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Optional Practical Training

Information and Procedures

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is intended to provide hands-on practical experience complementary to the academic program, 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii). Students on practical training are still considered to be F-1 students at the University of Nevada, Reno, even though they may be working elsewhere in the United States. A student does not need to have a specific job offer to make the application, but they do need a signature showing support from their academic advisor for the OPT. Students must have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before employment may legally begin.

Students may apply for full-time post-completion OPT to start after program completion or during the thesis/dissertation stage after completing all coursework (at least 20 hrs/week) after being a full-time student for at least 1 academic year. Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT per higher education level. Regulations allow students graduating from STEM fields to apply for up 12 months of OPT and then apply for a 24-month extension totaling 36 months of OPT; the extension may be used twice during their academic career. STEM majors must first apply for 12-month OPT then apply for the 24-month extension up to 90 days before the end of their 12-month OPT. Non-stem majors have a total of 12 months full-time Optional Practical Training which can be utilized with flexibility. If training or employment will be longer than 12 months or 36 months for STEM majors, students should consider applying for a change of their status during the period of practical training. Refer to Tip Sheet: How F-1 Students Seeking Optional Practical Training Can Avoid Form I-765 Delays for tips from USCIS.

 

Important Information
  • Students may apply no earlier than 90 days before program completion and up to 60 days after program completion.
  • Students do not need to have employment to apply for OPT.
  • Students must be physically present in the U.S. when USCIS receives the application.
  • OPT may start from the first date after program completion up to 60 days after program completion.
  • If you leave the U.S. during the 60-day grace period after program completion before applying for post-completion OPT and/or enter the U.S. under a different status, you will not be eligible to apply for post-completion OPT.
  • Students are eligible for full-time post-completion OPT (at least 20 hours per week) at the thesis/dissertation stage after completing all coursework and after completing their program.
    • The I-20 program end date will be shortened to the defense date or end of the semester for post-completion OPT, whichever is sooner.
    • If applying for post-completion OPT during the thesis/dissertation stage of the program, you must complete your thesis/dissertation before the 12-months of post-completion OPT ends.
      • If you are a STEM OPT eligible student and apply for it, you may complete your thesis/dissertation during your STEM OPT period.
  • Employment must be in the major indicated on the OPT request on the first page of your I-20.
  • Pre-completion OPT reduces time from post-completion OPT. Talk to an OISS advisor for more information.
  • Allow 90 days from the date your application is received by USCIS for processing.
  • Do not work until you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card and the EAD start date is effective.
  • Students are permitted 90 days of unemployment while on 12 month OPT. In order to show proof of your employment, if needed, OISS recommends you:
    • Keep a copy of your official job offer letter stating the position title and description, start and end (if known) dates of employment and number of hours worked per week, even if you are volunteering
    • Keep all your timesheets and/or paystubs if you will be getting paid
    • Maintain medical insurance coverage.
  • International students are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes for the first 5 years in the U.S. (including during OPT) but are required to pay all federal and state taxes.
  • Your OPT automatically ends on the SEVIS release date if you transfer to another U.S. institution before your EAD card end date or on the date you start a new education level at the University of Nevada, Reno (University).
  • If you do not use more than 90 days of unemployment, you will have a 60-day grace period after the OPT EAD card end date to be admitted and transferred to a new U.S. institution, be admitted to a new program at the University, leave the U.S., or submit a change of status application. Talk to an OISS advisor for more information.
Travel
To return to the U.S. during post-completion OPT, you and any F-2 dependents need the following documents:
  • OPT I-20 signed for travel (valid for 6 months) on the 2nd page;
  • Valid F-1 or F-2 visa (it is possible to renew a visa after OPT approval but difficult with a pending application);
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months from the date you re-enter;
    • Passport should be valid for at least 6 months whenever you are in the U.S.
  • If your OPT has not been approved - Form I-797C (Receipt Notice);
    • If your OPT is approved while you are out of the country, you will need to have your EAD card and an employment letter or contract in order to return;
  • If your OPT has been approved - OPT EAD card and employment letter or contract;
  • F-2 dependents will only need copies of the necessary documents to prove the F-1's status - Receipt Notice or front and back of EAD card and employment letter or contract.
  • Please note: re-entry after travel out of the country is never guaranteed. If your application is denied while you are out of the country, it may not be possible for you to return on the F-1 visa or to resume OPT.
    • If your F-2 dependents are still in the U.S. they will have to leave the country.
  • Go to Travel Outside the U.S. for more information.
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How to Apply for OPT

