This page will give you lots of basic information about the OPT Application Process. If you cannot find the answer to your question, you can send an email GA-ISS2@saumag.edu.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a 12-month work authorization available to F1 students who want to work in the United States.
OPT Workshop Powerpoint
Please click on the link below to download our voiced-over OPT Workshop powerpoint presentation.
- Be an F1 student and have been studying in the US for at least 1 full year.
- Seek employment in their field of study.
- Not have used more than 1 full year of CPT during their degree.
- Be in good academic standing at SAU.
- Have completed the OPT quiz on the SAU website.
You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT, but you are limited to 90 days of unemployment. All employment changes must be reported to USCIS. This reporting can be done by the student on the SEVP portal.
You do not need a Social Security Number to apply for OPT but you will need one for paid employment. Applying for an SSN is part of the OPT application process. If you don’t currently have a number you can complete the SSN section of the Form I-765 application and you will receive a card once your OPT has been approved.
Students with two Cs on their transcript can apply for OPT. If you have 2 or more Cs you will need to wait until after you have received your final grades to apply.
Graduate students with a D on their transcript need to contact their advisor ASAP.
If you believe there is a possibility you may not graduate, you need to wait to apply for OPT once you know you will graduate. There is the 60-day grace period after your completion date for this very reason.
To help ensure our students do not face any issues of having to withdraw OPT applications we will not process OPT applications until after final grades are in if:
- The student is on probation
- The student has received two C’s or a D (graduate students)
When Should I Apply for OPT?
Students apply during a period of time defined by their program end date. Please see the Program Competition Table to see when you can apply for OPT.
Important timeframes to keep in mind:
- Students can apply for OPT any time from 90 days before and to 60 days after their Program Completion Date This gives student a window of 150 days to apply for OPT.
- The OPT Application MUST be received by USCIS WITHIN 30 days of the creation of the OPT I-20.
Yes. Your OPT is based on completing your program. Once you have met the required hours to earn your degree you have “completed” your program according to SEVP and eligable for OPT.
It can take up to 7 business days for the International Office to review a complete application and generate a new I20. Please note: Incomplete and incorrect applications may take a longer period of time.
How to Apply for OPT
Students apply for OPT on the SAU website. Click the blue ‘OPT Application’ button.
All documents are uploaded online. Students do not need to submit any paper documents to the International Office.
Use your SAU login information to log into the application
- Select “I have SAUMAG username and password”
- Username: SAU email without the “@mulerider.saumag.edu” email address (ex jmmartisek1234), password: SAU password
- Select “Request, 20XX” (pick the year you are applying for OPT)
- You will be taken to your OPT Request Application page.
You do not need to click the application button again to log back into the application. To get to your application log into the student profile page
Once on the profile page, you will see your incomplete application listed on the left-hand side of the page.
There are number steps in the OPT application process:
- Login to the OPT application portal.
- Take the OPT quiz. You must get 100% on the quiz to apply for OPT.
- Request and receive a recommendation from your advisor.
- Upload your OPT request documents.
- Select start and end dates for your OPT period.
You do not have to complete the application in one sitting. You can log back in and complete your application at any time using your SAU login information
You will send a recommendation request to your academic advisor through the portal. This will send an email your advisor who will login and submit the recommendation.
During the OPT Application you will need to choice a date for your OPT to start. This date can be any time from your Program Completion Date to the 60-day limit after the completion date. Picking a particular date is a personal choice and there are many things to consider when picking a date:
- Must be within 60 days of your Program Completion Date
- If you have a job offer, you may want to discuss with your employer what would be the best start date. Keep in mind that USCIS needs at least 90 days to process your application
- If you do not have a job offer you may not want to pick a date closer to your program completion date. This would give you time to look for employment.
The important thing to keep in mind is that you CANNOT begin employment until you have received your EAD card.
Our office will review your application and make corrections if necessary. After the review process, we will then issue an OPT recommendation I-20 with the start date that you chose.
The review process can take up to 7 business days. Make sure you plan for this processing time.
Our office will contact you once your I-20 is ready.
When your application has been reviewed and an OPT Recommendation I-20 has been created you will be emailed to come pick it up. You must wait for this notification.
No. Our office is unable to provide an electronic or soft-copy of your I20. If you cannot come and collect the document you can request mailing.
Yes, you can have your I20 mailed to you. Click the link below to request an updated I-20. Do not complete the pickup form until you have been notified that your OPT I-20 is ready. If you request an I-20 before you are notified you will not receive the correct I-20.
Sending your Documents to USCIS
Once you have received your I20, you need to prepare your OPT application package. You need to send this to USCIS within 30 days of the recommendation 120 being created. You do not need to staple your documents together.
The instructions below will explain how to mail your package:
You need to include the following documents in your OPT application package:
- G-1145 Form Attach this from to the front of your application. This will allow you to receive email and text notifications about the status of your application.
- I-765 Application – Make sure you sign and date it
- $410 fee payment by including either:
-Form G-1450 if paying by credit card, or a personal check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
- Two passport type photos taken within 30 days of filing the application that meet the requirements on the Department of State website. Write your name and I-94 number lightly on the back of each photo.
- Copy of your I-94.
- Photocopy of the identification page(s) of your passport, including photo and expiration date.
- Photocopy of your current visa.
- Copy of your OPT Recommendation I-20 (signed)- DO NOT SEND ORIGINAL!
- Photocopy of student data pages of all your previous I-20s. DO NOT SEND ORIGINALS!
- If you have had OPT before, photocopy of your previous EAD card (both sides).
