Pre-Completion & Post-Completion OPT

Optional Practical Training may be used before or after graduation.  Read more to find out which type of OPT is used in different circumstances.

Eligibility & When to Apply

Overview

Optional Practical Training is an F-1 student benefit granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  It allows you to work off-campus in a job related to your major.  It is meant to supplement your academic experience with practical experience.

Who is eligible for OPT?

To be eligible for Optional Practical Training, you must document that:

  • you are currently in valid F‑1 status  AND
  • you have been a full‑time student for at least one full academic year (two semesters)

When can I use OPT?

Optional Practical Training may be used during any of the following situations (or combination of the following situations):

Pre-Completion OPT

a.  during the semester (up to 20 hours per week of work)

b.  during annual vacation periods (summer and winter breaks, full-time employment allowed)

c.  after completion of all course requirements for the degree and while working on one’s thesis or dissertation (full-time employment allowed)

Notes:                                                       

  • Unemployment is not counted
  • Cannot apply for the 24-Month STEM Extension
  • Not eligible for the Cap Gap Extension
  • May extend I-20 if extra time is needed to complete degree requirements
  • Must apply for Post-Completion OPT if employment will continue after the degree conferral date

Post-Completion OPT

a. while working on one’s thesis or dissertation (full-time employment allowed)

b. after completion of study (full-time employment allowed)

Notes:

  • Unemployment is counted. (You must not exceed 90 calendar days of unemployment during your 12 months of Post-Completion OPT.)
  • Full-time employment authorized.  Must work a minimum of 20 hours per week
  • May apply for the 24-Month STEM Extension (if eligible)
  • Eligible for the Cap Gap Extension

How long is OPT authorized for?

Optional Practical Training may be authorized for a total of 12 months of full-time Pre-Completion and Post-Completion OPT, which must be completed within 14 months following the completion of your course of study.

Any full-time Optional Practical Training authorization you receive is subtracted from your total 12‑month period. Ex. A student who is authorized for 3 months of full‑time Pre-Completion OPT during the summer will have only 9 months of OPT remaining.

Any part‑time OPT (20 hours per week or less) is deducted at the rate of one day of practical training for every two part‑time days of OPT authorized. Ex. A student who is authorized for 4 months of part-time Pre-Completion OPT during the semester will have 10 months of full-time OPT remaining.

When should I apply for OPT?

First, know your completion of study date. For most students, the completion of study date is the degree conferral date following their final semester. Degree conferral dates at UB are February 1, June 1 and September 1.

You cannot apply for Post-Completion OPT more than 90 days before your completion ofstudy date/degree conferral date. You can apply for Pre-Completion OPT up to 90 days before your desired employment start date.

Then, choose your employment authorization start and end date.You may choose any start date between your degree conferral date and the end of your 60-day grace period. For example:

Degree Conferral Date Can choose any start date between
June 1 June 1 and July 31
February 1 February 1 and April 1 (leap years are an exception)
September 1 September 1 and October 31
Graduating September 1?

Students planning to graduate September 1 must ensure they are enrolled during the summer term in order to be eligible for Post-Completion OPT .

For post-completion OPT your employment end date is one year from the start date you chose.

You may choose an employment start date before your degree conferral date only if:

  • You are working full-time on your thesis or dissertation

OR

  • Your academic advisor is willing to state in the “Academic Advisor’s Recommendation for Optional Practical Training” that you have completed all degree requirements before your degree conferral date. In this case, the earliest start date you may choose is the day after exams. Your completion of study date will then be your employment start date.

Next, we recommend that you submit your OPT application to ISS 90 days prior to your completion of study/degree conferral date to allow sufficient time for ISS and USCIS processing. The earliest we can process your OPT I-20 is 90 days before your degree conferral date (or 90 days before the date you will complete all degree requirements).

The latest date that you can apply for OPT is 60 days after your degree conferral date. We do not recommend waiting until the end of your 60-day grace period to apply for Post-Completion OPT.

If your OPT application is received by USCIS more than 60 days after your completion of course of study date, YOU WILL LOSE YOUR OPT BENEFIT.

Your application must be received by the USCIS within 30 days of the issuance of your OPT I-20 and the signature on your Form I-765. If your OPT application does not comply with this requirement, YOU WILL LOSE YOUR OPT BENEFIT.

What if I complete my degree requirements during the spring or fall semester but miss the deadline to apply for the next degree conferral date? Which degree conferral date should I use when applying for OPT?