!!!!!!DO NOT PAY FOR THE I-765 BEFORE GETTING AN OPT RECOMMENDATION I-20 FROM OISS!!!!!! (See Step 1 below)

NOTE: Due to possible lengthy processing times at USCIS, we advise that you apply for practical training up to 90 days before you need it. The earliest date that you may apply for post-completion Optional Practical Training is 90 days before program completion and the latest is 60 days after program completion; the application packet must be received by USCIS before the 60-day period is over. Students may not begin employment on OPT until they receive the EAD card and start date is effective.

OPT PRESENTATION: For more information, application timeline, and sample I-765, go to OPT Presentation (NOT accessible. Email oiss@unr.edu for an accessible copy).

Step 1: Login to submit the Optional Practical Training (OPT) request in order to request the OPT recommendation I-20.
  • Refer to Documents Needed to Apply for Optional Practical Training below. You will have to upload your I-765, passport, visa (if you have one), and I-94 to the OPT Recommendation I-20 request (1.5 MB maximum size per upload).
  • If you are completing more than one major and are requesting OPT for each major, submit an application for each of your majors with an approval from each of your program academic advisors.
  • Add your academic advisor's (not an OISS employee) information in the OPT recommendation request for them to get an email to submit an academic advisor's approval for you.
    • Submit your application after your advisor enters an approval.
Step 2: After your academic advisor(s) submit(s) the approval(s) and you submit your OPT Recommendation I-20 request, call the OISS to schedule a virtual appointment with an OISS advisor.
  • The OISS advisor will review your application and request an OPT recommendation in SEVIS if the application is approved.
  • You will receive a new I-20 with the OPT recommendation on page 2.
    • A new I-20 will be issued for each F-2 dependent you have.
Step 3: Make an electronic or hard copy of all the documents in the application packet before filing online or mailing.
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Online Filing
USCIS Form I-765 is available for online filing for OPT applications. Go to USCIS File Online and Benefits of Filing Online for more information.
  • You may file your application online if you choose to do so.
  • You will still need to follow the steps above to request a OPT recommendation I-20 to upload to your online Form I-765 application.
  • Read and follow the online I-765 instructions and questions carefully.
    • Submit ONLY the documents the online application requests. They will be different than what you would submit for a mailed in application.
    • DO NOT type “N/A” or “None” for responses that do not apply to you, leave them blank.
    • Use a mailing address you will have for at least five months from the time USCIS receives your application.
      • If using OISS for the mailing address, enter it as:
        • Street Number and Name: 1664 N. Virginia St.
        • Apt.: MS 0074
        • City or Town: Reno, State: NV, ZIP Code: 89557
    • If the uploaded photo shows as "unvalidated" it means it needs further validation from USCIS, you can still submit your I-765.
  • Download the PDF of your filled in online I-765 to upload to the OPT Application below.
    • The "View draft snapshot" link to get the PDF is found in "Review and Submit" under "Your application summary".
      • The PDF will have an “Electronic Form Only” watermark.
  • DO NOT pay the filing fee and submit the online application before getting the OPT recommendation I-20.
    • You will need to upload the OPT recommendation I-20 to your online application.
    • Upload only the supporting documents requested on the online I-765; they will be different from what is listed below.
    • The I-765 will be signed electronically.
  • If you file online, DO NOT mail in an application as well; use only one filing option.
  • NOTE: the online fling recognizes Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) for the submission time of your application. Keep that in mind when filing to ensure you file on time.
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Documents Needed to Apply for Optional Practical Training
