FAQs for Optional Practical Training

General OPT FAQs

Pre-completion OPT FAQs

Post-completion OPT FAQs


 

General OPT FAQs

1. How do I get a social security number/card if I don’t have one?
2. Do I need a job offer before I apply for OPT?
3. How long will it take IPS to process my OPT Application?
4. Do I need to be enrolled in a course in order to be eligible to apply for OPT?
5. May I start working as soon as I turn in my OPT Application to the IPS Office?
6. Can I use OPT to work at a job that is related to my minor and not my major?
7. I was in F-1 status for a year at my old school. This is my first semester at SJSU. When may I start OPT?
8. I am on OPT, do I have to submit a Petition for Reduced Course Load?
9. Can I apply for OPT if I have a reduced course load?
10. Do I have to mail a separate application and pay a separate fee each time I apply for OPT?
11.  Do I need to be in the US when I mail my OPT application to the USCIS?
12.  Can I travel while my OPT application is pending at the USCIS?
13.  What do I do if my EAD card has an error on it?  
14.  What is the length of the grace period once my post-completion OPT is over, if I  have not decided to apply for the Cap Gap Extension or the 17-Month STEM Extension?

1.     How do I get a social security number/card if I don’t have one?
Please visit IPS’s Social Security Number page for additional information and instructions.
2.     Do I need a job offer before I apply for OPT?
No.  You only need a job offer if you are applying for CPT or the 17-Month STEM Extension.
3.     How long will it take IPS to process my OPT Application?  
It takes IPS from 1 to 3 weeks to process your OPT Application.   We will email you when your I-20 is ready for pick-up.  
4.     Do I need to be enrolled in a course in order to be eligible to apply for OPT?
No, you do not need to be enrolled in course work in order to be eligible for OPT.  Academic credit is not required for OPT.  
5.     May I start working as soon as I turn in my OPT application to IPS?
No, you must wait until you’ve received your EAD card.  The OPT start date on the EAD card is the date that you are legally authorized to start working.  
6.     Can I use OPT to work at a job that is related to my minor and not my major?
No, OPT employment must be related to your major, not your minor.  
7.     I was in F-1 status for a year at my old school. This is my first semester at SJSU. When may I start OPT?
If you transferred in at the same level and are continuing in the same major, then you should be eligible for OPT after completing one semester in good academic standing at SJSU.  Please see an International Student Advisor for confirmation.  
8.     I am on OPT, do I have to submit a Petition for Reduced Course Load?
If you are still registered for coursework, you need to be enrolled full time.  If only the project/thesis course remains, or you are working on an incomplete project/thesis, you must submit a Petition for Reduced Course Load to let us know that you haven’t completed all your degree requirements.  
9.     Can I apply for OPT if I have a reduced course load?
Yes, if you have an IPS-authorized reduced course load, you should be eligible to apply for OPT.  Please see an advisor to verify which option might suit you best.  
10.     Do I have to mail a separate application and pay a separate fee each time I apply for OPT?
Yes, every time you apply for a separate OPT authorization (including the 17-Month STEM Extension), you must apply separately, pay the fee and obtain a new EAD card.  
11.     Do I need to be in the US when I mail my OPT application to the USCIS?
Yes, you must be in the U.S. when you receive and mail your I-20 to the USCIS.  It must be you who signs the I-20 prior to mailing it in, and you must be in F-1 status at the point when you mail in your application.  
12.     Can I travel while my OPT application is pending at the USCIS?
Yes, but to re-enter the US you will need a valid visa, your OPT I-20, your I-797 Notice of Action and a job offer letter.
13.     What do I do if my EAD card has an error on it?  
You must come in to see an IPS advisor right away to apply for a correction.  
14.     What is the length of the grace period once my Post-completion OPT is over, if I have not decided to apply for the Cap Gap Extension or the 17-Month STEM Extension?
After your Post-completion OPT ends, you have a 60-day grace period in which you can start a new educational program, change status, tour, or depart the U.S.


 

Pre-completion OPT FAQs

15.    What is the difference between part-time Pre-completion OPT and full-time Pre-completion OPT?
16.    Can I be on Pre-completion OPT if I’ve finished all my degree requirements, including project?  
17.    At what rate is part-time Pre-completion OPT deducted from my total OPT allowance?  What about full-time Pre-completion OPT?
18.    Up until when can I be authorized for Pre-completion OPT (part-time and full-time)?
19.    Can I be on full-time Pre-completion OPT during the summer break if I still have coursework left?
20.    Can I be on full-time Pre-completion OPT if I am an undergraduate and only have thesis/final project left?
21.    Am I eligible for the 17-Month STEM Extension and Cap Gap Extension if I am currently authorized for Pre-completion OPT?
22.    Am I eligible for an I-20 extension if I am on Pre-completion OPT?
23.    Can I continue working on campus if I am on Pre-completion OPT?
24.    If I receive Pre-completion OPT authorization for 12 months, but finish my course of study early, can I continue to use the EAD card issued for Pre-completion OPT beyond that?
25.    Can I apply for Pre-completion and post-completion OPT at the same time?

