Optional Practical Training (OPT)

*As of 4/12/2021, USCIS has implemented a new online process for applying for OPT. Please read and follow the instructions below carefully.*

Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides F-1 students with an opportunity for hands-on work experience (employment authorization) related to their academic field of study.  An F-1 student must be authorized by USCIS to participate in optional practical training.  

Check the Kearney Center calendar for upcoming OPT workshops.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) Info Videos

Part 1:

Updated video coming soon.

Eligibility Requirements 

You must be in valid F-1 status and have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year or will complete one academic year by the date the OPT approval begins. You have not been authorized for a total of 12 months of full-time CPT. You have not previously completed 12 months of OPT at the same degree level.   

Types of Optional Practical Training (OPT) 

Post-Completion OPT: (c) (3) (B) 

OPT authorization that begins after completion of your academic program. This is the most common type of OPT. Post-completion OPT is full-time and it can begin:

  • After you complete your degree program
  • After you complete all course requirements for your degree excluding thesis or equivalent  

Pre-Completion OPT: (c) (3) (A)

OPT used while you are still enrolled in your course of study is called “pre-completion OPT”. Students who do not have academic internships available in their program of study and cannot use CPT may consider this option. Pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 months of OPT eligibility, so most students prefer to save OPT for after program completion.

The following options are available for pre-completion OPT: 

  • Full-time (21 hours/week or more) during summer or breaks  
  • Part-time (20 hours/week or less) while enrolled in a full course of study 

STEM OPT Extension – (c) (3) (C)  

Students in their 12-month OPT authorization period with a qualifying STEM approved degree and working for an E-verify registered employer, may apply for a 24-month extension of their OPT. 

When to Apply: 

Apply early! You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. We suggest you apply three months from the predicted date you wish to start working.  OPT is recommended by advisers (known as Designated School Officials or DSOs) within the Kearney Center for International Student Services, but final approval is granted by USCIS.  USCIS issues the approved OPT with an Employment Authorization Document/Card (EAD) which typically takes approximately 90 days to process.   

REMEMBER

  • You must be enrolled at Minnesota State Mankato at least 9 months to apply AND in F-1 status prior to applying 
  • Your OPT packet must ben received by USCIS within 30 days of receiving your OPT recommendation from the Designated School Official (DSO) with signature on the I-20.

Application Window for Post-Completion OPT:

  • The earliest day to apply for post-completion OPT is 90 days before your completion date
  • The latest day to apply for post-completion OPT is 60 days after your completion date

OPT Application Procedures for Pre or Post-Completion OPT 

STEP ONE: First, apply for graduation through Graduation Services. Then, complete the OPT FORM. Do not forget to have your Academic Advisor (not your Immigration Advisor) complete the box at the bottom of the form. Email your OPT form and Application for Graduation Evaluation Summary to your Immigration Advisor. Your Immigration Advisor will then email the following documents to you, which you will upload to your online application in step 2:

  1. SEVIS event history print out
  2. I-20 with OPT recommendation
    • You will sign and date it. 
    • You will send a copy of the I-20 and keep the original.

STEP TWO: Follow the Filing I-765 Online instructions to create a USCIS online account and begin your application.

DO NOT SUBMIT your application without reviewing your application with your Kearney Center Advisor!
 
 
STEP THREE: Before submitting your I-765, you will need to meet with your Kearney Center Advisor to review your application. Schedule a Zoom meeting with your Kearney Center Immigration Advisor via MavConnect. During the meeting, you will share your screen with your advisor so that you advisor can confirm your application has been completed correctly.
 

STEP FOUR: After reviewing your online OPT application with your immigration advisor, digitally sign and submit your application. Next, pay the filing fee ($410) using a credit card, debit card, or withdrawal from a checking or savings account. See Steps 6, 7, and 8 in the Filing I-765 Form Online for complete instructions.

STEP FIVE: Read through "After Applying for OPT" and "Once You Are Approved for OPT" for more information on the next steps.