OPT (Optional Practical Training)

I-765 Student OPT Categories

(c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion

(c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion

(c)(3)(C) – Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM)

(c)(6) – M-1 Post-Completion Practical Training

(Reference 12: Classes of aliens authorized to accept employment8 CFR 274a.12)

One Full Academic Year

To be eligible for OPT, an F student must have been taking a full-course of study for one full academic year in the United States

F students requesting optional practical training can submit their applications up to 90 days prior to completing “one full academic year” as long as the requested

optional practical training (OPT) period does not begin until the full academic year is completed

The academic year must be completed by the time the authorization begins

Directly Related to the Students Major Area of Study

OPT employment (both pre-completion and post-completion) must be directly related to the student’s major field of study.

 (c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT

Includes an F-1 student who is seeking employment for the purpose of OPT prior to completion of studies.

OPT can be either part-time or full-time.

NOTE: Pre-completion OPT cannot be full time while school is in session (20 hours per week only).

Students are eligible for a maximum of one full year of full-time OPT at each higher level of education.

Can be in a combination of pre-completion and post- completion.

Documentation Requirements

 Evidence of F-1 status.

 A SEVIS Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status (Form I-20).

 The SEVIS I-20 must contain a barcode, “N” number, DSO recommendation, and must be signed by the DSO and applicant.

 The student’s status in the SEVIS system must show as “Active”

Validity Period

Date of adjudication or the start date recommended by the DSO, whichever is later, to: The end date recommended by the DSO;

The end date of studies; or, 12 months, whichever is earlier.

The pre-completion OPT ending validity date may be the same as the end of studies date. The end date cannot extend beyond the end of studies date as indicated on the I-20.

Full-time/Part-time Pre-completion OPT

Part-time pre-completion OPT may be authorized at all levels of education.

Part-time pre-completion OPT is limited to no more than twenty hours a week when school is in session.

Full-time pre-completion OPT may be authorized during holidays or school vacation.

(c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT

Includes an F-1 student who is seeking employment for the purpose of optional practical training after completion of studies (while completing a thesis dissertation or equivalent) or after graduation

Documentation Requirements

Evidence of F-1 status

A SEVIS Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status (Form I-20)

The SEVIS I-20 must contain a barcode, “N” number, DSO recommendation, and must be signed by the DSO and applicant

The student’s status in the SEVIS system must show as “Active”

The student must:

Properly file his/her Form I-765 up to 90 days prior to the program end-date and no later than 60 days after his/her program end-date

File the Form I-765 with USCIS within 30 days of the date the DSO enters the recommendation for OPT into his/her SEVIS record

8 CFR 214.2 (f)(11)(i)(B)(2)

Validity Period

From the date of adjudication or the start date recommended by the DSO, whichever is later, to:  The end date recommended by the DSO, or 12 months, or; 14 months from completion of studies, whichever is earlier

 (c)(3)(C) – STEM

8 CFR 274a.12(c)(3)(C) includes an F-1 student who is seeking a 17 month extension of his/her post-completion (c)(3)(B) OPT based on a STEM degree

Timely Filing

The (c)(3)(C) application must be received prior to the expiration date of the prior post-completion EAD

The filing must contain a SEVIS Form I-20 with a STEM extension recommendation from the DSO, or the adjudicating officer must be able to locate one in SEVIS


 The name of the employer must be annotated in Block 17 of the application along with the company identification number (e-verify number)

Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) Code

The Form I-20 must contain a CIP code listed in the current STEM designated Degree Program List

The degree must be at the Bachelor level, or above

There must be evidence in the record that the student has actually received the degree

Validity Dates

The validity dates will begin the day after the prior post- completion OPT expires and end 17 months later (minus a day), as indicated in the recommendation

 (c)(6) – M-1 Post-Completion Practical Training

8 CFR 274a.12(c)(6) includes an M-1 student seeking employment for practical training following completion of studies

An M-1 is not eligible for pre-completion OPT

Temporary Employment for Practical Training

An M-1 student may not accept employment until practical training is authorized

Temporary employment for practical training may be authorized only after completion of the student’s course of study

The proposed employment is recommended for the purpose of practical training;

The proposed employment is related to the student’s course of study; and,

Employment comparable to the proposed employment is not available to the student in the country of the student’s foreign residence (DSO belief)

Documentation Requirements

SEVIS Form I-20 endorsed by the DSO

Evidence that the practical training will be in an occupation directly related to the course of study indicated on the I-20

Evidence of maintenance of M-1 status through the requested OPT period

Validity Period

From the date of adjudication or the start date recommended by the DSO, whichever is later, to:

The end date recommended by the DSO,

6 months from the date of completion of studies, or 1 month for each 4 months of completed full-time studies, whichever is earlier

OPT cannot be granted if it will not be completed within 3 years of the applicants initial program start date.

Students may only be in M-1 status for a maximum of 3 years to include any OPT time.

Helpful filing tips:

 Tip #1

If a student plans to move, he/she should use the Designated School Official’s (DSO) address on the application

The DSO C/O information will be entered into the applicable USCIS system by the officer at the time of adjudication

Tip #2

Students can submit a signature card with their Form I- 765 applications to prevent smearing their names or writing outside the small signature area

NOTE: USCIS has considered revising the Form I-765; however, form revisions have been delayed due to the deployment of USCIS ELIS

Tip #3

Submit the following:

A Form I-765 signed in the original

Electronic signature for e-filed application

Passport photos

Will be scheduled for ASC biometrics appointment for e-filed application

A copy of prior EAD, if applicable

An I-20 containing the OPT recommendation

Copies of all prior I-20s especially if they have different N numbers or if they have received prior CPT or OPT

A copy of the degree conferred or a transcript showing the degree confirmed for STEM cases

Tip #4

M-1 students must apply before completion of studies, provided the employment period does not begin until after all courses of study are completed

The I-765 cannot be filed more than 90 days prior to the completion of studies

Mail the Form I-539 and Form I-765 together and in the same envelope. The two applications should be sent to the same center and team for adjudication.

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