Practical training is defined as paid employment directly related to the student's major area of study. Students in F-1 status must have been lawfully enrolled in school on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year to be eligible for practical training.
A student in F-1 status may apply for optional practical training:
- During annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session if the student is currently enrolled and eligible, and intends to register for the next semester. (Full-time or part-time OPT)
- When school is in session, provided that practical training does not exceed 20 hours per week. (Part-time OPT only)
Before completion of the course of study to be used after completion. (Full-time OPT only)
Optional practical training is limited to a total of 12 months. A student becomes eligible for another 12 months of optional practical training when he or she completes a degree at a higher educational level. Part-time pre-completion optional practical training, 20 hours per week or less, shall be deducted from the available optional practical training at one-half the full-time rate (ex. two months part-time OPT equals one month full-time).
Authorization to engage in optional practical training is automatically terminated when a student transfers to another school or begins full-time study at a different educational level.
Optional practical training is recommended by the Center for International Programs and authorized by USCIS. This means that students must apply by mail to USCIS Vermont Service Center and pay an application fee to obtain an employment authorization document (EAD). The student must obtain both the recommendation from CIP and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS.
An offer of employment is NOT required to obtain approval for optional practical training.
Items which must be submitted to USCIS Vermont Service Center include: form I-765, photocopies of SEVIS I-20 and both sides of the I-94, photocopies of all previously issued I-20s, 2 photographs, check or money order for the application fee, and photocopy of identity pages from passport. Students will be given a checklist sheet and complete mailing information at the time the optional practical training application is submitted to the Center for International Programs. CIP will update the SEVIS record and print a new SEVIS I-20 with a recommendation for the optional practical training and return it to the student.
The OPT application must be submitted to USCIS before the completion date for the student's program. The start date can be any day up to 60 days after the completion date. However the student's OPT must finish before the end of the fourteenth month after their graduation. Applications will not be accepted by USCIS if they are mailed prior to 120 days before the start date.
Processing time at USCIS Vermont Service Center is highly variable and difficult to predict. It can take as long as twelve weeks for the EAD card to be processed by the Vermont Service Center. Therefore, students are urged to allow sufficient processing time for this procedure by submitting their paperwork early. In person EAD processing for practical training at the district USCIS office in Philadelphia, PA or at any other USCIS district office in the United States, is not available.
Please note: Employment may not commence until the student obtains their EAD card from USCIS. Beginning employment before you receive the EAD is a violation of immigration regulations and may have serious consequences.
Download a Form I-765 or pick one up at CIP.
Once you have filed your OPT application you can track the progress of your EAD on USCIS' Case Status Service Online.