Optional Practical Training, or OPT, is off-campus training that occurs after graduation. OPT may be part-time or full-time and may be approved only if the following conditions are met:
- Employment is directly related to the student’s major field of study; AND
- The student has been “in lawful status” for at least one (1) academic year; AND
- The student has a confirmed graduation date.
Timing your OPT Application
Apply for OPT
- Students with an F-1 student visa must be approved for OPT AND must receive the ORIGINAL Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in the mail BEFORE beginning employment.
- Your application for OPT can be received by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) no more than 90 days prior to your program end date - your application will be declined if received 91 or more days prior to your program end date, so time your mailing carefully!
- The latest date by which you can apply for OPT is 60 days after your program end date; if the USCIS receives your application 61 days after your program end date or later, your application will be declined.
- The time between receipt of OPT Application by USCIS and receipt of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by the student can be as long as 3-4 months.
- You may work for a maximum of one calendar year (12 months), including the number of weeks of employment at 21+hours per week before graduation (CPT) PLUS the number of weeks of employment (full-time or part-time) after graduation (OPT).
- You may be without work (unemployed) and/or you may be "underemployed" (working 20 or fewer hours per week) for a maximum of 90 days - including weekends during unemployment/underemployment - during the validity of your OPT, regardless of the length of your OPT authorization. The validity period is from the start date shown on the EAD through the end date shown on the EAD. Time spent outside the United States during this validity period is counted as unemployment against the 90-day limit, unless the student is traveling during a period of leave authorized by an employer or traveling as part of his/her employment.
- Complete the Optional Practical Training Application Form.
- Submit the OPT Application - plus all supporting materials listed ON THE APPLICATION (the list just below is NOT complete) - to the Office of International Education A MINIMUM OF TWO WEEKS BEFORE YOU WANT THE APPLICATION MAILED to the USCIS. After receiving your OPT Application Form, the Office of International Education will update your SEVIS record and your I-20. This update does not guarantee approval to work. Links to supporting material forms:
- Form I-765 and Form Instructions; your signature on this form will be scanned and printed onto your EAD. NO PART OF YOUR SIGNATURE ON THIS FORM MAY BE CROSS A LINE IN THE FORM'S SIGNATURE AREA.
- Form G-1145 (optional; this form allows you to request notification when your OPT application has been received by the USCIS)
- Sign your updated I-20. The updated I-20 must be signed before it is mailed to the USCIS with your OPT application.
- The Office of International Education will mail your OPT application and supporting documentation to the USCIS. The USCIS is responsible for approving or declining OPT applications. You may not complete any OPT work hours while your application is pending approval.
- The USCIS will send a "Notice of Action (Form I-797C)" either directly to you or to the UW Oshkosh Office of International Education. The OIE will email you the Receipt Number; you may use this to track your application on the www.uscis.gov.
- If approved, the USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This may take as long as 30 days to reach you in the mail. Again, you may not work until you are in possession of the original EAD - in other words, until the EAD is in your hand, you may not work.
Search for Employment
The Department of Homeland Security considers full-time employment to be 1) paid work (21+ hours per week); 2) multiple positions held simultaneously (and adding up to 21+ hours per week); or 3) volunteer or unpaid internship or practica, where this does not violate any labor laws.
Begin your search by:
- Logging in to Titan Jobs (on-line UW Oshkosh student job search system)
- Reviewing resources on the UW Oshkosh Career Services website.
- Reviewing resources on the UW Oshkosh website for the student’s major.
- Networking with students in student organizations related to the student’s major.
- Discussing employment options with academic and faculty advisors.
Apply for Employment
You will compete for employment with other UW Oshkosh students and with other students in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and beyond. Be prepared! To apply for a job, you will probably be asked, at a minimum,
- To submit a job application, available from the employer;
- To submit a resume;
- To submit a cover letter explaining your skills & experiences;
- To submit a list of references and/or letters of recommendation;
- To interview.
To prepare your application properly, make an appointment with a UW Oshkosh Career Advisor or with your faculty advisor.
Report Your Employment, Change of Address, and U.S. Departure to the UW Oshkosh Office of International Education
UW Oshkosh students with an F-1 student visa and a valid EAD are required by federal law to report ALL employment and FINAL departure from the U.S. (or change of status to a new visa type) to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh during OPT. Each time you are offered a position, you must report this within 10 days. Each time employment ends, you must report this within 10 days. You will report:
- New Employment
- Company/Organization Name;
- Company/Organization mailing address;
- Brief explanation telling how the emmployment is related to your course of study. NOTE: this information will be copied into your federal SEVIS record!
- Start date of new employment;
- Average number of hours of work per week; and
- Job title.
- Former Employment/Final Exit from the U.S./Change in Visa Status
- Previous employment end date (or an upcoming end date, if known);
- Final date on which you will exit, or have exited, the U.S.; and
- Final date of OPT employment prior to a change of status to a new visa category.
Use this form to report employment offers.
Use this form to report the end of employment.
17-month STEM Extension
Students with an F-1 student visa AND a valid EAD may apply for a 17-month OPT extension ONLY under the following conditions:
- You have been approved by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) for OPT;
- You have a degree in an approved Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) field which appears on the STEM Designated Degree Program List. You must complete your application for an extension before your current OPT work authorization expires. You may file NO SOONER THAN 120 days before expiration. It is best to file approximately 90 days before your OPT expires.
Maintain Documentation - Recommended
- USCIS and other U.S. government agencies may request documentation in the future showing evidence that all Optional Practical Training - that means every job! - you complete is directly related to your program of study. For example, you may be asked to submit this documentation if applying for a new visa for graduate school or if applying for a work visa in the U.S. Therefore, it is recommended that you keep in your files:
- Documentation from the employer stating the job title and position duties. If it is not clear from the job description that the work is related to the student's degree, obtain a signed letter from your supervisor or hiring official stating how your degree is related to the work you performed;
- Documentation from the employer giving the dates over which the position was held (for example, save both monthly and annual documents that show how much money you earned, employment letters and a copy of your resignation letter);
- Documentation showing how many hours you worked per week;
- Your direct supervisor's name, title and contact information.