with your degree level. You do NOT need to have a job offer in order to receive OPT authorization.

Application for OPT must be made before completion of the academic program. We strongly recommend that you apply 3-4 months in advance of graduation due to current processing times at the Nebraska Service Center.

Should you graduate from the University having not applied for OPT, you are no longer eligible for OPT.

Once you have been approved for OPT and should you begin any coursework at a higher educational level, your OPT will be terminated.

How to Apply for OPT

STEP ONE: Complete the following —

  • Key Academic Advisor’s Approval Form. This form is to be given to and completed by your key academic advisor. Your key academic advisor confirms when exactly you will have satisfactorily completed all requirements for your degree.

  • Form I-765. Complete items #1 - #15. Make certain to sign and date the form.

  • Two passport-sized photos. Do not allow the photos to be cut apart or trimmed.
    Refer to the attached “Color Photograph Specifications” sheet for additional information. As of 9/1/04, all photos must be full-color, full-face frontal passport-style photos.

    • Make certain on the back of each photo to write your name and I-94 number in pencil.

    • Most students obtain photos by going to Walgreens, the pharmacy that is one block west of campus at Hanna and Madison across from Lo-Bill Grocery Store.

  • Personal check or money order for U.S. $175.00 made payable to “USCIS.”

  • Current I-20 issued by the University of Indianapolis.

  • Valid passport and I-94 (white card).

STEP TWO: After completing all forms, call the International Services for an appointment. Bring the following documents –

  1. During the appointment, all of the forms you have completed will be reviewed for accuracy.

  2. The USCIS fee of $175.00 and a separate $10.00 fee (covering copies & postage) will be collected.

  3. You must tell us which date, within 60 days of your program completion date, you would like for your OPT to begin. The requested OPT start date will be entered into SEVIS. However, the start date shown on the authorization card that you will eventually receive will be the official date when you can begin employment

  4. You will receive a SEVIS-generated I-20 document showing that OPT has been recommended.

  5. Your complete application packet will be forwarded to the Nebraska Service Center for additional processing.

You should receive a receipt within 2 – 4 weeks.

Points to Remember

OPT authorization card (officially known as the EAD or Employment Authorization Document)
You must not begin work until you have this card in your possession! If you have not received your EAD within 90 days from the date of your USCIS receipt, then present the receipt at the USCIS office downtown and request a temporary EAD.

Leaving the United States after submitting OPT application & before receiving EAD card
Should you leave the United States after filing an OPT application, you face the risk of an automatic denial by USCIS of your application. Current immigration law states that if a student leaves the country after making application to USCIS, such action may be interpreted as “abandonment” of the application.

Leaving the United States with EAD card
You may travel outside the United States and re-enter to return to employment once you receive the EAD and your I-20 is endorsed for travel by the International Services. However, your passport and visa must be valid. The EAD cannot be used in place of an expired visa.

Canceling OPT authorization
Once you have been authorized for OPT, the authorization cannot be cancelled, rescinded, revoked, or changed. If you do not actually work during the OPT period, you cannot get this OPT time back despite the fact that the time was unused.

Duration of OPT
OPT is limited to a total of twelve calendar months and the ending date will be printed on the EAD. Any work after the ending date on the EAD is considered illegal.

Current mailing address
OPT authorization cards cannot be forwarded. The address that you use on Form I-765 must be valid for at least six (6) months after you apply. If you move, contact the International Services Immediately.

F-1 Status while on OPT
You are still considered an F-1 student while on approved OPT. therefore, you must comply with immigration regulations pertaining to F-1 students.