Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

General Information and Requirements

To be eligible for this employment authorization you must have been in F-1 student status for one academic year. A job offer is not required to be eligible to apply for optional practical training. You are eligible for a total of twelve months of full-time optional practical training. You may apply for periods of practical training before completion of studies, save the total twelve month period to be used after completion of studies, or use a combination of both. Such employment may be full-time or part-time, and it may take place at any location in the United States, but it must be directly related to your major field of studies.

Any periods of optional practical training used before completion of studies will be deducted from the total twelve-month period available. For example, if you worked full-time for two months during a summer vacation, you would only have ten months of practical training available after graduation. You may become eligible for another twelve months of practical training when you change to a higher educational level.To be eligible to apply for F-1 optional practical training before completion of studies you must:
  • have been in lawful full-time student status for one academic year prior to completion of studies
  • have optional practical training time remaining

You may use optional practical training before completion of studies during any of the following periods:
  • full-time during annual summer vacation periods
  • part-time (up to 20 hours per week) while school is in session
  • full-time after completion of all courses, but prior to thesis defense or equivalent

To be eligible to apply for F-1 optional practical training after completion of studies you must:
  • have been in lawful full-time student status for one academic year prior to completion of studies
  • apply for the practical training no later than your date of completion of studies
  • have optional practical training time remaining
How to Apply for OPT

Follow the steps below:
  1. Download and read our OPT application guidelines, and have your advisor (graduate students) or class dean (undergraduate students)  fill out the Certification of Completion of Studies Form: OPT application guidelines and Certification of Completion of Studies Form
  2. Make an appointment to meet with the Director or Assistant Director who will review all your documents and give you further instructions on where to mail your application.  Please bring all your I-20s (current and any previous), passport, I-94, and the Certificate of Completion of Studies Form.
  3. Before mailing your application, you will need to have two passport photos taken.  Please see the photo guidelines page of the above OPT application guidelines document.  You can typically get these pictures taken at any photographer's studio for an inexpensive fee.   Additionally, you will need a check or money order for the OPT fee.
Any questions, read our OPT Questions and Answers and if this is not helpful, email us.

After you have applied for your OPT
Within two weeks of your application, a receipt will be received from USCIS called I-797C, Notice of Action. We will contact you with the case number and tracking information, and you are able to come pick-up the Receipt Notice from the OIS if you would like.  You can check the status of your application by following the link below and entering your case number:

Check your OPT Application Case Status Online

Afteryou have received your receipt, you can also check the processing times for your USCIS Service Center for your OPT application. To do this follow the link below: 

USCIS Case Processing Dates
Choose "Vermont Service Center" from the "Service Center" Drop down menu, and click on processing dates next to it. This will take you to another page where you will see  a table of processing dates for different applications currently processed at this service center. The date the table is updated is given right above the table. Scroll down to I-765 Application for Employment Authorization which you can find close to the bottom of the table and find the I-765 category that says "Based on a request by qualified F-1 Academic Student [(c)(3)]." The date you will see in the right hand column is the receipt date of the applications the Service Center was working as of the table update date.By checking these dates you can determine an approximate time for the processing of your application.

If 90 days pass after you have received your receipt and have not received your card or have received other documentation from USCIS, please contact our office.

*New Optional Practical Training (OPT) Rules for F-1 Students updated to reflect the interim final rule that was published on April 8, 2008.**

On April 3, 2008, The Department of Homeland Security announced the publication of an Interim Final Rule that makes significant changes to Post-Completion Optional Practical Training for F-1 students.

This rule took effect upon publication of the rule in the U.S. Government’s Federal Register of April 8, 2008. Highlights of the New Rule:

  • The current 12-month limit on OPT will be extended by 17 months, for a total of 29 months for certain STEM degree holders (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) ONLY And E-Verify participating employers
  • The H-1B "Cap Gap" is eliminated by extending OPT employment and status for those who are beneficiaries of an H-1B petition with an October 1 start date (available to ALL OPT participants
  • The filing deadline for initial OPT applications is changed (applies to all OPT participants). Under the new rule, a student will be able to file the OPT application up to 90 days before the degree completion date, and up to 60 days after the degree completion date.
  • There are new reporting requirements for students and employers (applies to all OPT participants)
  • Post-Completion OPT will now be dependent on employment. Only limited periods of unemployment will be permitted (applies to all OPT participants)
We will keep you updated as more information becomes available.

Health Insurance for students on OPT

If you have been enrolled in Fordham's international student health insurance plan, it is NOT possible to extend that coverage for your OPT. 
May graduates:
If you are currently insured through Fordham's plan, then you are covered through August.

You MUST retain health insurance coverage while on OPT in order to maintain your F-1 status.  If you would like recommendations for health insurance providers, please contact us at

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