Optional Practical Training (OPT)

F-1 students who have completed one full academic year (two semesters) of full-time study are eligible for OPT. F-1 regulations allow students with valid status to engage in work that is directly related to a student’s major area of study while they are a student as well as after they have completed their program of study. All F-1 students are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT during/after each degree level. A pre-arranged job or job offer is not needed to apply for OPT. OPT employment can be paid or unpaid. F-1 students may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern when this activity does not violate any labor laws.

This page has information on the following:

When can students engage in OPT?

Students can receive authorization for OPT:

  • During the student’s annual vacation. This OPT can be full-time or part-time;
  • While school is in session, provided the practical training does not exceed 20 hours a week while school is in session. (In special circumstances graduate students who have completed all their degree requirements except their thesis can apply for and receive full-time pre-completion OPT.); and
  • After completion of all program requirements.

OPT authorization granted before program completion date (end date on Form I-20) is called Pre-completion OPT, while OPT authorization granted after program completion date (end date on Form I-20) is called Post-completion OPT. Your practical training is automatically terminated if you transfer to another school or begin studies at another educational level at Marquette.

What is the authorization timeline for an OPT application?

OPT applications are submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and can take 90 days to process. Please plan ahead. Post-completion OPT applicants can file up to 90 days before they complete their program. For Post-completion OPT, F-1 students must properly file no later than 60 days after their program completion date. They must also properly file their application with USCIS within 30 days of the date the DSO enters the recommendation for OPT in SEVIS. Post-completion OPT authorization cannot begin before a student’s program completion date nor on a date that is more than 60 days after the program end date.

Application process for OPT

Be sure you understand the information related to timing and eligibility for OPT. You should read the excerpts from the government regulations related to OPT before that starting your OPT application.

Step 1:

Meet with your academic advisor to discuss your proposed OPT and complete the OPT Request Form for OPT.

Step 2:

Complete Form I-765

  • Instructions for completing Form I-765
  • Tips for completing Form I-765:
    • Question #14: This is the 11-digit number on the top of your I-94 card or printed I-94 verification
    • Questions #16-19: Refer to your Form I-94 Arrival Record
    • Question #20: Refer to section 3A in the I-765 instructions
    • Be sure to sign your name within the space provided by the signature block

Step 3:

Gather the following documents which are required for your application:

  • OPT Request Form
  • Completed I-765 Form
  • 2 passport size photos (see I-765 instructions for details). Write your name and I-94 number in pencil or felt pen on the back of each photo.
  • 2 copies of your passport information page (including name, date of birth, issue and expiration date)
  • 2 copies of your I-94 card (front and back) or printed I-94 verification
  • 2 copies of all previous I-20 forms
  • 2 copies of any previously issued EAD cards (front and back)
  • $410 fee in the form of a personal check or money order made payable to “Department of Homeland Security”

Step 4:

Make an appointment to meet with your OIE advisor. Bring items listed above.

Step 5:

At the appointment, the OIE advisor will check the documents, make needed entries in SEVIS and issue you a Form I-20 for your OPT application.

Step 6:

Follow the mailing instructions in the Form I-765 instruction booklet and mail your OPT application along with the following items to the appropriate USCIS center.

  • New I-20 form with OPT endorsement and your signature on page one.
  • Completed I-765 Form
  • 2 passport size photos (see page 8 of I-765 instruction for details). Write your name and I-94 number in pencil on the back of each photo.
  • 1 copy of your passport information page (including name, date of birth, issue and expiration date)
  • 1 copy of your I-94 card or printed I-94 verification
  • 1 copy of all previous I-20 forms
  • 1 copy of any previously issued EAD cards (front and back)
  • $410 fee in the form of a personal check or money order made payable to “Department of Homeland Security”

If you reside in Wisconsin, mail your application documents to the USCIS Phoenix Lockbox. Be sure to keep copies for your own records.

For US postal service:

USCIS
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

For courier:

USCIS
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034


Waiting for authorization/Checking your application's progress

About 10 to 14 days after you submit your application for OPT to USCIS, you should receive a receipt notice by postal mail. This notice will include a Receipt Number which you can use to check the status of your application on www.uscis.gov. Look for “Case Status” on the website home page.  Checking the status of your application on www.uscis.gov is the best way to know about your application's status.

If your OPT application and Form I-765 has been pending more than 75 days (from the receipt date on your Receipt Notice), you may contact the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283 and ask that an Approaching Regulatory Time frame "service request" be created. The NCSC will route the service request to the appropriate office for review.

 Once you are approved for OPT by USCIS, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) by postal mail. The EAD card contains the authorization number, the dates of approved employment authorization, the bearer’s name, photo and signature. The EAD card is proof of employment authorization during the dates listed on the card. Employment authorization begins on the date requested or the date the employment authorization is adjudicated, whichever is later. You may not begin employment prior to the approved starting date. Please provide OIE with a copy of your EAD card once you receive it.


