Optional Practical Training
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 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. 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.
How to apply for Optional Practical Training
Step 1: Documents needed to apply for Optional Practical Training
You must bring the following to the Office of International Students and Scholars
- OPT Form with a recommendation completed by your academic advisor all submitted electronically
- Completed Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization)
- 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 $410. Make checks and money orders payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with "OPT filing fee" in the memo line
- 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
- Copies of the following:
- Bio page of your current passport (include extension page if applicable),
- current visa
- Copies of the 1st and 3rd pages (or 1st and 2nd pages for I-20s issued after July 2015) of any (including at other institutions) I-20s with employment authorization (CPT, SEH, OPT)
- Copy of Form I-797 Approval Notice if you changed your status to F-1 within the U.S.
- Front and back copy of any previous EAD card(s), if applicable
Optional: You may attach Form G-1145 (E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance) from 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.
Step 2: Application review, OPT request and I-20
The OISS advisor will review your application and request OPT in SEVIS if the application is approved. You will then receive a new I-20 with the OPT request on page 2. The Office of International Students and Scholars advisor will arrange your packet for mailing.
Step 3: Copy your documents and submit by mail
Make a copy of all the documents in the application packet before mailing.
- If the address in item 3 of your Form I-765 is not in Nevada, refer to "Instructions for Form I-765" for the mailing address
- If the address in item 3 of your Form I-765 is in Nevada, mail all documents listed in point 1 and a copy of the new I-20 with OPT endorsement to one of the addresses below:
U.S. Postal Service deliveries (request tracking option)
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
Express mail and commercial courier deliveries
ATTN: NFB AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
Filing fees and delivery addresses are subject to change. Check the instructions for Form I-765 to verify the filing fee and delivery address.
The OPT application packet must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the I-20 issue date listed at the bottom of the first page of your I-20, otherwise your application will be denied.
OPT application receipt, reporting and travel
Reporting requirements after OPT authorization
- 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 update your employment documents. You should also notify your employing department of the date change. You may not work after the I-20 end date without effective post-completion OPT approval.
- 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. Go to SEVP Portal Help for more information.
- Make sure your current email address is correct with OISS.
- On the EAD card start date of your approved OPT, you will get an email from firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Optional Practical Training Approval - the next step. Create an SEVP Portal account. Follow the instructions in the email to create your account. The account creation link in the email will expire within 14 days of the email being sent.
- Any updates made using the SEVP Portal will go directly to SEVIS.
- You do not need to submit any updates to OISS if you use the SEVP Portal, we will get the updates from SEVIS.
- If you do not receive an email, check your spam/junk mail folder. If you still do not see the email, please contact OISS at email@example.com to request a reset, include your current email address in the email message.
- 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.
- If you need to change your email address, use the Change of Address Form.
Instructions students who have applied for but not received OPT
If you have applied for Optional Practical Training (OPT), you should have received an official document, called a Form I-797C, Notice of Action (Receipt Notice). You may check the status of your application under "Check Case Status" using the Receipt Number on the receipt notice. You may also sign up to receive email updates on your case. You should receive the results of your application within 90 days of the Received Date listed on the receipt notice.
If your address has changed. If your address has changed since you filed for OPT, call the USCIS Customer Service line at 1-800-375-5283 to change your address, and send a notice to USCIS in writing, stating your address has changed, and giving them your receipt number, and request that they send the OPT to the new address. In many cases, OPT is not received because the address given on Form I-765 is no longer valid. If you set a forwarding address with the Postal Service, any mail from USCIS will not be forwarded and will be sent back to USCIS instead. We recommend you use the Office of International Students and Scholars address on Form I-765 to avoid this problem. Once OISS receives your mail from USCIS, we will open it to make a copy and contact you to pick it up.
If your application is denied or not approved. If USCIS does not approve or deny your application within 90 days please consult an Office of International Students and Scholars advisor.
Traveling after applying for post-completion OPT
Travel while application is pending: OISS recommends students do not travel while the application is pending. If travel is necessary, for re-entry, you must have a valid passport and visa stamp, receipt notice (Form I-797C, Notice of Action), letter verifying employment from employer if you already have a job offer and a valid travel signature on the 2nd page of your I-20. Travel signatures on post-completion OPT are valid for 6 months and must be valid upon your return to the U.S. If your application is approved while you are out of the country, please read the "Travel after application has been approved" section below.
Travel after application has been approved: Students can travel while on OPT as long as they have a valid passport and visa stamp, an EAD card, letter verifying employment from employer and a valid travel signature on the 2nd page of your I-20. Travel signatures on post-completion OPT are valid for 6 months and must be valid upon your return to the U.S.
Applying for a visa: Students who do NOT have a valid F-1 visa stamp in their passport may apply for a new F-1 visa to enter the U.S. You should take your EAD card, I-20 and letter of employment to the embassy or consulate. While there is no guarantee that your visa will be granted it is still possible. It is more difficult to apply for a new visa while your post-completion OPT application is pending.
If a student departs the U.S. and returns on a different immigration status such as a visitor (B) visa or a visa waiver (VWT), that student is NOT eligible for practical training as their status on the I-94 is no longer F-1; EVEN if the work permit is received after they return to the United States. A work permit is only valid with an I-94 that says "F-1" and "D/S".
Important information to keep in mind
- Student 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- F-1 status during OPT is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment from the start date on the EAD card during post-completion OPT.
- Employment must be in the major indicated on the OPT request on the second 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, 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 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.