Optional Practical training (OPT)
- Applying for OPT
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- Beginning Your Employment
- Travelling Outside the United States While on OPT
- After OPT
To be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), you must:
- Have been in F1 student status for a minimum of one academic year
- Hold a valid F-1 Visa status at the time of application
- Intend on working in a position that is directly related to your major field of study
If you have had any violations of your F-1 Visa status, you may be ineligible 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.
When to Apply
Students may apply for OPT no more than 90 days before they complete their program of study and for up to 60 days after completion of the degree program. The International Student Services Office strongly suggests that students apply during the last semester of study before completing the degree.
How to Apply
To apply for OPT; you must bring the following documentation to the ISS office:
- A completed I-765 form (For assistance with this form, click here. Please use a blue pen to sign the form.)
- An official transcript from VIU
- 2 photographs
- An OPT Request form, completed by your academic advisor and registrar office
- $380.00 application fee, made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (NOTE: please do NOT use the initials USDHS or DHS)
- Copy of all previous I-20s (first page and third page)
- Copy of your I-94 arrival/departure record
- Copy of your unexpired passport
- Copy of your visa pages and any US stamping in your passport
- Previous EAD card, if applicable
When applying for OPT, the student may 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 visa status remains valid.
Once 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.
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.
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 will result in loss of the F-1 Visa 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
- 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