USCIS will deny any applications received more than 30 days after the creation of the OPT Recommendation I-20. If you are outside of this 30-day limit you must send an email requesting a new I-20 to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “NEED UPDATED OPT I-20”. This new I-20 must be submitted to USCIS within your 60 day grace period after your program completion date.
It is very important that your OPT application is received by USCIS within the 30 day limit. If you are worried you may not graduate please wait until you are sure before applying for OPT.
You need to contact our office immediately. If you have mailed your application, you will have to write a withdrawal letter to USCIS and hope that your application is withdrawn in time. If you have not mailed your application, you still need to contact our office.
There are two issues that you need to be concerned with: 1) we need to correct your OPT request, 2) we need to correct your program end date which was set based on your graduation. If you are beyond that date you could face serious issues.
After applying for OPT
USCIS will have very limited contact with you. Though you can check your application status through the USCIS Case system, there will be little updated there. The following are notifications you can expect from USCIS after submitting your application:
- First week: If you submitted the G-1145, you will receive an email or text confirming delivery of your package. This should include your Receipt Number. You can use this number to check the status of your application.
- Within 40 days: You will receive an I-797c Receipt Notice. Check this form and make sure name, address, and application type is correct. If there are any errors contact our office. This document is official proof of your application so keep it safe.
- 90-120 days: You should receive your I-979 Approval notice followed by your EAD card typically a week later. Check your EAD card for errors and contact our office if you see any. Remember you cannot start working until your Start Date on your EAD card.
- 2 weeks later: If you requested a Social Security Number you will receive it.
After you complete your degree you cannot work on or off campus until you receive your card and you reach your start date. Even unpaid work is not allowed. Work that is typically paid labor is still considered employment and requires an EAD.
There are three key periods:
Applied for OPT but before program end date: You can travel like normal. Having a OPT application does not affect your travel, but you must be back in the country before your program end date.
Completed program but have not applied for OPT: You CANNOT travel until you have applied and received your form I-979c.
Applied for OPT after completion date: You can travel with a pending OPT application but it is not recommended, as there are many risks involved:
- You will be unable to reenter the US until you have your EAD card.
- Someone will need to have access to your mail to ensure you do not miss any correspondence from USCIS.
- If you fail to respond to a Request for Evidence your application will be denied.
- If your OPT application is denied you will be unable to enter on your current SEVIS record.
- If your F1 visa expires, you will be unable to get an interview until you have received your EAD card.
If you misplace your EAD card or it is stolen, you will need to submit a new application to USCIS. It could take up to 3 months to replace a lost or stolen EAD card. The following documents are required:
- Form I-765 (Mark that you are applying for a replacement card)
- $410 check or money order payable to “Department of Homeland Security”
- Copy of I-20 signed within the past 30 days
- Copies of your ID page of passport, visa, and I-94
- 2 passport-size photos
- Copies of any previously issued EAD cards
- Form G-1145 (optional). Attach if you would like to receive receipt information by text or email.
Employment and Periods of Unemployment
Your job must be a minimum of 20 hours per week and in the field of your major.
- You must ensure that your job is closely related to your degree program
- Your job can be paid or unpaid
- Students can work for multiple employers at one time. All jobs must be related to the student’s field of study
- You can work at a client location
- Students can start their own business in a field closely related to their degree program. Students must be able to prove that they work at least 20 hours per week and that they have the appropriate licenses to establish a new business.
Students should be looking for employment during the OPT authorization process. This will give you plenty of time to search and apply for employment.
Students are allowed 90 days of unemployment during their 12 month OPT period. Students who exceed the 90 day unemployment rule are in violation of their F1 status.
You can start working either paid or unpaid after your start date. Any work before that date is considered employment. You cannot start working unless you have received your EAD card.
No. You need to have an EAD card to start working. It is recommended that you work closely with your employer to negotiate a new employment start date. Do not worry, you aren’t losing out on time in your 12 month OPT period. When you receive your EAD card, you will receive a new start and end date. You will still be eligible to work for 12 months.
You cannot exceed 90 days of unemployment. There are some things that you can do to reduce the risk of exceeding the unemployment limit:
- Ensure that you are working over 20 hours per week. Anything below that is included in your unemployment limit.
- Apply for work as a volunteer at a non-profit organization. You will still need to work 20 hours per week, and in the same field as your degree program.
- Unemployment (Termination, Quitting)
- Address changes- either physical home or employment address
- Name Change
- Permanently leaving the US
- Change of status
Nearing the End of OPT
F1 students have a 60 day grace period after their OPT End Date to leave the US, transfer, or do a change of status.
Students can transfer while on OPT (before their end date), but once the student’s record has been transferred the OPT is invalid and can no longer be used. The time left on the EAD card is lost forever.
It is advised to transfer after student’s end date so not to lose the authorized employment period. If a student finds a program they wish to attend and the program start date is before the end of the student’s OPT then it is recommended to not transfer the SEVIS record until the day before the start of the new program. This would allow the student to continue working even though the student has been accepted to another program. It is best to speak with the DSO at the student’s future school to determine the best course of action for the student because every school has different transfer requirements.
If eligible students are going to apply for a STEM Extension the application has to be done BEFORE their current OPT end date. See the STEM Extension section for more information.
Insurance while on OPT
You will not be eligible for the same insurance plan you had while you were a student, but Lewermark provides different private options for previous students. Please follow the link below to learn more about insurance options through Lewermark:
F1 students that graduate with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematic) degree can apply for a one-time 24-month extension. For more information, visit our OPT extension page.