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Optional Practical Training [OPT] - Instructions
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Remember: Work Authorization options and instructions are covered at each " First Friday Workshop"


Optional Practical Training: practical experience in the academic field, paid or unpaid, that is not part of the degree program.  Experience may take place anywhere inside of the United States.

**Please do not submit this application online to USCIS. You need to meet with your Coordinator in order to apply for OPT.


  • F-1 status and have completed two full time semesters of non-ESL courses
  • Be in good academic standing with a GPA of 2.0 minimum

Available Time Period 

  • Full time during summer vacation and holidays when school is not in session
  • Part time during school sessions, training cannot exceed twenty hours per week
  • Full time after graduation*.  Most students use it at this time.  *Apply 90 days before to 6 weeks AFTER graduation.
  • Up to 12 calendar months of OPT is permitted at each educational level (Associate, Bachelor, Master, etc.)

Application Procedures to apply for an EAD, Employment Authorization Document

1) Download and complete USCIS form I-765 (download).   Leave blank anything that you don’t understand. You may find additional information in the 12 pages of  I-765 instructions (download) (To save paper, please do not print. these instructions) 

2) Create a letter for USCIS to officially request OPT and state the exact dates you hope to work.  Make the letter concise, professional, and pleasant.  If you are not sure what career fields you may use your degree in, please consult an academic or career counselor. 

Letter Example:  Dear Officer,

I hope to work and get practical experience in (your major).  Because...(Add your ideas.)

I wish to work (part or full) time from (exact start date) to (exact end date).  Thank you for your assistance!

If you are graduating - start date must be 60 calendar days or less after graduation

3) Make copies of your passport information and expiration pages, picture, and visa pages and your most recent I-94 information.

4) Make copies of front and signature pages of EACH I-20 form issued to you by any school in the United States.

                                                       If  you are graduating - Bring the Graduation Verification Form (yellow copy). 
**Graduating students will need to send a copy of the Graduation Verification form with the Application to USCIS

5)  Bring $410 check or money order made payable to; “Department of Homeland Security”

6)  Bring 2 ‘green card’-style photos (write your I-20 number on backs) - see reverse or download instructions at: 

7)  Make an appointment to obtain a NEW I-20 from the International Coordinator noted with your OPT request, and bring items 1-6 of the above items

8)  Mail all the application materials (1-7 above) WITHIN 21 DAYS to:  

PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

Processing Time 

  • USCIS  takes up to 2-4 months to process your request.
  • USCIS will send you a Receipt Letter in two to three weeks.   You can also ask for email or text notification by including a form G-1145
  • If practical training is approved, you will receive a Notice of Action Letter and an EAD card soon after the letter. 
  • If you receive a blue Request for Evidence letter bring it to the Office of International Student Coordinators. 

You are responsible for filing all immigration documents.  You should keep a copy of all application materials and should mail the documents at the U.S. Post Office “Return Receipt Requested” OR send a FORM G-1145 with your application to get a text or email message of its receipt.

Important Points to Remember

  • You do not need a job to apply for Optional Practical Training; however you must e-mail the Office of International Student Coordinators the name and address of your company when you get your job.  Soon USCIS will email you to create a login to update your work and address information yourself too.
  • Once you receive your actual EAD card you may work, send a copy to the Office of International Student Coordinators
  • You can apply for Social Security Card with your EAD; you do not need a new Social Security Card if you already have one
  • You must work (for a 12 month request = at least 9 of your 12 months), and you must start within 90 days of your EAD start date
  • You "work" may be an unpaid internship or volunteer position.  You should keep proof of a position that was designed to be unpaid.
  • Remember, you may need to pay income taxes, but there are some taxes F1s do not pay – see the Tax Code
  • Follow normal F1 procedures for transfer to another institution
  • To travel outside of the US while on OPT you will need:
    1)  Your I-20 signed by an International Coordinator at Montgomery College
    2)  Your EAD card
    3)  A letter from your employer saying that you will be returning to continue your work, OR a job offer letter if you have not started yet
  • It may be difficult to re-new your F-1 visa after you graduate, even with your EAD card
  • Your passport needs to be valid for the entire time of your OPT at the time you apply
  • Keep your address and telephone number current with the Office of International Student Coordinators, not matter what state you are in. Soon USCIS will email you to create a login to update your work and address information yourself too.
  • Graduates may take part time classes but NOT start their “next level of education” (bachelor's or master's) program until OPT is completed
  • Make sure to keep your health insurance active. Talk to the insurance company about OPT insurance or with the company that will hire you about OPT insurance plans.

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Montgomery County, MD


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