Optional Practical Training is permission to work that is granted to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis in F-1 status for at least one full academic year. Students utilizing OPT must seek practical work experience in their field of study commensurate with their educational level. An F-1 student is eligible for a maximum of 12 months* of this type of training at each completed degree level of education.
While on OPT, individuals are still considered to be F-1 students at Earlham even though they may be working elsewhere in the United States.
*Exceptions to 12 month maximum:
- Part-time optional practical training that takes place before graduation (20 hours per week or less) is deducted from the available training at one-half the full-time rate.
- Students who majored in specific Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields may be eligible for a 17-month extension. To be eligible you must be engaged in post-completion OPT and you must work for an employer enrolled in the E-verify system. This extension may only be used once in an academic career. If utilized at the undergraduate level, you will be ineligible for future extensions.
Optional Practical Training is available in the following cases:
A - Part-time or full-time during the student’s annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session, if the student intends to register for the next term or session;
B - Part-time while school is in session;
C - Full-time (over 20 hours per week) after completion of the course of study.
Students should think carefully about utilizing practical training based on options A or B because it affects the amount of time you are able to use OPT after graduation. Please consult with an international student adviser for further information.
Students applying based on option C above can submit their applications for OPT to USCIS up to 90 days before the expected program completion date. Applications must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after the program end date on the I-20.
Expect USCIS processing time to be approximately 90 days. We suggest applying as early as possible in order to benefit from the full 12 months of practical training, which must be completed within 14 months of the program completion date.
Part #1: Bring documents to IPO:
The application process for employment authorization requires several forms and involves steps that must be completed by an international student adviser. In order to make the process as smooth and error free as possible, prepare the following in consultation with an international student adviser:
- Earlham College OPT form: Please discuss your OPT Start Date and End Date with an International Student Adviser.
- Form I-765: We suggest you use IPO's address (801 National Road West, Dr 202, Richmond, In 47374) on your I-765
- Copy of valid passport and current Form I-94 (copy front and back if you have a card, or print from the I-94 website)
- Current I-20 and copies of all previous I-20s for current academic level
- If you have a job offer that you intend to accept, please bring the offer letter
- If you used IPO's address for your I-765 form, you will need to fill out a permission form so that IPO may open your OPT-related mail. This form is available in IPO
Part #2: Creation of a new SEVIS I-20
After reviewing the above material and confirming eligibility, the international student adviser will recommend to USCIS that practical training permission be granted by certifying the student’s eligibility in SEVIS. The international student adviser will then print a new I-20 indicating that Optional Practical Training is being requested within the established guidelines. The I-538 will be kept in IPO as a permanent record.
OPT is recommended by Earlham’s international student advisers, but final approval is granted by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Part #3: Submit the proper documentation to USCIS
To receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), you must submit the following application materials to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox, which is determined by your address on the I-765:
- Check or Money Order payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security for the amount of current filing fee
- Completed I-765 form, we suggest you use IPO's address (801 National Road West, Dr 202, Richmond, In 47374) on your I-765
- Photocopy of current I-20 with international student adviser’s recommendation for practical training
- Photocopy of all previous I-20s for current academic level
- Photocopy of identification and information pages of your valid passport
- Photocopy of I-94 (copy front and back if you have a card, or print from the I-94 website)
- Photocopy of previous EAD, if applicable
- 2 passport-style photos that meet the requirements listed on page 6 of the I-765 application instructions form (Please write name and date of birth lightly on the back of each photo)
- If you have a job offer that you intend to accept, copy of the offer letter
Your application must arrive within 30 days of the day your new I-20 was created.
In order to work legally in OPT status, you must wait until you have received the EAD from USCIS and the requested employment start date has arrived.
Part #4: Submit Photocopy of EAD card to IPO
USCIS requires that a copy of your EAD be kept in your student file.
Special Note: Students who wish to travel outside the United States while on practical training after graduation should consult an international student adviser.