  • You must have the following to apply for OPT with USCIS:
    • Completed online or all 7 pages of paper Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) - Read and follow the I-765 instructions carefully. Go to OPT Presentation for a sample I-765 (slide 23) to help you complete the I-765.
      • Make sure you are using the correct edition otherwise USCIS will reject your application. Check for any alerts and "Edition Date" at Form I-765.
      • Print single-sided.
      • We recommend you type your responses on the form to avoid any handwriting confusion.
        • If any response does not fit when typed, you may type in what will fit then type it fully on page 7 or handwrite it clearly in black ink.
      • Use a mailing address you will have for at least five months from the time USCIS receives your application.
        • If using OISS for the mailing address, enter it as:
          • Street Number and Name: 1664 N. Virginia St.
          • Apt.: MS 0074
          • City or Town: Reno, State: NV, ZIP Code: 89557
      • Signatures must be original or may be reproduced original signatures. "This means that a document may be scanned, faxed, photocopied, or similarly reproduced provided that the copy must be of an original document containing an original handwritten signature, unless otherwise specified" (https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-announces-flexibility-in-submitting-required-signatures-during-covid-19-national-emergency).
    • Processing fee payment:
      • ONLINE FILING: You will pay the filing fee of $47000 (four hundred and seventy) online AFTER getting your OPT recommendation I-20 form OISS.
      • MAIL IN FILING: Money order, personal check, cashier's check, or credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions in U.S. currency for the filing fee payment of $52000 (five hundred and twenty).
        • Use the Fee Calculatoron the date you mail your application to ensure you are paying the correct fee.
          • We recommend you print the USCIS fee calculation page and include it with your application. Make certain the printout includes the date of printing.
        • Form G-1450: Make sure you are using the correct edition otherwise USCIS will reject your application. Check "Edition Date" at Form G-1450.
        • Make checks and money orders payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with "I-765 OPT filing fee" in the memo line (if you have one) or at the top of the check or money order.
        • Sign the money order, personal check, or Form G-1450.
    • 1st and 2nd pages of your OPT Recommendation I-20 - see "Step 2" above for OPT recommendation I-20 request instructions.
      • ONLINE FILING: upload the 1st and 2nd pages to the "Form I-20" evidence section of the online I-765.
    • Two identical passport photos (2" x 2") taken within 30 days of filing your application with your name and I-94 number written on the back of the photos in a small envelope.
      • ONLINE FILING: you will upload one passport photo. Request a digital copy when you take your photo.
    • Copies of:
      • the bio page of your current passport (include extension page if applicable),
      • current visa (even if it is expired), and
      • I-94.
    • Copies of the 1st and 2nd pages (or 1st and 3rd pages for I-20s issued before July 2015) of any (including at other institutions) I-20s showing previous SEVIS ID(s) or employment authorization (CPT and/or OPT) to support information listed on page 7 of the I-765.
      • ONLINE FILING: upload these documents to the "Evidence" section of the online I-765 and enter the details in "Additional Information" using the guideline on page 7 of the Sample OPT I-765.
    • If applicable: copy of Form I-797 Approval Notice if you changed your status to F-1 within the U.S.
    • If applicable: front and back copy of any previous EAD card(s).
    • MAIL IN FILING - OPTIONAL: You may attach Form G-1145 (E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance) to the first page of the application to request an e-Notification of the receipt of the application at the USCIS Lockbox facility. There is no filing fee for this service.
      • Make sure you are using the correct edition at "Edition Date" at Form G-1145.
    • You are responsible for the accuracy and completeness of your OPT application.
 

