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F-1 Optional Practical Training

Update (April 26, 2021): The International Center has added instructions for online OPT filing. See below.

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment benefit that allows you to work in the US in a job or jobs directly related to your major(s). Only jobs directly related to your major are permitted while using OPT. You are given a maximum of twelve (12) months of OPT per degree level. Additional OPT becomes available only if you advance to a higher degree level.

This page covers the standard F-1 OPT benefit only. Refer to separate sections for the following types of other OPT benefits:

Types of Optional Practical Training: Pre- and Post-Completion

OPT can be done either before completing your degree (pre-completion OPT) or after completing your degree (post-completion OPT). Very few students use OPT on a pre-completion basis, and instead save OPT for after completion of studies.

Eligibility Requirements for OPT

To qualify for post-completion OPT, you must be in valid F-1 student status. In addition:

  • You must have studied on a full-time basis in a US-based academic program in valid status for at least one full academic year before your OPT can begin
    • Time spent in non-academic (e.g., English language training programs) or primarily online or overseas programs does not count toward the academic year requirement
  • You must currently be making normal academic progress toward degree completion (for post-completion OPT, you may also apply within 60 days after completing your degree requirements)
  • You cannot apply for OPT if you were already approved for 12 months of OPT at the same degree level, since you are only given 12 months of OPT per degree level (not 12 months per degree)
  • You do not need a job offer to apply, but for post-completion OPT you are given only 90 days of unemployment (see below)
    • The unemployment rule only applies to post-completion OPT

OPT Application Steps

If you are interested in applying for Optional Practical Training, you should first attend an OPT workshop. For a schedule of workshops, see our Event and Workshop Calendar.

There are no OPT Workshops scheduled for the remainder of the Spring and Summer sessions. You may watch a pre-recorded OPT Workshop instead. The workshop contains updated information about the online I-765 filing process.

Understand the OPT Timeline

OPT applications must be submitted to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) within specific timelines. Applications that are received too early or too late will result in a denial, so please plan carefully.

OPT Type Earliest Day USCIS Will Accept Your Application Last Day USCIS Will Accept Your Application
Pre-completion OPT 90 days before start of OPT employment, as long as employment does not begin before completing at least one year of full-time study No last day, but USCIS may take 3+ months to process applications
Post-completion OPT 90 days before program completion date (last day of final semester of study)

*Fall 2021 ONLY - if you are completing your studies in December 2021 (Fall 2021 semester), you may be eligible to apply as early as 120 days prior to your program completion date

60 days after program completion date (applications will not be accepted after this date)

IMPORTANT: if you are planning to travel internationally after finishing your program, you must first apply for post-completion OPT BEFORE traveling outside the US. If you depart the US after completing your studies without first submitting your application for post-completion OPT, your F-1 status is considered completed and you will no longer be allowed to apply for the benefit.

If you are applying for post-completion OPT, you should review your degree requirements with your academic advisor, dean, or school registrar. If required, apply for graduation in SIS.

Undergraduate students are expected to complete all requirements to qualify for graduation in order to be eligible for post-completion OPT. Students who start the OPT application process but then fail to qualify for graduation by their expected graduation date may be required to withdraw their OPT application.

Graduate students may apply for post-completion OPT based on either completion of all requirements needed for the degree or all coursework requirements for the degree, except for a required thesis, capstone, or dissertation. However, students should talk to their academic advisors about their plans for finishing the remaining thesis, capstone, or dissertation while working on OPT.

After you have reviewed the OPT website information and understand your application timeframes, you must proceed to submit an online OPT Recommendation Request on the International Center Portal. Be prepared to upload a copy of  your I-94 record. Print out and save your I-94 record from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov.

On the International Center Portal you must confirm your requested OPT dates and send an electronic approval form to your Academic Advisor, Dean, or Registrar's Office as applicable.

Upon submission, an International Center advisor will review your documents. If your request is approved, the advisor will produce a new OPT I-20 for you that contains an OPT recommendation printed on page 2 of your updated I-20.

Once you have your OPT Recommendation I-20 from the International Center, sign it in the "Student Attestation" section at the bottom of page 1.

File your application online with USCIS: online version of Form I-765Do not complete this step until you have received an OPT I-20 from the International Center.

Application Deadline

Your application must be submitted to USCIS within thirty (30) days from the OPT I-20 issuance date. If more than 30 days passes between the time your OPT I-20 was produced and the time USCIS receives your application, your application will be denied. Contact the International Center if you have any questions or concerns about your OPT application deadline.

Note: If you would rather file a paper-based OPT application via mail, use the paper version of Form I-765.

USCIS takes between 2 - 5 months to process EAD cards. You must have your EAD card, and your EAD card start date must have been reached, before you are allowed to start any employment. Once you receive your EAD card, make a copy for your personal records.

 

Requirements for Students on OPT

OPT requires that you are engaged in jobs or training activities that are related to your major(s). Only major-related positions are acceptable. In addition, students who are working on post-completion OPT are subject to certain mandatory restrictions regarding unemployment and end or termination of OPT. It is extremely important that you understand and comply with the requirements described below. Failure to do so may lead to your OPT benefit being lost or terminated. If this occurs, you will no longer be able to work and may be required to leave the US. If you have any questions about these requirements, contact the International Center.

