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.
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
- Complete 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 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.
To apply for OPT, you must complete and submit the application online here.
Once the student has completed/submitted the online application, a new OPT Recommendation I-20 will be issued to the student. The student must submit ‘copies’ of the following documentation to USCIS:
- A completed (typed) I-765 form
- An Official Transcript from the VIU Registrar Office
- 2 photographs (passport size)
- $410.00 application fee, made payable to ‘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 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 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.
It is the students’ sole responsibility to make sure that their OPT Application is mailed to USCIS within 30 calendar days of a DSO issuing the OPT Recommendation I-20. For directions on where to mail the application please go to USCIS Phoenix and Dallas Lockbox facilities.
Once a student has been approved OPT, it is his/her responsibility to properly report employment or non-employment to the International Student Services Office and the Career Center with VIU.
* Once a student receives work authorization documentation (EAD), the student will need to upload the EAD Card within 10 calendar days here.
It is the student’s responsibility to report the following to the ISSO:
- Any updates made to your employment, name, address, email, and/or phone number within 10 calendar days (this includes moving out of the United States)
- Any changes in the student’s immigration status (Ex. H1B, Asylum, etc….)
- Employment information to ISSO every 6 months if they are employed with the same employer
The following will need to be reported to the ISSO and the Career Center within 90 calendar days from the start date listed on the student’s EAD Card.
- Copy of the Offer Letter from the students’ employer
- Employment Notification Application
* Failure to report the aforementioned information may result in ‘Termination’ of a student’s F-1 status.
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 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
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 email@example.com or visiting the ISS Office at the Village Drive Building.