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OPT - Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training is defined in the regulations as “temporary employment for practical training” directly related to the student’s major area of study.   Students can use it during or after their studies.  There are 12 months of OPT given for each degree level (i.e. bachelors, masters, doctorate).  Work experience can be paid or unpaid, but any and all positions must be related to the field of study.

Eligibility:  To be eligible a student must have been enrolled for classes for at least one academic year (two regular semesters). Students with 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training lose eligibility for OPT.

Pre-Completion OPT:  Authorization must begin and end prior to the completion of the degree.  It is limited to part-time (20 hours or less) while school is in session or full-time (over 20 hours) when school is not in session.  Graduate students who have completed all coursework, but have not yet completed dissertation/thesis, may work full-time on pre-completion OPT.

Post-Completion: Full-time authorization must begin after completing all coursework requirements for the degree.

Limited Unemployment: During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment; therefore, students may not accrue a combined total of more than 90 days of unemployment during the initial 12 months of post-completion authorization.  Days of unemployment will be counted from either the start date requested or the date the employment authorization is adjudicated, whichever is later.  If the 90-day unemployment is exceeded, students would be out of status and would need to leave the US since they would have no legal grounds for remaining in the United States.

Note:  The 12-month period may be divided between pre-completion and post-completion; however, separate filings and separate fee payments are required.  You may not start working until you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the Department of Homeland Security.  While OPT is pending, you are in legal F1 status

Application Process:  After completing and gathering all documents from the checklist located on the  OPT forms (pdf) at the bottom of this page, bring the entire package to 214 Bradley Hall.  Be sure all copies are clear and legible. Please do not send anything to US Citizenship and Immigration Services without a proper review by an advisor in 214 Bradley Hall.  The advisor will print a new I-20 with a recommendation for OPT.  This must be included with your materials to USCIS.

When preparing your documents, please follow these helpful tips:

  • Form I-765 (found at must be typewritten. Handwritten forms not acceptable.  Do not send electronic form without speaking to an advisor first.
  • On question # 16 eligibility is (c) (3) (A) – Pre-completion or (c) (3) (B) – Post-completion.
  • If your mailing address may change during the application period, use the UKIC address: UKIC, 216 Bradley Hall, Lexington, KY 40506-0058


Two photographs must be placed in small envelope.  On the back of the photo lightly print in pencil or felt-tip pen, your name and your I-94 Departure number.

Guidelines for photos (passport style): taken within past 6 months

  • plain white or off-white background – 2x2 inches in size
  • unmounted color print on glossy, un-retouched paper
  • head positioned directly facing the camera; eyes open, looking at camera; eyeglasses worn if normally used
  • photo from slightly above top of hair to middle of chest – height of head should measure 1 to1 3/8 inches
  • head should be bare unless wearing a headdress required by a religious order to which you belong.

Suggested photographers:

106 Bowman's Den – 257-2619
Johnny Print - 561 S. Limestone - Ph:  254-6139
Walgreens stores

Case status:  Once you have received your “Notice of Action” receipt, you can check the status of your case on the USCIS web page by using your receipt number:

Address changes:  Immigration documents are not forwarded by the postal service if you should move while your application is pending, so it is your responsibility to notify USCIS your new mailing address. The Customer Service contact is noted on your I-767 “Notice of Action” receipt.  Changing address while an OPT application is pending can cause significant delays.  If it is mailed to an “old” address, it will be returned to USCIS as “undeliverable” and ultimately destroyed.

Notification of application receipt:  If you would like to receive notification via text message that your application has been received by USCIS, complete a G-1145 form (available from and include it with your application.  This is an optional service provided by USCIS at no extra charge.