While you are on OPT, you are allowed to work only in jobs that are directly related to your major (or majors). It is up to you to explain how your job is related to your major. Acceptable jobs include:

  1. Regular paid employment for at least 20 hours a week
  2. Multiple short-term employments (gigs) for musicians, artists, etc.
  3. Work for hire: Services performed based on a contractual relationship
  4. Self-employed business owner: must have proper business licenses
  5. Employment through an agency for at least 20 hours a week
  6. Volunteers or unpaid interns: the volunteer or unpaid internship position must meet the requirements for unpaid activity; any position must be at least 20 hours per week

You can combine multiple jobs as long as the total hours per week is at least 20 hours per week or more. If you do not have training activity at 20 hours per week or more, your time may be counted in your unemployment allowance (see next section).

Beware of Internship or Job Scams

All students should be aware of the possibility of job or internship scams. Scams may include getting offers from companies that are in fact not real, but are designed to have you pay as a condition of getting the job or internship. Learn to recognize when you might be involved in a job scam. If you have to pay fees up front, even if promised "reimbursement" at a later time, your internship may not be legitimate. Read more about how to recognize job scams.

During post-completion OPT, you are allowed only 90 days of unemployment. Unemployment refers to any day in which you are not engaged in training activity. This includes time spent looking for jobs or in between jobs.

The unemployment time starts counting from the first day of your OPT approval, as indicated on your EAD card. If you do not have a job on your first date of employment, your unemployment time will start counting. Once you find a job, you should report your job information to the International Center using our OPT Employment Reporting tool.

If you accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment time while on post-completion OPT, US Homeland Security regulations state that you lose your OPT benefit and your F-1 status. If this happens, you may lose your F-1 status and/or be prevented from returning to the US. Contact the International Center if you have any questions about the unemployment restriction.

  • Students on pre-completion OPT are not required to have a job. As a result, unemployment time during pre-completion OPT will not trigger loss of F-1 status. However, any time that is authorized but not used is lost and cannot be recovered for use at a later date.

As required under F-1 regulations, you must report the following within 10 days:

  • Changes to your employment information, including adding or deleting jobs
    • When adding a new job, you must report the company name, location, hours per week, and an explanation of how the practical training opportunity relates to your major of study at Tufts
  • Changes to your US residential address and contact information

You may report your OPT employment information through the International Center Portal or directly on the SEVP Portal. SEVP will send you your login credentials to their Portal within 2 weeks of your OPT approval date. We highly recommend students to report their OPT employment information through the International Center Portal to ensure that the information is reviewed by an International Center advisor and reported correctly.

Reporting Employment on the International Center Portal

You will continue to have access to the International Center Portal as a Tufts alum. Your Portal UTLN login will be deactivated approximately 45 days after graduation. At this time, you will receive an automated email message from the Portal containing your new login credentials.

You may complete the following actions on the I-Center Portal:

  • Report OPT employment and request an updated I-20
  • Update your Profile Contact Information

Please review the I-Center Portal User Guides if you need assistance updating your information.

If you need assistance retrieving your Portal Login credentials, please contact Neriliz Soto-Gonzalez at the International Center.

Report your OPT Employment

During post-completion OPT you should be aware of the requirements for travel. These requirements apply once your post-completion OPT has been approved. To re-enter the US, you will need the following:

  • An unexpired passport valid at least six months into the future
  • A valid F-1 visa
  • Your OPT Form I-20, with a travel endorsement signature no more than six months old on the date of your return
  • Your EAD card
  • Strongly recommended: evidence of employment such as a job offer letter, a letter from your supervisor, copies of paychecks, or other evidence that you are using your OPT

For more information about travel during OPT, go to our Travel Resources section.

Your OPT benefit ends when any of the following apply:

  • Your exceed 90 days of unemployment OR your EAD card expiration date is reached, whichever comes first
  • You request that your I-20 and SEVIS record be transferred to another school
  • You request a new I-20 to start a new program at Tufts
  • Your immigration status is changed from F-1 to another status, such H-1B status

In general, once your EAD card expires, you still have a sixty day grace period to depart the US, apply for a change to another status, or apply for a new I-20 to start a new program at Tufts or another school. Contact the International Center if you have any questions about when your OPT benefit ends.

If your EAD card is lost, stolen or damaged, you should apply for a replacement card. Applying for a replacement EAD is similar to applying for the original EAD; you will need to file a new I-765 and pay another I-765 application fee. When filing an EAD replacement card request you should:

  • Indicate that the "Reason for Applying" is for "Replacement of lost, stolen or damaged employment authorization document".
  • Upload an updated I-20 that reflects your current OPT employment information
  • Include a copy of your original Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card, if available,  or a copy of any receipts from USCIS that will help USCIS to identify the original card number.

File your EAD replacement card application online with USCIS: online version of Form I-765

If you would rather file a paper-based EAD replacement card application via mail, use the paper version of Form I-765.

Other Issues for Students on OPT

Students who are on post-completion Optional Practical Training should research options for health insurance coverage. Once your current student health insurance plan ends, it is essential that you maintain health insurance coverage. Without health insurance, the cost of medical care - as well as related services, such as prescription drug coverage - can become prohibitively expensive.

The best option would be to obtain health insurance coverage through your OPT employer, as a benefit of your job. If you do not have an OPT employer, or if your job does not provide health care benefits, you can consider these options. Please note that the following list is provided for information purposes only. Each individual will have their own health care and insurance needs, and so you should do your own research about insurance plans, options, and costs.

Private Health Insurance Providers

There are a variety of private insurance companies that offer insurance plans designed for international students. The following is a list of suggestions. Note that the International Center does not endorse or recommend any of the options below.

State and Federal Health Insurance Markets

Individual states and the US federal government operate 'marketplaces' where individuals may search for or get connected to insurance options. Please research each option carefully.