Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an immigration benefit for F-1 students, giving you the opportunity to obtain work experience in the U.S. prior to finishing your degree.
OPT is one year work authorization in your major. If you graduated in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics), you can apply for an extra 24 months.
Learn more about OPT benefits and the application process by attending an OPT workshop held each semester. See workshop times and register at http://uca.edu/international/workshops/.
Apply for OPT
You can apply for OPT beginning 90 days before your program end date or up to 60 days after your program end date. The approval process can take up to 90 days, so it is best to plan in advance. You cannot begin working until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card).
OPT Application Requirements
- Complete Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
- Complete form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
- Obtain adviser signature on “Academic Program Verification Form”
- Read, sign and date “OPT Statement of Understanding”. Initial next to each statement to show that you have read and understood each one.
- Obtain 2 passport-sized photographs
- Obtain a check or money order for $410 payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (Credit cards or cash are not accepted.)
- Copy of passport, visa, and I-94 record
Download the OPT Application Packet.
Make an appointment to see a DSO in International Engagement when you are ready to submit your application. Please have all documents prepared BEFORE you come to the appointment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Could I have a copy of the OPT Workshop Slides?
Download the OPT Workshop Slides and make an appointment with a DSO if you have any questions.
Must I have a job offer before applying for OPT?
No. You can start looking for jobs while your OPT is pending, but you cannot work until you OPT is approved and after the start date on your EAD card.
How do I choose a start date for my OPT?
When you apply for OPT, you must select a date for your OPT to begin. This date can be as soon as your program end date or as late as 60 days after your program end date. Keep in mind the following as you are selecting your date:
- You cannot change your OPT start date, however, the approved start date may be later than the one that you requested, depending on application processing times
- You cannot begin working before your OPT start date
- If you do not yet have a job, your 90 days of unemployment begins on the OPT start date
What if I can’t find a job?
You are permitted to a total of 90 days of unemployment while you are on OPT. If you cannot find a job within 90 days of your OPT start date, you are considered out-of-status. At this point you must either enroll as a full-time student or leave the country. Either of these options cause you to lose your OPT benefits.
Must I find a job in my major?
Yes. OPT is designed to give you practical work experience in the U.S. in your field of study.
What should I do once I find a job?
Congratulations! Once you find a job, send your employer information to firstname.lastname@example.org and a DSO will update your SEVIS record. Include the following information:
- Employer Name
- Supervisor Name
- Employment start date
- Employer Address
- Employer Phone Number
Can I change jobs during OPT?
Yes. If you change employment during OPT, just send your new employer information to email@example.com and a DSO will update your SEVIS record. Include the information above.
What happens if I lose my OPT card?
If you lose your EAD card, you must apply for a lost card and pay the associated fee.