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Optional Practical Training

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:

  • 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.
    • You will also need to have two recent passport photos for application. Please see the photo guidelines page of the above OPT application. You can typically get these pictures taken at any CVS or Kinkos. Another very important item you need is a check or money order to pay USCIS for your OPT application processing fee.
  • Make an appointment to meet with a Staff member 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, electronic I-94, and the Certificate of Completion of Studies Form.

Any questions you can email us at ois@fordham.edu.

After You Have Applied for OPT

Within one month of your application, a receipt (I-797C, Notice of Action) will arrive at our OIS office from USCIS. We will contact you with the case number and tracking information so you can check the status of your application online.

After You Receive Your Receipt

Check your OPT Application Case Status Online

An OPT application normally takes about 3-5 months to get approved by USCIS, starting from the date USCIS receives an application. Consequently, OIS encourages students to apply for OPT as early as possible and remain patient during the waiting period.

However, if you have been waiting for over 4 months to your receive your card, you may make an E-Request on the USCIS website to check your case status.

Carefully follow our E-Request Tutorial to let USCIS know that your case is outside the normal processing time. Please note that this does not guarantee a response, nor does it expedite the process.

If your case has been pending for over 5 months, please contact OIS at ois@fordham.edu so our office can make a direct inquiry with USCIS.