Optional Practical Training (OPT)

An F-1 student in a degree program or a graduate certificate may be eligible for Occupational Practical Training (OPT), which allows the student to engage in temporary employment to gain practical experience in his or her field of study

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

OPT is practical work experience in your field of study (typically after completion of a degree). Initial OPT allows students to work for up to 12 months. Students on OPT are still considered to be F-1 students at EMU, even if working elsewhere in the U.S. The end result of the entire OPT application process is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in the form of a card that is issued by U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) and lists the dates of your approved OPT period. The  EAD is not a working permit; it is an extension of your F-1 status for the purposes of practical training.

There are two types of OPT that a student can apply for:

  1. Post-completion OPT: A student can apply for this OPT after they have completed their program at EMU, the information on this page will specifically cover this type of OPT.
  2. Pre-completion OPT: This type of OPT is available to the student while they are completing their degree requirements at EMU. Applying for Pre-completion OPT is not common as CPT is usually the best option. You should reach out to [email protected] if you have additional questions regarding Pre-completion OPT.


Students who: 

  • Are in legal F-1 status and have been full-time enrolled for at least a full academic year at EMU
  • Have had less than one year of full-time CPT-approved
  • Who will be completing a course of study in the current term
  • Whose proposed OPT employment will be directly related to their course of study. You do not need to have employment lined up before applying for OPT.

Requirements to Request OPT I-20 from OISS

  1. Attend an OPT seminar with OISS. Check out our newsletter and website throughout the semester for dates and times. 
  2. Meet with your department academic advisor to receive a signed letter (on school letterhead) that indicates the name of your degree level, degree program, and expected graduation date.
  3. Download your most recent I-94.
  4. Fill out and submit the Post Completion-OPT Request Form.

In some cases, OISS may request additional documents after your submission. 

An OISS advisor will review your request, and process an I-20 if you have met the requirements and are eligible for OPT.

Filing your OPT Application with USCIS. 

Students are strongly encouraged to review the I-765 Instructions provided by USCIS. OISS is not responsible for your application to USCIS, and we can only provide minimal guidance on filing. 

USCIS prefers students to file their OPT application online instead of the paper-based version. Do not file both ways as this could result in a denial.

Tips and Assistance on Filing the I-765 
  • USCIS must receive your application between 90 days before you complete your program and up to 60 days after you complete your program. If your application is not received within the timeframe it will be denied.
  • USCIS must also receive your application within 30 days of the date your OPT I-20 is issued. 
  • You must be inside the U.S. when filing your application (OISS strongly recommends that you do not travel outside the U.S. until your OPT has been approved and you have your EAD Card)
  • Use code (c)(3)(B) on Form I-765 for Post-Completion OPT
  • Submit copies of any previous EAD cards, CPT/OPT I-20s if applicable, and  your OPT I-20 you received from OISS
  • Submit a colored U.S.-style passport photo that was taken within the last 6 months (should not be the same photo used in other immigration documents). Use the Photo Tool from the Department of State's website to assist with sizing. 
  • Submit your most recent I-94

After submission of your I-765, you will receive a receipt notice in your online USCIS account if you applied online. 

If you are denied or receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) you can email [email protected]. Our office cannot guarantee that we will be able to assist depending on the reasons given by USCIS. 

If your application is approved, you will receive an EAD card with the dates of your approved OPT period. Do not start your employment until after you have your EAD card in hand and no earlier than the start date printed on the card.

USCIS Processing Times

For an estimate of USCIS application processing times, please see the USCIS website

For an additional fee, you can request USCIS to expedite your application and make a decision on your application within 30 calendar days.  For additional information see the USCIS website on Requesting Premium Processing Services.


After your OPT has been Approved

You must submit your EAD Card to our office as soon as it is received. 

Per immigration regulations, you must report your employment details within 10 days of any updates. You have two options to report your OPT employment information, please only select one method to update. Updating both your portal and our forms can lead to errors on your SEVIS record. 