TO REDUCE THE CHANCES OF YOUR OPT APPLICATION BEING REJECTED OR DENIED BY USCIS, THE OPT APPLICATION PACKET MUST:

  • USE USCIS FORMS WITH THE CORRECT EDITION DATE AND CORRECT FILING FEE AMOUNT

  • NOT BE RECEIVED BY USCIS MORE THAN 90 DAYS BEFORE YOUR PROGRAM END DATE

  • BE RECEIVED BY USCIS WITHIN 30 DAYS OF THE OPT SEVIS RECOMMENDATION DATE (USUALLY THE SAME DATE AS THE I-20 ISSUE DATE LISTED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE FIRST PAGE OF YOUR I-20) OR 60 DAYS OF YOUR OPT I-20 PROGRAM END DATE, WHICHEVER COMES FIRST


OPTIONAL: Premium Processing
Students may concurrently file Form I-907 online or by mail for premium processing of their OPT application. With premium processing, USCIS has 30 calendar days to adjudicate (process) the I-765 application after they determine that they have all the necessary documentation to process the I-765 application. If an RFE or RFI is issued, the 30-day period begins again. The fee is $1,68500; in addition to the Form I-765 filing fee. If you file online, you will submit Form I-907 after submitting your I-765. If you file by mail, you may mail both forms at the same time with two separate payments.

OISS recommends you consider USCIS I-765 processing times before deciding to file for premium processing. OPT Form I-765 applications are processed at the Potomac Service Center.

Note:

  • You are eligible to remain in the U.S. while your OPT application is pending, even if it is after your 60-day grace period.
  • In 2 to 4 weeks USCIS will mail your Form I-797C, Notice of Action (Receipt Notice) with a Receipt Number and Received Date confirming that they have received your OPT application. This does not indicate OPT approval.
    • ONLINE FILING: you will get an email message notification with your receipt number within 24 hours of USCIS accepting your application – you will still get a receipt notice in the mail.
    • If you included Form G-1145 with your application packet, you will get an email and/or text message notification with your receipt number within 24 hours of USCIS accepting your application – you will still get a receipt notice in the mail.
  • Check your application status:
    • ONLINE FILING: you may login to your USCIS account to check your application status.
    • Go to Check Case Status on the USCIS website to check the status of your application.
      • You may sign up for an account to receive email updates on your case.
    • After your Receipt Notice is mailed, the status message will remain the same unless USCIS requests more evidence/information or makes a decision on your application.
  • You should receive your EAD card within 90 days of the received date on the Receipt Notice if your application is approved.
    • Bring your EAD card to OISS for us to make a copy for your records or you may email us a copy of the front and back of the card.
 
IF YOU RECEIVE A REQUEST FOR EVIDENCE (RFE) OR REQUEST FOR INFORMATION (RFI) FROM USCIS, CONTACT AN OISS ADVISOR BEFORE RESPONDING
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Reporting Requirements

