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International Student Services

Frequently Asked Questions (OPT)

Frequently Asked Questions

No, you must be in the US in order to be able to apply for OPT.

No, please do not submit two OPT applications, this could result in a denial of your application.

No, please choose carefully. Once you have sent your OPT application to USCIS there is no changing of OPT start dates.

You are still an F-1 Student while your OPT application is pending. OPT is a benefit of F-1 status, it is not a new visa type or status.

Your 90 days of unemployment begin counting on the approved OPT start date.

  1. The program end date marks the end of study and the transition to the OPT phase of F-1 status.
  2. You must stop working after the I-20 program end date if you are employed on-campus.

  1. You can ignore these dates.
  2. If you have been issued an OPT-endorsed I-20, you are in good standing and ready to apply for the benefit from USCIS.

Yes, The travel signature is valid for six months (not one year) during OPT.

You may legally stay in the U.S. as long as your OPT application is pending with USCIS.
The 60-day departure deadline/grace period after graduation is not applicable to students with pending OPT applications with USCIS. (The 60-day grace period moves to the end of the OPT year as long as you do not exceed the allowed unemployment days). However, your application for post-completion OPT must be received by USCIS by the end of the grace period – be sure to apply early so that you have plenty of time to resolve potential errors.

You can apply for jobs and accept job offers, but you cannot begin the actual OPT activity until you have your OPT approval/EAD Card.

You must report your OPT employment within 10 days via the SEVP portal. During your post-completion OPT period, you must also report the following:

  • Changes to your name, residence, or mailing address
  • Any employment changes (ending a job, changing jobs)
  • Names and addresses of all OPT employers
  • Start and end dates of all OPT employment
  • New immigration status (change to H-1B, for example)
  • You decide to leave the United States, so you will not start or continue OPT

If you don’t have access to your SEVP portal please submit a SEVP portal help request via your MyISSS portal. And if it’s been more than 10 days since you began employment please submit a Report New Employment request.

After your final quarter ends, you are technically allowed to travel and reenter the U.S. while your post-completion OPT application is processing, with or without a job offer.

ISS does not recommend travel after graduation with a pending OPT application because of these risks:

  • USCIS sometimes returns, denies, or sends a request for more information regarding OPT applications. These requests are sent by postal mail, so it might be difficult for you to respond if you are not inside the U.S. It is your application, so ISS does not have the authority to respond for you.
  • After your OPT application is approved, you must also have proof of employment and your EAD Card in order to reenter the U.S. If the OPT application is approved while you are abroad, and if you do not yet have proof of employment or your EAD Card, this could jeopardize your return to the U.S.

If you are unable to change or cancel your travel plans, carry the following documents with you:

  • Your OPT receipt notice from USCIS
  • Your OPT I-20 with a valid travel signature from ISS (travel signature is valid for only 6 months during OPT)
  • Valid Passport
  • Unexpired F-1 visa (unless you are Canadian or are returning from a short trip to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean, with some exceptions). It is risky to apply for an F-1 visa while your OPT application is pending. If your current F-1 visa is expired, we recommend waiting until your OPT application is approved and you have a job offer before applying for a new F-1 visa.