Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a 12-month period in which international students who are currently enrolled or have graduated from a U.S. college or university are given special work authorization. OPT can be authorized as pre-completion or post-completion. OPT is designed to allow students to gain valuable working experience in the area of their most recent degree.
Pre-completion OPT can be authorized while a student is still attending school and pursuing a degree in higher education. If a student chooses to engage in pre-completion OPT, he or she may not work more 20 hours per week while school is in session but may work full time during his or her annual vacation and other times when the school is not in session. In addition, the student’s eligible period of post-completion OPT will be reduced by one month for every two months of part-time pre-completion OPT when he or she graduates.
Students on OPT may not enroll in classes, including online courses, at another education level. Enrolling in classes at another educational level, part-time or full-time results in automatic termination of OPT.
Post-completion OPT may be used following the completion of a student’s degree. The student is still considered to be of valid F-1 Status by the U.S. government for the duration of their post-completion OPT period. A student is eligible for one period of OPT per degree level (Associates, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate).
In order to be eligible for OPT, you must meet certain requirements. To determine your eligibility, schedule an appointment with your International Student Advisor (ISA) by calling 434-592-4118 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 1 - Sign up to watch the OPT video at the International Student Center (ISC) and pick up the OPT application packet.
For pre-completion OPT, schedule an appointment with your International Student Advisor (ISA).
Step 2 – Prepare all required documents and complete OPT Application.
Step 3 – Submit the items listed below to your International Student Advisor for review:
Step 4 – Pick up new OPT I-20 two business days after attending the workshop.
Step 5 – Mail OPT application by FedEx within 20 days of the date OPT was recommended in SEVIS to:
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business
Lewisville, TX 75067
Step 6 – Receive OPT application receipt from USCIS in about 30 days.
Step 7 – Receive OPT card from USCIS (can take up to 90 days from application date).
Step 8 – Send a copy of the OPT card (front and back) to the ISC by fax (434) 582-2969 or email@example.com
You must find employment or a volunteer position within 90 days of the start date of your OPT. You are required to notify your ISA of your employment or volunteer position as soon as you find one. If you plan to apply for a change of status while on OPT, you must maintain active F-1 status. Violating the terms of your F-1 status may affect your change of status application. In addition to submitting the following information at the start of your OPT period, any changes must be reported to your ISA within 10 days.
OPT is automatically terminated if a student enrolls in courses at another educational level. This includes part-time or full-time, online or residential courses.
F-1 Regulations allow students participating in OPT to travel abroad, but there may be additional risks and/or additional documentation to prepare. Liberty University is unable to guarantee that students will be granted admission by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon return to the U.S or that the Consulate will renew an F-1 visa at a consulate abroad. Although not common, there are reports of students on OPT having problems at ports of entry as well as being denied visas or experiencing significant visa delays. The decision to travel abroad must be made by the individual student with an understanding of the preparations that should be made and the risks involved. If travel must be done while on OPT, F-1 regulations require that the student present the following documents to CBP upon reentry:
Unemployment is allowed while you are on post-completion OPT. However, you may not exceed more than 90 days of unemployment. Unemployment rules do not apply for pre-completion OPT.
Each day (including weekends) during the period when OPT authorization begins and ends that the student does not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment. Authorization begins on the employment start date shown on the student's EAD card. Vacation does not count towards your unemployment days.
All though you are not automatically enrolled in the policy you can contact the International Student Center to sign up. You must complete an enrollment form and pay via check, money order, or credit card.
Students are required to work a minimum of 20 hours per week. You may work for two employers to meet the 20-hour requirement.
Yes, you must continue to report your address inside the U.S. Your address is where you physically live and cannot be a PO Box or your company's address.
You are allowed to work in a paid or unpaid/volunteer position that relates to your most recent major of study. You may also work for a company or be self-employed. If you choose to be self-employed, be sure to record all hours work and follow the regulations on the Internal Revenue Services website for self-employment.
You are not required to change employment information (i.e. the address) if you will take a business trip outside the U.S. Remember, bring all required travel documents for the reentry process.
Report the address of the location where you are working.
Yes, we advise you to speak with an immigration attorney about your options for staying in the U.S. after OPT. Feel free to contact Arthur Serratelli.
Students who have/will apply for a change of status to H1B, permanent resident or any other immigration status should speak with their immigration lawyer prior to making travel plans. Students utilizing the Cap-Gap extension should not travel abroad during the period of time between the end of the EAD and the start of the H1B unless they are eligible to return to the U.S. with the H1B visa stamp.
To find out more information on the STEM extension, visit the STEM OPT Extension page.
DeMoss Hall, Room 2232
8 a.m.–5 p.m. EST