Optional and Curricular Practical Training
Optional practical training (OPT) is defined as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." A student who is maintaining valid F-1 status may apply for OPT to pursue off-campus employment for one year following completion of degree.
F-1 students who require off-campus work authorization to complete an internship, field work, or other required part of their curriculum may be eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). The work must be directly related to the degree program, and must be required by the program or part of a course.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization that an F-1 visa student can request in order to gain practical experience in their field of study.
- You must have been enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year before applying for OPT.
- You may apply up to 90 days before, or up to 60 days after, your program end date. Your program end date is the last day of the semester during which you are finishing your course work. Please refer to Hamline's academic calendar if you are unsure of this date. Your I-20 will be shortened to reflect this date if you complete your program early.
- Undergraduate students must complete all degree requirements before starting OPT. Graduate students must complete all required coursework before starting OPT, and may complete thesis/culminating project requirement either before beginning OPT or during OPT. If you apply for OPT before completing thesis you must continue to make normal academic progress, and the thesis requirement must be complete before the OPT ends.
- You may apply for OPT only once per academic level. For example, if you study two masters degrees, you may only apply for OPT once.
- Students who exceed 12 months of full-time CPT for the same academic level are not eligible for OPT.
- Thoroughly review all information on this web page.
- Complete the OPT Application/Checklist (Meet with GEC staff to review OPT process. GEC staff will provide form at this meeting.)
- Schedule an appointment with the GEC office after collecting all documents listed on the OPT Application/Checklist:
- After meeting with GEC and obtaining all required documents, send the OPT application packet with the filing fee to USCIS. We strongly recommend that you make a copy of OPT application before sending to USCIS, and that you send it via a method that is tracked. Information on where to file the OPT application packet (with I-765 form) is available on the direct filing addresses for Form I-765 page on the USCIS website (under the Foreign Students—F-1 Optional Practical Training section). Note that your application packet must be received within 30 days of the OPT recommendation being submitted in SEVIS.
- When you receive your EAD card, please check your card for accuracy, then scan and email a copy of your card to the GEC office.
- Review the reporting requirements for students on OPT (below), and notify GEC of any changes throughout the duration of OPT.
- Employment must be related to the student’s program of study. Per guidance issued by USCIS on September 27, 2019, "Non immigrant students are responsible for providing a description of how their practical training opportunity relates to their major area of study, which the DSO must review and retain." Therefore, students must contact the DSO at Hamline via email@example.com upon receiving a job offer with an explanation of how the job is related to the student's major field of study.
- Students on post-completion OPT are limited to a maximum of 90 days of unemployment.
- Volunteering regularly (recommended 20 hours per week) in a position that is related to your program of study may count for unemployment reporting purposes during post-completion OPT. However, please be careful that the position is a true volunteer position that will not violate labor laws. See the US Department of Labor website or contact GEC if you have questions about this.
- It is recommended that you maintain evidence for each position (paid or unpaid) of the position held, proof of the duration of that position, job title, supervisor’s contact information, and a job description. This could be used in the future as proof that you did not exceed the 90-day limit on unemployment.
- Employment authorization is active for the exact dates listed on the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You must wait until you receive your EAD card before starting work.
- There are two types of OPT: Pre-completion OPT and post-completion OPT. Almost all students apply for post-completion OPT. Students approved for pre-completion OPT are limited to part-time employment during the academic year. For questions about pre-completion OPT, contact the GEC office.
- Post-completion OPT is for one year, but students with a degree in science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics may be eligible for a 24-months STEM OPT extension.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now requires all students in F-1 status who have been granted Optional Practical Training employment authorization to report the location of the OPT experience, including name and address of their OPT employer or organization. Students are required to report this information to DHS through the SEVP Portal. Students must begin reporting this information by the start date of their OPT and report changes or interruptions in employment (within 10 days) during OPT. If your OPT begins and you have not secured an OPT location/employer, then you still must report information to DHS as changes or updates occur.
It is your legal obligation to report this information. If you fail to report OPT activity/employment information to the SEVP Portal, you could be considered in violation of your F-1 immigration status by the Department of Homeland Security.
While on OPT, students must inform the GEC directly to describe how their practical training relates to their major area of study immediately upon receipt of a new job. Additionally, report via the SEVP Portal system within 10 days of any changes to the following information:
- New employment: Scanned offer letter, employer's name/address, employment dates
- Personal information: Name, contact information
- Change of employer: Employer's name/address, employment dates
- Change of immigration status
- If you leave the country permanently
Can I take classes while I’m on OPT?
