Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Definition of OPT

OPT gives students one year of eligibility to work in the United States in a job that is directly related to their major area of study. OPT can be used for summer vacation, semester breaks, while school is in session, after completion of your degree excluding the thesis or dissertation, or after completion of all requirements for your course of study. You can work for any employer, anywhere in the United States.

Think of it as an OPT bank account! The total amount of time you may spend engaging in OPT is 12 months maximum. The vast majority of international students apply for OPT to be used all 12 months after graduation. Regulations allow for an additional 12 months of OPT at each level of higher education (i.e. 12 months of OPT after a Bachelor's degree, another 12 months after a Master's degree, another 12 months after a Doctoral degree). In addition and if you qualify, some students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields may apply for an additional 17-Month STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Extension. Please consult this list to see if you are eligible: STEM Designated Degree Programs

Please note that it can take USCIS up to 2 months to fully process your OPT application and to have your EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card sent to the GEO Office. Please use this information wisely in your OPT application planning.

OPT Forms

Eligibility Requirements:

  • You must have been enrolled full-time in an academic program for at least one academic year before beginning OPT.
  • You do not have to have a job offer to apply for OPT; however, you should know how the proposed work you hope to find is related to your major field of study.
  • If you are applying for post-completion OPT, you may apply up to 90 days before but no later than 60 days after completing your degree. Your academic advisor will need to certify your expected date of completion (see the Academic Advisor Recommendation for OPT Form above).
  • You must have not already used 12 months of full-time CPT.
  • You must submit your application while you are still in the United States. You are not eligible to apply for OPT if you have already graduated and have left the United States.

Important OPT Rules:

  1. You MUST have an OPT EAD Card in your hands before beginning to work.

  2. You must only work between the start and end dates listed on your OPT EAD Card.

  3. Employment through OPT will automatically be terminated if you transfer to another school in the US or start a new course of study.

  4. Do not travel outside of the U.S. before you have your OPT Card. Your absence from the U.S. may be viewed by USCIS as abandoning your OPT application and the review process of your OPT application may be terminated.

  5. If you travel outside the US while on OPT,  you must have the following documents in order to re-enter the US:

    a) Passport

    b) Valid F-1 Entry Visa

    c) Form I-20

    d) Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD)/OPT Card issued to you by the USCIS

    e) Form I-20 signed for re-entry by an International Student Advisor within the last six months.

    f) Letter from your employer verifying your employment.

If you do not have these, you may not be allowed to re-enter the US in F-1 status and you may not start or continue Optional Practical Training (OPT). Please make your travel plans carefully and consult with the International Student Advisor well in advance of your departure from the US. 

First Step - Application Assembly:

  1. Complete Form I-765 (See Example) and Form G-1145.  Please be sure to use the GEO address on your Form I-765.  The address should read as the following:

    101 Broad St, Kehoe 210, GEO, Plattsburgh, NY 12901  
  1. Assemble the following documents:

    1. Forms I - 765 and G-1145  

    2. All prior Form I-20s (first and third pages)

    3. Passport (biographical information page)

    4. F-1 Student Visa

    5. Copy of Form I-94 (front and back), I-94A, or recent stamp in your passport and I-94 website printout

  1. Have your academic advisor complete Academic Advisor's Recommendation for OPT (above) indicating the date that you expect to complete your studies. 

  2. Read and sign the Student Acknowledgement of Responsibility.

  3. Write a check, money order, or cashier's check to the order of U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) for 380 USD. Checks and cashier's checks must be drawn on a US financial institutions.  Money orders must pay in US dollars.

  4. Obtain two passport-style photos (See passport photo guidelines).  Lightly print your name and Form I-94 number in pencil on the back of each photo. NB: Using a pen may cause your photos to be ruined when they are processed to make your card.

  5. Questions????!!!! Watch the OPT Workshop on October 8, 2014 presented by Jessa Karki or download the Workshop Powerpoint Presentation here!

Second Step – Meet with Your International Student Advisor:

  1. Once you have completed the first step, schedule an individual appointment with the International Student Advisor. You must bring all the documents listed in items 1-6.

  2. The International Student Advisor will review your documentation. If all the documents are in order, the International Student Advisor will request you for OPT in the SEVIS system.

  3. The International Student Advisor will print out a new Form I-20 with “OPT Requested” listed on the third page.

  4. The International Student Advisor will photocopy and piece together the following documents for your OPT application:

a) Two passport-sized photos

b) The check or money order for $380.00

c) Completed Form G-1145

d) Completed Form I-765

e) Copy of Form I-20 with “OPT Requested” listed on the third page

f) Copies of all previous Form I-20s

g) Copy of passport (biographical information)

h) Copy of F-1 Student Visa

i) Copy of Form I-94 (front and back), I-94A, or recent stamp in your passport and I-94 website printout

j) Copy of previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD)/OPT card (if applicable)

You will then send your OPT application to the following address:

Attn: I-765
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

You will be given a complete copy of your OPT application for your records. As a precaution, the Global Education Office will also place a complete copy of your OPT application in your student file.

 IMPORTANT:   You may not begin working until you have received your OPT card!

Tracking Your Application Status

Once you file your application you will be able to track its progress at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis

Look for this box on the left-hand side of the page:

This will require you to have an application receipt number from USCIS. This will be sent to ISS via mail shortly after you submit your application to USCIS.  The number will appear in the upper left-hand corner of a Receipt Notice.

For more detailed information on your case you can call the Vermont Service Center (VSC): 1-800-375-5283.

Third Step – Follow OPT Regulations:

  •   Update Global Education Office (GEO) with your change of address within 10 days of any change.

  •   Update GEO with your employer information within 10 days of any change.

  •  Be sure that any employment is related to your major. Check with GEO if you are unsure.

  • All employment on OPT must average full-time (20+) hours per week over the 12-month OPT period.

  • Be sure to report any periods of unemployment to GEO. 

  • Remember that you have a 90-day unemployment allowance.

Note: Be sure to provide GEO with your address and employer information during Optional Practical Training (OPT).


Contact Information

If you have any questions about international education, admission, or financial aid at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact:

Global Education Office
State University of New York at Plattsburgh
Kehoe Administration Building, Room 210
101 Broad Street
Plattsburgh, New York 12901 USA

Phone: 1-(518)-564-3287
Fax: 1-(518)-564-3292
Email: GEO@plattsburgh.edu
Facebook:  SUNY Plattsburgh International Students