Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT is 12 months of work authorization for F-1 visa students. Most students apply for Post-Completion OPT to begin work after graduation. Students interested in Pre-Completion OPT should meet with an International Student Advisor to discuss the employment options prior to degree completion.
- Be physically present in the U.S. in valid F-1 status
- Have maintained full-time enrollment for at least one academic year in F-1 status (or other visa status that allows enrollment)
- Have completed the GWR or plan to complete it in your final quarter
- Graduate students may work full-time on OPT concurrently while finishing thesis work as long as all course requirements have been completed
How to Apply
- We recommend that you apply 90 days prior to the end-date of your final term (last day of finals). This is the earliest DHS can receive your application. If you mail your application any earlier it will be automatically denied.
- Your application must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after the end-date of your final term or your application will automatically be denied.
- USCIS is taking 3-5 months to process OPT applications.
- Carefully follow the OPT Application Instructions
- Schedule an OPT appointment as soon as you have your application materials completed, including copies of documents, photos, check, etc. You will bring your completed application to the appointment for review.
- A new I-20 with the OPT start date you are requesting will be issued at your appointment.
- Visa regulations require that the end date of your OPT is no later than 14 months after the end-date of your final term.
- After your OPT ends, there is a 60-day grace period to depart the U.S. or have your SEVIS record released to another school.
- Instructions on mailing your application and next steps are included in the OPT Application Packet.
- You are not authorized to begin employment until your OPT application is approved and you have received your EAD from the DHS.
- You can apply for OPT:
- Up to 90 days prior to the end-date of your final term (last day of finals)
- Your application must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after the end-date of your final term
- NOTE: Normal USCIS processing time for OPT applications is 90 days
- The 12 months of OPT will not be authorized beyond 14 months after the end-date of your final term
- After your OPT ends, there is a 60-day grace period to depart the U.S. or have your SEVIS record released to another school
OPT Employment Information
- You must wait to receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card in the mail before beginning work.
- You are allowed only 90 days of cumulative unemployment during your authorized OPT period
- You must work in a field related to your major at Cal Poly
- Volunteer work may be counted as employment, and you may have multiple employers
- You are required to work a minimum of 20 hours per week
You will need the following documents for re-entry to the U.S.:
- OPT I-20 with a valid travel signature
- Although Form I-20 indicates a validity period of one year for travel signatures, visa regulations set a shorter validity period of 6 months for travel signatures on I-20s used by students on post-completion OPT
- Signed letter from employer including:
- Company name
- Whether job is paid or unpaid (if paid, must list salary to be earned)
- Start and end date of employment
- Brief description of your job duties
- Address of the company (location of where you will work)
- Specific number of hours you will work per week
- Supervisor’s name, email and phone number
- Valid F-1 student visa (entry permit)
- Valid passport
- EAD card
- Levels of Risk Grid for traveling during different stages of OPT processing and employment
Change of Address Before and During OPT
- If you move while your OPT application is pending, you will need to submit a Change of Address request directly with USCIS. If the EAD card is mailed to an old address, the post office will not forward it to you. It will be returned to immigration and you will have to apply again and repay the fee.
- You may not begin employment until you have received your EAD from the DHS.
- If you move any time during your stay in the U.S. under F-1 status (this includes time on OPT) while on a Cal Poly I-20, you must notify the International Center within 10 days.
- Before you are hired, it is advisable to obtain an employment contract from your employer. This should state the terms of employment such as salary, review schedule, length of employment, and job requirements.
- After OPT is approved, update address, phone, and employer information in the SEVP OPT Portal. SEVP will send you login information to the portal when your OPT is approved. If you do not get an email, email with a copy of your EAD card to email@example.com so our staff can submit a correction request to SEVP on your behalf.
- Once your OPT period starts you will report address, phone, and employer changes in the SEVP OPT Portal SEVP Portal for OPT Updates (Doc)
- If you need to change your email address, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Your employer must also notify us via email@example.com when you end employment
- While on OPT you must report every six months to validate your information.
- Click the International Services Login link below
- Login with your non-Cal Poly email used for this site. If you do not remember your login, email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for a password reset for this site.
- On your User Home Page, select either your current Optional Practical Training (OPT)(F-M) program or your STEM OPT Extension (F-M) if you have an approved STEM OPT extension.
- Answer the appropriate validation questionnaire(s).
Ready to validate? Login to International Services, then navigate to your STEM OPT Extension (F/M) or your Optional Practical Training (OPT) (F/M) application.