In this case your completion of study date for the purpose of your OPT application will be the degree conferral date for the semester during which you completed your studies.

What if I want to apply for OPT before I have completed a full academic year as a full-time student?

You may submit your application up to 90 days prior to completing one academic year, provided that the period of employment will not begin until the completion of the full academic year.

Application Step 1: Request Your OPT I-20

Step 1 is applying for an OPT I-20 from ISS

Prepare your OPT application and submit it online to ISS following the directions below:

1.    Pay the UB OPT fee. The fee is $55 and must be paid online. The fee cannot be charged to your student account.  After paying the fee, remember to print the receipt. Applicants for Pre-Completion OPT are not required to pay this fee.

2.    Login to myISSS by clicking on the blue “LOGIN” button on the left side of the screen and using your UBIT Name and Password. Do NOT click on “Administrative Services for University Departments”.

Having issues with myISSS?

Email our office at isss@buffalo.edu.

3.    Click on “F-1 Practical Training Applications” and then “Application for Pre- and Post-Completion Optional Practical Training”.

4.    You must complete the entire E-form and upload all required documents before you can submit your application.  Only documents saved as a PDF or JPEG are acceptable.  You must upload the following:

  • Academic Advisor's Letter
  • Form I‑765 (fillable online)
    • When completing Form I-765, be sure to include the correct eligibility code: (c) (3) (B) for Post-Completion OPT or (c) (3) (A) for Pre-Completion OPT.
    • Be sure to also carefully review the USCIS instructions. ISS Form I-765 suggestions are available within the OPT E-form application.
    • Before uploading your Form I-765 to myISSS, remember to print the form, sign it, scan it, and then save it as a PDF or JPEG.
    • Be sure that the address you use on your Form I-765 is an address where you will receive mail in 3-5 months.  If you change your address before receiving your EAD, be sure to report your address change to the USCIS.  
  • UB OPT Fee receipt

5.  “Submit”. After reviewing your application, ISS will enter your OPT into SEVIS, which will produce a new I-20 with the OPT recommendation. You will receive an email when your I-20 is ready for pick-up.

ISS processing time is 5-7 business days.

Application Step 2: Apply for Your EAD

After receiving your OPT I-20 from ISS, submit your complete OPT application for an Employment Authorization Document ("EAD Card") to the USCIS Service Center.

The USCIS must receive the following documents within 30 days of:

 1) the issuance of your I-20 with OPT recommendation, and

2) the signature on your Form I-765.

OPT applications must not be received by the USCIS more than 90 days before the Program End Date on your I-20. If an application is received by the USCIS more than 90 days before the Program End Date, the application may be denied.

ISS recommends that you submit the following documents to the USCIS:

  • Original Form I‑765. Don't forget to sign and include all seven pages!
  • Form G-1145 
  • Application fee of $410.
    • This can be a check (from a U.S. bank), or a U.S. money order.
    • Checks and money orders should be made payable to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security". 
    • Write the 11-digit number from your I-94 on your check or money order and don’t forget to sign and date the check. Click here to see an example personal check.
  • Photocopy of pages 1 and 2 of your new I‑20 - Don’t forget to sign and date the Student Attestation section of your I-20.
  • Photocopies of all previous I‑20's. Do not send originals!
  • Photocopy of your current, valid passport (biographic and photo pages) and U.S. visa stamp in your passport. If your passport has expired, please go to ISS, Talbert Hall 210 for advice.  Note:  Canadian citizens do not have visa stamps.
  • Photocopy of the front and back of your newest I-94 Card OR print-out of electronic I-94 (available here).
  • Photocopy of previously issued an EAD Card, if you were issued one.
  • Two (2) identical natural color photographs of yourself, taken within 30 days of your application and not previously used for another purpose.
    • Please review the specifications for the photos.  Note: If your photos do not meet USCIS requirements exactly, your EAD card will not be issued.
    • In pencil, write your name and I-94 number lightly on the back of each photo.
    • Photos can be taken at most drug stores (Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid) or at the UB Law Library, 211 O’Brian Hall (Tel. 645-2204).

Be sure to photocopy your entire OPT application for your personal records.

It is extremely important that applicants for OPT submit a complete and accurate application to the USCIS. The USCIS recently announced that they have full discretion to deny applications without first issuing a Request For Evidence (RFE). This means that if there is a mistake in your application or you forget to include a required document, USCIS may deny your application. For additional information see USCIS RFE AND NOID POLICY.   