15.     What is the difference between part-time Pre-completion OPT and full-time Pre-completion OPT?
Part-time Pre-completion OPT is employment authorization for 20 hours or less, while full-time Pre-completion OPT is authorized for 21 hours, or more.
16.     Can I be on Pre-completion OPT if I’ve finished all my degree requirements, including project?  
No, if you are done with all degree requirements including project, then you are no longer eligible to be on Pre-completion OPT.  
17.     At what rate is part-time Pre-completion OPT deducted from my total OPT allowance?  What about full-time Pre-completion OPT?
Part-time Pre-completion OPT is deducted at the half-time rate while full-time P re-completion OPT is deducted at the full-time rate from the total 12 month period.  
18.     Up until when can I be authorized for Pre-completion OPT (part-time and full-time)?
You can be authorized to work on Pre-completion OPT up until your program end date, as it appears on your I-20 (item 5,) or until you have completed all degree requirements.  
19.     Can I be on full-time Pre-completion OPT during the summer break if I still have coursework left?
Yes, but only during the summer time period.  
20.     Can I be on full-time Pre-completion OPT if I am an undergraduate and only have thesis/final project left?
No, this option is only available to graduate students.  
21.     Am I eligible for the 17-Month STEM Extension and Cap Gap Extension if I am currently authorized for Pre-completion OPT?
No, these extensions are only available if you are on Post-completion OPT.  
22.     Am I eligible for an I-20 extension if I am on Pre-completion OPT?
Yes, you are still eligible for an extension of program (I-20) if you are on Pre-completion OPT.  You must apply at least 30 days before the end date.
23.     Can I continue working on campus if I am on Pre-completion OPT?
Yes, you may continue working on campus while you are on Pre-completion OPT.  
24.     If I receive Pre-completion OPT authorization for 12 months, but finish my course of study early, can I continue to use the EAD card issued for Pre-completion OPT beyond that?
No, the EAD card was issued for Pre-completion OPT only.  You will have to stop working on or before the program completion date on your I-20 and file a separate application for Post-completion OPT. Make sure you plan ahead and file 2-3 months before your anticipated end date, so that there won’t be a gap in your authorization periods.  
25.     Can I apply for Pre-completion and post-completion OPT at the same time?
No, you may not apply for both at the same time, as SEVIS cannot support this function.  


 

Post-completion OPT FAQs

26.    What reporting requirements am I responsible for once I am on post-completion OPT?

27.    Can I continue working on campus once I am on Post-completion OPT?

28.    What if I am on Post-completion OPT and still working on project, can I continue working on campus?

29.    What is the minimum amount of hours that I need to work in order to maintain status while on Post-completion OPT?

30.    Can I request a Post-completion OPT start date beyond the 60 days past my program end date?

31.    Why was my program end date shortened when I applied for Post-completion OPT,  if I am not done will all my degree requirements?

32.    Am I still eligible for an I-20 extension if I am on Post-completion OPT, but not done with my project?

33.    Can I apply for Post-completion OPT if I am still working on project/thesis only?

34.    Can I enroll in additional coursework once I am on Post-completion OPT?

35.    What if I find out that I still need to take additional classes but I am already on Post-completion OPT, what must I do?

36.    What about the 90-day unemployment rule?  

37.    Does volunteer work count as employment in order to maintain my status while on Post-completion OPT?

38. Do I need to worry about accruing days of unemployment on Pre-completion OPT?

 

26.     What reporting requirements am I responsible for once I am on Post-completion OPT?

You must report the following changes to IPS via our online form within 10 days of the change: name, address and employment.  

27.     Can I continue working on campus once I am on Post-completion OPT?

No, once your program end date is passed, you may not continue working on campus, unless this on campus employment is your OPT employment, and you have reported that to IPS as such.

28.     What if I am on Post-completion OPT and still working on project, can I continue working on campus?

No, please see #27.  

29.     What is the minimum amount of hours that I need to work in order to maintain status while on Post-completion OPT?

You must maintain a 20-hour per week average per month, in order to maintain status while on OPT.   Please read our Guide to Unemployment (pdf) for additional information.

30.     Can I request a Post-completion OPT start date beyond the 60 days past my program end date?

No, the latest that your Post-completion OPT authorization can begin is on the 60th day after your program end date.  

31.     Why was my program end date shortened when I applied for Post-completion OPT, if I am not done will all my degree requirements?

Post-completion OPT must take place after the program end date; therefore, the program end date must be shortened in order to apply for Post-completion OPT.  

32.     Am I still eligible for an I-20 extension if I am on Post-completion OPT, but not done with my project?

No, if you are already on Post-completion OPT, you are no longer eligible for an extension, even if you are not done with project.  If you are unsure about which OPT option to select if you are on project, then please see an international student advisor.

33.     Can I apply for Post-completion OPT if I am still working on project/thesis only?

Yes, you may apply, but if you foresee an incomplete project, research complications, or needing extra time to complete your project/thesis, you might want to request a Pre-completion OPT instead.  See an international student advisor for further consideration.  

34.     Can I enroll in additional coursework once I am on Post-completion OPT?

No, the only coursework you may enroll in once on Post-completion OPT is recreational/avocational.  See an international student advisor if you have questions.  

35.     What if I find out that I still need to take additional classes but I am already on Post-completion OPT, what must I do?

Please come and see an international student advisor immediately.  

36.     What about the 90-day unemployment rule?  

The 90-day unemployment rule only applies to students on Post-completion OPT, or the Cap-Gap or STEM extensions.  If they accrue 90 days of unemployment, they are no longer maintaining F-1 status and must depart the US.  If you find employment that averages 20 hours a week, that is sufficient to maintain status on Post-completion OPT.  Don’t forget to report both employment and unemployment to IPS.  Please read our Guide to Unemployment (pdf) for additional information.

37.     Does volunteer work count as employment in order to maintain my status while on Post-completion OPT?   

Yes, on Post-completion OPT, volunteer work does count as valid employment to maintain F-1 status, as long as it is employment related to your area of study.

38.      Do I need to worry about accruing days of unemployment on Pre-completion OPT?

No, days of unemployment do not affect students on Pre-completion OPT.