  • If you are employed on campus, you must take your original I-20 to Human Resources (Artemesia Building) if the end date has changed so they may make a copy of your I-20 to update your employment documents.
    • You should also notify your employing department of the date change.
    • Note: you may not work after the I-20 end date without effective post-completion OPT approval.
  • You have 90 days of unemployment on OPT from the start date listed on your EAD card.
    • If you do not report full-time employment (average of at least 20 hours per week), the unemployment time will be counted.
      • USCIS does not set a maximum number of weekly hours for post-completion OPT.
    • You may have multiple employers.
    • Employment may be paid, work for hire, self-employed business owner, through an agency, unpaid intern, or volunteer within your major as indicated on the first page of your I-20.
      • Total work hours should average at least 20 hours per week to maintain your F-1 status.
      • If the weekly hours are variable, the average at the end of one month should be at least 20 hours per week.
      • Students may work remotely. Note this in the employment description.
      • Self-employed: be able to prove that you have the proper business licenses and you are actively engaged in a business related to your major.
  • You are required to report your OPT employment, telephone number, and mailing and/or physical address(es) updates within 10 days of the change. You may use the SEVP Portal to update these changes but we recommend you use the OISS Portal.
    • Update using the OISS Portal:
      • Login using the "Log in with Portal Account";
      • Employment update: Go to the "Request & Document Center" to submit the "OPT Employment Update" request in the "What can we help you with?" section. OISS will be notified when you submit an update.
        • You MUST use the OISS Portal if it has been more than 10 days since your employment started.
      • Contact information update: Go to the "Request & Document Center" to submit the "Contact Information Update" request in the "What can we help you with?" section. OISS will be notified when you submit an update.
    • Update your employment using the SEVP Portal:
      • On your approved OPT start date, you will receive an email from do-not-reply.sevp@ice.dhs.gov (make sure OISS has your current email address) with instructions and a link to create your SEVP Portal account.
        • If you previously had OPT, you will not get an email to create an account. Use your previous SEVP Portal login information to log in to the SEVP Portal on your approved OPT start date.
          • If you have trouble logging in, contact OISS at oiss@unr.edu and provide an alternate email address to request an account reset.
        • The link to create your account will expire within 14 days of the date the email is sent; create your account even if you do not have anything to update.
        • If you do not see the email in your inbox, check your spam or junk mail folder.
        • If you still do not see it within 48 hours of your approved start date, contact OISS at oiss@unr.edu to request an account reset.
        • Any updates made using the SEVP Portal will go directly to SEVIS.
        • If you cannot update your employment in the SEVP Portal because it is past the 10-day reporting timeline, you MUST use the OISS Portal to report your employment.
      • You do not need to submit your offer letter to OISS if you use the SEVP Portal.
      • A requirement of your OPT is that your employment is related to your major.
        • After adding an employer in the SEVP Portal, email OISS at oiss@unr.edu to notify us in order for us to confirm the relationship between your employment and major.
        • We suggest you use your browser's Print or Save features to keep a copy of the information in your SEVP Portal account.
      • If you need to change your email address, submit the "Contact Information Update" request in the OISS Portal.
      • The SEVP Portal will allow you to:
        • View details about your post-completion OPT.
        • Report changes to your mailing and/or physical address(es) and telephone number.
        • View and update data on all your employers in one place. Any data updates you make in the portal will be sent directly to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and OISS will have access to it.
      • Go to SEVP Portal Help for more detailed information.
  • OPTIONAL: If you want a new I-20 with your OPT employer information, complete the Student I-20/DS-2019 Request Form and select “SEVP Portal Employer Update” for the request reason. This is optional, you are not required to get a new I-20.
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Options After OPT End Date or Ending Your OPT Early

If you do not use more than the allowed 90 days of unemployment for the 12 months OPT, you are allowed a 60-day grace period following your OPT EAD card expiration date to:

  • leave the United States;
  • change your status
    • if you have a pending or approved change of status to H-1B, you may be eligible for a Cap-Gap Extension I-20. Please consult with the immigration legal counsel working on your case;
  • start a new program at UNR
    • you must be admitted and the I-20 issued by the end of your grace period;
  • transfer your SEVIS record to a new school
    • you must be admitted and transferred by the end of your grace period
    • the new program must begin at the next available term or within 5 months of the expiration date on your EAD card, whichever is earlier
    • submit the Transfer Out request in the OISS Portal to request that your SEVIS record be released
      • your OPT automatically ends on the SEVIS release date if you select a release date before your EAD card expiration date
      • you may request a future SEVIS release date within your grace period.
In some cases, you may want to start the process of pursuing these options before the end of your OPT. If you remain in the United States past the end of your 60-day grace period without pursuing any of the above options, you may begin accruing days of Unlawful Presence, which has serious consequences depending on the length of the overstay.


If you use more than 90 days of unemployment for the 12 months of OPT, you do not have a grace period. Please consult with an OISS advisor.

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STEM OPT

Certain F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees may apply for a 24-month extension of their current 12-month post-completion OPT.
  • F-1 students with STEM field degrees.
    • Use the CIP code from your I-20 (6-digit code next to your major, XX.XXXX) to check if your degree qualifies.
  • Must be working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the STEM field of study (traditional paid employment).
  • Employer must be registered in E-Verify.
  • File for extension up to 90 days before 12-month post-completion OPT ends. Go to 24-Month STEM OPT Application for instructions.
    • The application must be received by USCIS by the 12-month OPT EAD card end date or it will be denied.
  • An appointment with an OISS advisor are not needed for STEM OPT requests.
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