F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)
What is OPT?
Practical training is the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in your degree program to off-campus work in your major field. OPT is authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (U.S.C.I.S.). This authorization can take 2 to 3 months to obtain. The maximum amount of time granted to work on F-1 OPT status is 12 months per degree level plus a possible 17 month extension for those who qualify (see OPT FAQ #12). You may use some or all of the available 12 months of practical training during your course of study or save the full twelve months to use after you graduate.
You may apply up to 90 days before your graduation date and the immigration service MUST RECEIVE your application NO LATER THAN 60 days beyond your graduation date or 60 days beyond the end date of your I-20 (WHICHEVER IS EARLIER) or, if you are an advanced graduate student, NO LATER THAN 60 days beyond the last day that you are registered as a student.
What are the Eligibility Requirements for F-1 Optional Practical Training?
- Students must have been enrolled in a degree program for a full academic year and be in valid F-1 status at the time of application.
- You do NOT need to have a job offer in order to apply for OPT
- Employment while on OPT must be directly related to your major area of study.
- The maximum amount of time granted to work on F-1 OPT status is 12 months per degree level plus a possible 17 month extension for those who qualify (see OPT FAQ #11).
- You may not begin working until you receive the OPT card AND the start date on the card has been reached.
- You may change jobs during the 12 months.
How to Apply
- Download the OPT application here or pick it up at the ISSO and read through the entire application. PLEASE read the FAQ if you have questions.
- Ask your academic advisor to fill out the "Academic Advisor's Recommendation Form" which is in the packet.
- Fill out the "ISSO information sheet" and Form I-765 (Please read important instructions in the packet for filling out the I-765)
- Bring all the items completed in “Step One” to the ISSO and sign in to speak with the Advisor on duty. The ISSO advisor will print out a new I-20 for you which will include our “ISSO advisor recommendation” for your OPT on page 3. You will send a copy of this new I-20 with your application. If you are living a long distance from Ithaca, we can work with you through email, phone and fax.
- Make a photocopy of all of the documents in the application for your records.
Mail in the following documents so that they are RECEIVED by the immigration service no more than 60 days beyond your graduation date or no more than 60 days beyond the end date on your I-20 (whichever is EARLIER) to:
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Eastern Service Center
75 Lower Welden Street
St. Albans, VT 05479-0001**
**Please Note: This is the service center to use if you are currently living in Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Virginia or West Virginia. If you are NOT living in one of these states, please contact an advisor at the ISSO about where to send your application.
- Form I-765
- A photocopy of pages 1 & 3 of the SEVIS I-20 with the ISSO Advisor's recommendation for Optional Practical Training on page 3.
- A photocopy of both sides of I-94 Card
- A copy of photo page (identification page) of your passport also include any extra pages that record extensions of the validity of your passport).
- A copy of the F1 visa page of your passport (even if expired)
- A copy of ALL previous I-20s that have been issued to you.
- A photocopy of your previous OPT card or other work card (EAD) if you have had one.
- If you are applying for the 17 month extension (see OPT FAQ question # 11), you must also include a copy of your transcripts or diploma as long as it states the degree field.
- Two passport type photographs (Print your name and admission number lightly in pencil on the back of each photo, and put the photos in an envelope and attach it to the petition.)
- FEE: The fee is $340. Checks may be made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. You may send a money order or a personal check drawn on a U.S. bank, NO CASH. Attach to the front of the I-765.
Staple all above documents together and send by certified mail with a return receipt OR federal express (so that you have a tracking number and proof that they received your application). After mailing inthe documents, you will receive a notice (Form I-797) stating you need to wait for 60 to 90 days to receive your EAD. With the receipt notice, you can check your case status on line at http://uscis.gov. In general, it can take about 2 or 3 months to get your card.
J-1 Students: Important Reminders when Graduating
- Working after graduation
- Staying in the U.S during the grace period
- Continuing on to another degree at Cornell
- Attending another school for a new degree program
In order to use the J-1 Academic Training work authorization available to J-1 students, you must apply at the ISSO NO LATER than your graduation date or last day as a registered student (whichever is EARLIER). Click here to read more about J-1 Academic Training.
As a J-1 student, you have a 30 day grace period after your date of graduation. During that grace period, you may remain in the U.S. but you may NOT re-enter the U.S. in J-1 Status. If you are not going to remain in the U.S. for work or another degree program and only need to re-enter the U.S. to pick up your belongings, speak to an advisor at the ISSO about the possibility of entering the U.S. in tourist status.
If you are planning to begin a new degree program at Cornell after you graduate from one program, you MUST have a new DS-2019 issued for the new program no later than the end of the 30 day grace period. In order to get your new DS-2019, you must complete the following steps:
- send your funding certification to the graduate school or the relevant admissions office (JGSM, Law, Vet)
- fill out the top section of the change of level DS-2019 application
- have your graduate student services representative fill out the bottom section
- bring it to the ISSO and speak with an advisor
If you are planning to begin a new degree program at another U.S. college or university after graduating, you MUST contact the ISSO and let us know which school you will be attending no later than the end of your 30 day grace period. We will enter the information for your planned transfer to the new school into your electronic SEVIS record. Read more about the transfer procedure here.