Where do I send my OPT application?

The address to use depends on the mailing address listed on your I-765. Please refer to the USCIS website for details.

You should use a reliable, express delivery service (e.g. UPS, FedEx) to mail your application. Utilizing an express delivery service will enable you to track your application and its delivery. Please save your receipt.

How long is the OPT application process?

Historically, processing time at the USCIS was estimated to be approximately 12 weeks.  However, processing times vary widely, depending on the time of year and workload at the Service Center to which you send your application. We encourage you to regularly review the processing times found on the USCIS website.

You cannot begin employment until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the USCIS and the “start date” printed on the EAD card is effective.

What if my mailing address changes?

If your mailing address changes after you submit your OPT application to USCIS, you must notify the USCIS, the Post Office and ISS of your change in address within 10 days of the change. Failure to notify USCIS and the Post Office in a timely manner could result in delays in receiving your EAD.

To notify the USCIS, use their online Change of Address Form. You will need your OPT Application Receipt Number to complete the form. If you move to a new address, you should also notify the US Postal Service (USPS) using their online form.  Finally, to notify ISS, follow the instructions found at the bottom of this page.

Employment Reporting & Important Reminders

After I receive my EAD card, what must I do?

Review the Maintaining Status While on Post-Completion OPT section of our website for information on acceptable types of employment, unemployment limits, reporting employment, and employment documentation

  • Complete an “Update OPT Student Contact Information E-form by logging in to myISSS and uploading a copy of your EAD card.
  • As soon as you have employment to report, complete the “Add or Update OPT Employment” E-Form.
  • Notify ISS about the following information:  
    • Any change in your name
    • Any change in your residential address (within ten days)
    • Any change in employer or employer’s address
    • Any interruption of employment lasting longer than 10 days
    • Any change in your immigration status (e.g. change to H-1B)
  • Request an updated travel endorsement on page 2 of your OPT I-20 if you plan to travel outside the U.S. and the signature on your OPT I-20 will be more than six months old at the time of re-entry. Log in to myISSS, click "Students Currently Approved for OPT", then "OPT Travel Validation Endorsement Request" to submit a request for an updated I-20.

Health insurance while on OPT

If you do not have employment yet or do not have health insurance coverage through your employer, you may be eligible to purchase the SUNY health insurance from the Student Medical Insurance Office, 1Capen (Tel. 645-3036; asksmi@buffalo.edu). In order to enroll during OPT, there can be no interruption in your health insurance coverage. Application deadlines do apply. Contact the Student Medical Insurance Office for more information.

Can I extend my OPT?

You become eligible to apply for another 12 months of OPT if you change to a higher degree level and meet the requirements again.

If you have a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) degree in an eligible field, you may be eligible for the 24-Month OPT STEM Extension towards the end of your initial 12 months of Post-Completion OPT. (Please see here for further information.)

If your employer has filed an H-1B petition on your behalf, you may be eligible for the Cap Gap Extension. (Please see here for further information.)

After your OPT EAD expires

If you maintained your immigration status during your Post-Completion OPT and do not continue onto the 24-Month OPT STEM Extension, you will have a 60-day grace period after your Post-Completion OPT EAD expires.  You are permitted to remain inside the U.S. during those 60 days to prepare for your departure, apply to change your status (if eligible) or begin a new degree program.  If you are not admitted to a new degree program or do not submit a change-of-status application before the end of the 60 days, you must leave the U.S.

During your 60-day grace period, you may not work. If you fail to depart the U.S. before the end of your 60-day Grace period (if eligible), you will begin to accrue unlawful presence.

Important Reminders

  • Once authorized for OPT, you may accept employment anywhere in the U.S.
  • When you are on OPT, you will still be in F-1 status.
  • ISS will not authorize CPT after recommending Post-Completion OPT in SEVIS.  Therefore, if there is a possibility of CPT in your final semester, you must submit your CPT application before applying for OPT.
  • If you transfer to another school or begin study at another educational level, your OPT authorization will automatically be terminated.
  • If you are accepted to begin another degree program at UB and your OPT has not yet expired, your OPT will terminate on the first day of classes for your new degree program.
  • If you are issued an I-20 to start a new degree program at UB and you decide instead to continue on OPT, you must notify ISS immediately. Failure to do so will result in the deactivation of your SEVIS record.
  • If you later decide not to mail your OPT application to USCIS for any reason, you must notify ISS immediately so that we can cancel your OPT recommendation in SEVIS.