 

Important information for students on Post-completion OPT

Reporting Requirements during post-completion OPT

Because your F-1 status continues during your OPT, you are required by law to report changes to certain information within 10 days. You can report these changes using the OPT Verification Form so a Marquette DSO can record them in SEVIS. These changes include:

  • Residence address in the United States
  • Legal name
  • Telephone number
  • E-mail address
  • United States legal status (i.e. inform us if you change your status to H1-B, J-1, H-4, etc.)
  • Information about your employer, including employer name, address, and starting date
  • Information about any disruption of your employment such as job termination or change of employers

Remember:

  • OPT employment may not begin prior to your approved starting date.
  • OPT employment must be in a job that is related to your major field of study.
  • OPT employment may be paid or unpaid. Volunteer or internship positions which are unpaid, yet related to your field of study, can be submitted as evidence of your OPT activity. You may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern when this activity does not violate any labor laws. We suggest that you obtain documentation from the organization/company which confirms the dates of your volunteer activity.
  • Employment may be full-time or part-time. If you have more than one job at the same time, please provide employer information about each job.

Periods of Unemployment during Post-Completion OPT

During post-completion OPT, maintaining your F–1 status is dependent upon employment. You may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during the initial 12 months of your post-completion OPT.

Each day during the authorized OPT period that you do not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment.

Although part-time employment is allowed during post-completion OPT, current government guidelines state that you must be employed for a minimum of at least 20 hours per week. According to current government guidelines, F-1 students may be denied future immigration benefits that rely on the student’s valid F-1 status if the Department of Homeland Security determines that the student exceeded the limitations on unemployment during post-completion OPT.

Traveling outside of the United States during Post-Completion OPT

During your authorized period of post-completion OPT, you can travel out of the United States and return to the U.S. after a temporary absence. Remember that a DSO must sign your most recent Form I-20 prior to your re-entry to the U.S. You must also have a valid F-1 visa in your passport. (Travel to Canada, Mexico or nearby islands may have different visa requirements.)

Contact the Office of International Education at Marquette to arrange for a DSO’s signature on your Form I-20 at least one week before your departure. If you will travel frequently during your OPT, it is not necessary to obtain a new DSO signature for each re-entry to the United States. However, we recommend that we sign your Form I-20 every six months.

At the End of Your Post-Completion OPT

Your practical training is automatically terminated if you transfer to another school or begin studies at another educational level at Marquette.

If you decide to leave the United States before the authorized OPT ending date on your EAD and do not plan to return to the U.S., please contact a Marquette DSO with information about your date of departure.

After the ending date of your OPT, you may remain in the U.S. for an additional 60 days. During this “grace period” you may transfer to another academic program, change to another visa status, or prepare to depart from the U.S. You may not be employed during this period.

STEM OPT Extension

Students who complete a degree in specific fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) may be eligible to apply for an additional 24 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT). Students are limited to one STEM extension per level of study, but may be eligible for a second STEM extension after completing an additional STEM degree at a higher level. Not all STEM fields are designated for this extension. The list of eligible STEM fields is available on the Department of Homeland Security website. Read more details about the STEM extension.

What are the requirements for STEM OPT?

To be eligible for STEM OPT, the student must:

  • Be in a valid period of post-completion OPT authorization.
  • Have earned a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a designated STEM field. (To determine if your major is a STEM designated field, refer to the primary major listed on your Form I-20 and the government designated list.)
  • Under certain circumstances, a student may use a prior STEM degree to be eligible for a STEM extension.  This means a degree earned before your most recent Marquette degree.  To use a prior degree, the student must:
    • Have received their most recent degree from an accredited U.S. university
    • Have received their prior, qualifying STEM degree (at the bachelor's level or higher) within 10 years of applying for the STEM OPT extension
    • have not used the prior STEM degree as the basis for a previous STEM extension
  • Work for an employer that must:
    • Be registered in the E-Verify Program
    • Work with the student to complete the Form I-983 Training Plan and sign the I-983 to certify it is true and correct
    • Agree to review the student's annual self-evaluation and report the termination or departure of an OPT employee to the DSO at the student’s school if the termination is prior to the end of the OPT period.

Please note that unpaid positions, self-employment, and working for a staffing company or temporary agency generally do not qualify as employment for a STEM extension.

What is the authorization timeline for a STEM OPT application?

The STEM OPT application must be properly filed with the appropriate USCIS Service Center before the end of the student’s post-completion OPT authorization and within 60 days of the date the STEM recommendation is entered in SEVIS by your MU designated school official. The USCIS Service Center can take 90 days to process the STEM OPT application, so plan ahead. However, if a student’s post-completion OPT expires while the STEM extension application is pending s/he can continue employment while waiting for the new EAD.

Application process for STEM OPT

Be sure you understand the information related to timing and eligibility for STEM OPT. It is also suggested that you read the excerpts from the government regulations related to OPT.

