Students are eligible for OPT only after completing one year of full-time courses. Students may submit an application for Optional Practical Training (OPT) up to 90 days prior to their graduation date and up to 60 days after the program end-date. In order to avoid a denial of an OPT application, students must file the I-20 and the I-765 form with USCIS within 30 days of the date on the new OPT-endorsed I-20. Students granted optional practical training receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) which looks similar to SCU's ACCESS card. Currently, it is taking between 80 - 90 days for the USCIS to process OPT applications.
Please Note: DO NOT SUBMIT PAPERWORK FOR POST-COMPLETION PRACTICAL TRAINING TO ISS UNLESS YOU ARE REASONABLY CERTAIN THAT YOU WILL GRADUATE ON THE DATE INDICATED ON THE DEGREE CONFIRMATION FORM!
To apply for OPT, students must first petition to graduate with the Registrar's Office then submit to International Students & Scholars:
- A completed Degree Confirmation/OPT Request Form noting your expected graduation date and signed by your academic advisor or department dean (Degree Confirmation Form)
- A completed Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization). Be sure that it is the most recent version. The form and instructions are easily downloaded from the USCIS website. Carefully review instructions before completing this form!
- Please note that the eligibility code for an F-1 student seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) has been changed. The code (c)(3)(i) is no longer being used and has been replaced with the following three codes: (c)(3)(A) for pre-completion OPT, (c)(3)(B) for post-completion OPT, and (c)(3)(C) for a 17-month extension for an F-1 student who has received a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM), that appears on the STEM designated Degree Program List published on the SEVP website available through the Related Links on this page.
The review and endorsement of your immigration documents by the International Student Advisor typically takes one week and the student will be provided with the following:
- Original Form I-20, which will include a page reflecting the OPT recommendation and the DSO endorsement (a photocopy is sent to USCIS and student should retain the original)
- Original I-765 and photocopies of the endorsed SEVIS issued Form I-20
In order to avoid a denial of an OPT application, students must file the I-20 and the I-765 form with USCIS within 30 days of the date on the new OPT-endorsed I-20.
Students should mail their application through certified mail with a return receipt to:
Mail your application to: USCIS Phoenix Lockbox
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
For Express mail and courier deliveries:
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
The OPT application must include:
- The original I-765
- Photocopy of current I-20 with OPT endorsement and all previously issued I-20s (including those issued from other institutions)
- Photocopy of Form I-94 Arrival/Departure card (front and back on one page)
- Photocopy of Biographical page of Passport
- If you previously engaged in practical training, include a photocopy of your first EAD card
- Two full color frontal photographs "passport style" which is no more than 30 days old. Write your name and I-94 number in pencil on the back of each photo and enclose the photos in a small envelope so they are not damaged in the mail
- Cover letter mentioning the above enclosed documents
- Check or money order made payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" for processing Form I-765 - click here for current filing fees:
- Please note: USCIS fees change periodically, so you must check their website for the most current fee associated with Form I-765.
- Make photocopies of all documents mailed to USCIS.
- As an F-1 student it is your responsibility to mail the application to USCIS, not ISS.
- See the SCU international student advisor immediately after you receive your EAD card.
- Students are encouraged not to travel while the OPT application is pending. Traveling may cause the application to be cancelled by USCIS.
New OPT Rules
1) Limited Periods of unemployment to maintain status: As of April 8, 2008, students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT carried out under the initial post-completion OPT authorization.
2) Reporting Requirements: As of February 27, 2008, USCIS requires that all F-1 students on OPT report the within 10 days of any change to: legal name, residential or mailing address, or any interruption of such employment. Additionally students are required to provide ISS with a copy of their EAD card. Please click here to update employment info.
Address Change with Pending OPT Application
Optional practical training applicants who have changed their address since submitting Form I-765 and have not received their EAD card must file the USCIS Online Change of Address Form (AR-11) . Failure to do this update on Form AR-11 could cause delays in receiving the EAD.
Please have the following information available:
- Your receipt notice or other notice sent showing your receipt number (this is your WAC number).
- Your new address.
- Your old address.
- Your last U.S. re-entry information (date and port of entry).
Students may also contact the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283, but it may be more efficient to file the change of address online for a pending OPT request.
Note: Changing your address using Form AR-11 does not automatically update your SEVIS (US) address in Peoplesoft. You must update your (US) address on Ecampus within 10 days of moving and notify ISS so that we may update your SEVIS record. Failure to do so is a violation of your status.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Does OPT need to be paid or can it be unpaid employment?
A: Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this work does not violate labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week and be related to your field of study.
Q: How can I find out how long it is currently taking to process EAD cards?
A: Students should allow for 3-4 months processing time. However, for a more precise estimate on processing time, please refer to the following link and select "California Service Center" Processing Dates:
Q: May I apply for a second OPT?
A: Students may be authorized 12 months of OPT and become eligible for another 12 months of OPT when they change to a higher educational level. For example, moving from a Bachelors degree to a Masters degree.
Q: Can I divide OPT into two consecutive periods of post-completion OPT?
A: No. Dividing OPT into two consecutive periods of post-completion is no longer possible. Prior to SEVIS, it had been possible for a student to request less than 12 months of post-completion OPT and then apply for the remainder before the expiration of the first period. Effective January 1, 2003, however, OPT regulations were changed to require that OPT must be requested prior to the completion of your degree.
Q: Can I change employers or work for two companies while on OPT?
A: Yes. A student may work for more than one employer and/or change employers during the period of authorized practical training provided that each position is directly related to the student's field of study and commensurate with his or her educational level.
Q: Will use of CPT affect eligibility for OPT?
A: F-1 students who engage in an aggregate of 12 months of full-time curricular practical training become ineligible for optional practical training.