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Optional Practical training (OPT)

Optional Practical training (OPT) for F-1 Students

General Overview: Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined as a period during which an F-1 student may have the option of training in the United States during their program or after it ends. Practical training can provide valuable work experience by sharpening and adding to the skills students are learning in school.

Please Note: VIU offers recommendation for Post-Completion OPT, which may be available to a student after he/she completes their program of study.

Eligibility

To be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), the student must:

  • Have been in F-1 status for a minimum of one academic year:
    • At VIU, one academic year means enrollment for consecutive Fall and Spring semesters. Summers are not included
  • Hold a valid F-1 status at the time of the OPT application
  • Intend on working in a position that is directly related to the students’ major field of study
  • Be completing their program of study within the next 90 days
    • The application for OPT cannot be submitted more than 90 days before the program completion date, and no later than 60 days after the completion date of their program.

If you have had any violations of your F-1 status, you may be in-eligible to apply for OPT. Violations include, but are not limited to: failure to maintain full-time enrollment while you are in the United States (unless you were authorized for a reduced course load); unauthorized withdrawal from classes during your program of study; failure to extend your I-20; participating in unauthorized employment.

Applying for OPT

How to Apply

To apply for OPT; you must complete the following documentation:

  • The OPT Application Packet
  • A completed (typed) I-765 form
  • An Official Transcript from the VIU Registrar Office
  • 2 photographs (passport size)
  • $380.00 application fee, made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” (NOTE: please write exactly as shown)
  • Copy of all previous I-20s (all I-20’s must be endorsed by both a DSO, and the student)
  • Copy of your I-94 arrival/departure record
  • Copy of your un-expired passport
  • Copy of your visa pages and any US stamping in your passport
  • Previous EAD card, if applicable

When applying for OPT, the student should select an OPT start date. This date may be in a window of up to 60 days after the completion of your academic program. This 60-day period is consistent with a student’s grace period during which the F-1 status remains valid.

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Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

If your OPT is approved by USCIS, you will receive a small photo identification card called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card. This card will state the type and length of time for the authorized employment. When you receive this card, please check that the information is correct. If there are errors, you must contact USCIS and request a replacement card as soon as possible.

Beginning Your Employment

Students may NOT begin working before they receive their EAD Card from USCIS. Working before you are authorized to do so constitutes illegal employment and will jeopardize your legal status in the United States.

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Traveling Outside the United States While on OPT

Traveling Before Your OPT is Granted

Students who have submitted their application for OPT must NOT travel outside of the United States while they are waiting for their EAD Card. Failure to remain within the U.S. while waiting for your EAD Card may result in loss of the students’ F-1 status and cancellation of the OPT application.

Traveling After Your OPT is Granted

Students who have been granted OPT and have their EAD Card may travel outside of the United States. However, the following documents will be needed to re-enter the United States:

  • I-20 form that is signed by the ISS Office for travel (Please see the VIU Travel Policy)
  • EAD Card
  • A letter from the employer indicating that the student has a job, or a job offer, in the field of study and will return to the company to be employed
  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 Visa

After OPT

Upon completion of your OPT, you are granted a 60-day grace period as indicated on your EAD Card. You may not work during this time. You must notify the ISS Office if you plan to leave the U.S. or if you plan to transfer to another program after your OPT. Notification can be made by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visiting the ISS Office at the Village Drive Building.

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