  1. Set up your SEVP Portal Account, SEVP will email details on how to set up your portal after your OPT has been approved. You can update your employment details directly into your portal.
  2. Submit your details to OISS using our OPT Employment Reporting Form. We will review and update your employment record in SEVIS.

Students are only allowed 90 days of unemployment while on OPT. Students who have accrued 90 days or more of unemployment will be considered to be out of status. You will accrue unemployment time if you do not have active employment reported in your SEVP Portal/SEVIS records, so it is important that you update your employment information regularly and accurately. To avoid violating status, prior to reaching 90 days of unemployment time, students may transfer out to another SEVP-certified school, change education level to begin a new program at EMU or depart the U.S.



OPT Cap-Gap Information

OISS cannot advise on H-1B issues and applications, any student who is on OPT and are applying for H-1B should consult with their employers immigration office. 

  • What is a Cap-Gap Extension and who is eligible?  Expand dropdown
    A Cap-Gap Extension is a regulatory provision which extends an eligible F-1 student's status to bridge the gap between the end of F-1 status and start of H-1B status, thereby allowing the student to remain in the US during the "gap." There are two types of Extensions:
    1. Extension of status and employment authorization - You may be eligible for an Extension of your F-1 status and authorized period of post-completion OPT (including the 24-month Extension) in the following circumstances:
      • Your employer files an H-1B petition in a timely manner with USCIS with an employment start date of October 1.
      • You are maintaining your F-1 status on the date your potential employer files your H-1B petition.
      • You are in an authorized period of post-completion OPT (including the 24-month Extension) on the date your potential employer files your H-1B petition.
      • USCIS receives the H-1B petition in a timely manner.
    2. Extension of status only - You may be eligible for an Extension of your F-1 status through September 30 if you meet the following requirements:
      • Your potential employer files an H-1B petition in a timely manner with USCIS with an employment start date of October 1.
      • You are maintaining your F-1 status on the date your potential employer files your H-1B petition.
      • USCIS receives the H-1B petition in a timely manner.

    While you are generally eligible for a Cap-Gap Extension if you meet the above qualifications, your individual case may be different. You should always talk with an OS advisor about whether you qualify for a Cap-Gap Extension of your F-1 status and, if applicable, your work authorization.

    Those filing for H1-B via consular processing - do not qualify for the Cap-Gap Extension. You must confirm with your employer if the H1-B will be filed as a change-of status or via consular processing.

  • How to apply for a Cap-Gap Extension I-20 Expand dropdown

    Submit the Cap-Gap I-20 Request Form from the OISS website.


  • What if the H-1B is denied after applying for the Cap Gap Extension?  Expand dropdown

    If the student's H-1B is not selected and the duration of their OPT is over, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice to depart the US, transfer the I-20 to a new program, or apply for a change of status. However, if a denial is based on a discovered status violation, no such grace period exists and the student must leave the U.S. immediately.

  • Can I travel during the Cap-Gap Extension period and still return with my OPT I-20 and EAD?  Expand dropdown

    A valid EAD card is required to re-enter during the Cap-Gap Extension period along with a valid passport, F-1 visa, signed I-20 and employer letter. Students with EAD cards that have expired are not eligible to re-enter the U.S. during the Cap-Gap Extension period.

    Please note, traveling outside the U.S. may interfere with the processing of your H-1B petition. EMU OISS strongly advises students to consult with their employers regarding all travel plans before departing the U.S.

    If your EAD is expired, you will not be granted entry to the US based on the Cap-Gap Extension. If you must travel during the Extension period, be prepared to apply for the H-1B visa outside the US and adjust your return travel plans accordingly. Note: Under H-1B regulations, you may only enter the US up to ten days prior to October 1.


  • What if my OPT expires before April 1st? Will the preliminary or automatic Cap-Gap Extension extend my OPT? Expand dropdown

    Although your F-1 status would be extended if you are in your 60-day grace period when the petition is filed, your OPT employment authorization period has expired, and the Cap-Gap does not serve to reinstate or retroactively grant employment authorization. Your legal status to remain in the U.S. in F-1 status is extended, but you are required to stop working until your H-1B goes into effect on October 1.



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