Step 1:

Complete the STEM OPT Extension Request Form

Step 2:

Complete the Form I-983 Training Plan with the help of your employer 

Step 3:

Complete Form I-765

  • Instructions for completing Form I-765
  • Tips for completing Form I-765:
    • Question #14: This is the 11-digit number on the top of your I-94 card or printed I-94 verification
    • Questions #16-19: Refer to your Form I-94 Arrival Record
    • Question #20: Refer to section 3A in the I-765 instructions
    • Question #21: List your degree and major: For example, M.S. – Chemistry or B.S. – Mechanical Engineering.
    • Be sure to sign your name within the space provided by the signature block

Step 4:

Gather the following documents which are required for your application:

  • STEM OPT Extension Request Form
  • Completed I-983 Form signed by you and your employer.  This form will be reviewed and retained by OIE.
  • Completed I-765 Form
  • 2 passport size photos (see I-765 instruction for details). Write your name and I-94 number in pencil or felt pen on the back of each photo.
  • 2 copies of your passport information page (including name, date of birth, issue and expiration date)
  • 2 copies of your I-94 card or printed I-94 verification
  • 2 copies of all previous I-20 forms
  • 2 copies of any previously issued EAD cards (front and back)
  • Copy of your Marquette diploma showing your earned degree
  • $410 fee in the form of a personal check or money order made payable to “Department of Homeland Security”

Step 5:

Please mail the items listed above to your OIE advisor at the mailing address listed on the contact us page. Your OIE advisor will check the documents, make needed entries in SEVIS and issue a Form I-20 for your STEM OPT application. S/he will return the assembled STEM OPT application to you, with instructions, so you can complete and mail it to the appropriate USCIS Service Center.

Step 6:

Follow these mailing instructions and mail your STEM OPT application along with the items below to the appropriate USCIS center. Remember to send your application within 60 days following the issuance of the new I-20 but before the completion date of your currently authorized OPT period.  Please note that you do not send Form I-983 to USCIS with your application.  It is retained by OIE.

  • New I-20 form with STEM OPT endorsement and your signature on page one
  • Completed I-765 Form
  • 2 passport size photos (see page 8 of I-765 instruction for details). Write your name and I-94 number in pencil on the back of each photo.
  • 1 copy of your passport information page (including name, date of birth, issue and expiration date)
  • 1 copy of your I-94 card (front and back) or printed I-94 verification
  • 1 copy of all previous I-20 forms
  • 1 copy of any previously issued EAD cards (front and back)
  • Copy of your Marquette diploma showing your earned degree
  • $410 fee in the form of a personal check or money order made payable to “Department of Homeland Security”

If you reside in Wisconsin, mail your application documents to the USCIS Phoenix Lockbox:

For US postal service:

USCIS
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

For courier:

USCIS
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Be sure to keep copies for your own records.

Waiting for authorization

About 10 to 14 days after you submit your application for STEM OPT to USCIS, you should receive a receipt notice by postal mail. This notice will include a Receipt Number which you can use to check the status of your application on the USCIS website at: www.uscis.gov. Look for “Case Status” on the website home page.

Once you are approved for STEM OPT by USCIS you will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card). The EAD card is proof of employment authorization during the dates listed on the card. Please provide OIE with a copy of your EAD card once you receive it.


Reporting Requirements during STEM OPT

Because your F-1 status continues during STEM OPT, you are required by law to report changes to certain information within 10 days. You can report these changes using the OPT Verification Form  so a Marquette DSO can record them in SEVIS. These changes include:

  • Residence or mailing address in the United States
  • Legal name
  • United States legal status (i.e. inform us if you change your status to H1-B, J-1, H-4, etc.)
  • Changes to your I-983 Training Plan (such as job title, company name, responsibilities, supervisor name, work address).  Please send a new Form I-983 signed by you and your employer
  • Information about any disruption of your employment such as job termination

6-month reporting

Every six (6) months from the start date of your STEM OPT authorization, you must complete an OPT Verification Form about your employment. Reporting is necessary even if nothing has changed with your employer.

12-month evaluations

While on approved STEM OPT, you must write an annual self-evaluation and must report to a Marquette DSO about the progress of your training experience. Complete the evaluation section of Form I-983 ("Evaluation on Student Progress" after Section 6) and send an electronic copy to a Marquette DSO, who will include it with your record.

Periods of Unemployment during STEM OPT

During STEM OPT maintaining your F–1 status is dependent upon employment. You may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during the total OPT period comprising your initial post-completion OPT and the subsequent 24-month STEM extension. Each day during the authorized OPT period that you do not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment.

At the end of your STEM OPT

Your practical training is automatically terminated if you transfer to another school or begin studies at another educational level at Marquette.

If you decide to leave the United States before the authorized OPT ending date on your EAD and do not plan to return to the U.S., please contact a Marquette DSO with information about your date of departure.

After the ending date of your STEM OPT, you may remain in the U.S. for an additional 60 days. During this “grace period” you may transfer to another academic program, change to another visa status, or prepare to depart from the U.S. You may not be employed during this period.