While engaged in post-completion OPT, students are eligible to engage in coursework as long as it is incidental to their OPT employment (limited to part-time enrollment.) OPT is effectively cancelled by official SEVIS transfer to another school or change in academic level. Students interested in changing schools or academic levels should consult with OIS about their OPT employment.
When is the best time to apply for OPT?
You should try to apply approximately 90 days before you want to begin working. Remember, you may apply up to 90 days before your program end date or up to 60 days after your program end date (during your "grace period"), but it may take months for USCIS to process your application. If you wait until your grace period to apply for OPT, you may be authorized for less than one full year of OPT.
On the OPT application, I am asked to choose my OPT start date. Which date should I choose?
It is up to you to decide when you would like your OPT to begin, but you must choose a date between one and 60 days after your program end date. When choosing your OPT start date, keep in mind the following information:
- If you have a pending job offer and/or want to begin working immediately after your program end date (the last day of the semester in which you are finishing required course work), then choose an OPT start date close to your program end date. All employment authorization (on-campus and CPT) will end on the last day of the semester in which you are finishing your program.
- You are allowed up to 90 days total (aggregate) of unemployment once your OPT period begins. The earlier the OPT starts, the earlier you will need to find and start a job. This is one reason that some students choose a later start date (to allow more time for the job search).
- You must wait until the OPT start date that is printed on your EAD card to begin working, even if you receive your EAD card before the requested start date.
- It may take three or more months to receive your EAD card for OPT.
Why wasn’t my I-20 end date extended when I applied for OPT?
OPT is an extension of your F-1 status, not an extension of your academic program. The start and end date on your I-20 indicate the dates that you are pursuing your academic program. The I-20 along with your EAD card show the extension of your F-1 status.
Do I need a job offer to apply for OPT?
No. Unlike CPT, you do not need to have a job in order to apply for OPT
I haven't received my work authorization card yet, but I found a job. Can I begin working?
You must wait until you have your EAD (work authorization) card to begin working. However, in some cases (e.g., issues with mailing), you may need to contact USCIS to follow-up with your case and EAD card. Contact the Global Engagement Center for assistance if needed.
It has been more than 90 days since I applied for OPT, but I have not received my EAD card. What should I do?
Contact GEC and/or check the status of your case at www.uscis.gov. We may be able to contact USCIS to determine the reason for the delay. If you changed addresses after you applied for OPT and did not notify USCIS, your EAD card was probably returned as undeliverable. Government mail is not forwarded, so it is important to update your address with USCIS immediately if you move while your OPT application is pending. You can update your address through the USCIS website and/or by telephone.
My prospective employer has questions about hiring international students. Can the Global Engagement Center help?
Prospective employers may contact the Global Engagement Center if they have general questions about hiring international students, but we cannot answer specific questions about your situation unless you authorize us to do so by completing an information release waiver. Another resource with basic information about hiring international students is available on the NAFSA: Association of International Educators website.
Can I travel during OPT?
Please review the travel page of our website for information about traveling during OPT. Please feel free to contact GEC staff regarding possible risks or complications.
Can I take classes while on OPT?
You may take part-time classes while on OPT, but if you start a full-time degree-seeking program, you will need to obtain a new I-20. Transferring your SEVIS record to a new degree program will terminate any unused period of OPT.
Am I eligible for Hamline insurance while I am on OPT?
You must be enrolled in at least four (4) credits to be eligible for Hamline insurance. However, we strongly recommend that ALL students maintain insurance while on OPT.
Can I have more than one employer?
Yes, you may have more than one employer, but all jobs must be related to your degree. Remember to report any change by logging into the SEVP Portal.
If I complete a new degree, can I do OPT again?
Students are eligible for OPT only once per degree level. You will be eligible for another year of OPT only if you pursue a higher degree level (for example, if you complete OPT for a Bachelor’s degree, you would be eligible for OPT again if you complete a Master’s degree).
I am currently on OPT and want to come back to Hamline for another degree. Can I continue my employment with CPT?
There is no guarantee that your employment will qualify for CPT for your new degree program. CPT is case-specific and must fulfill an academic objective. Remember that as a student visa holder, employment is secondary to your primary purpose of study. All practical training must therefore be an integral part of the academic program you are pursuing. Please see the CPT section for more information.
What services can I receive from the GEC office while I am on OPT?
The GEC office should still be your point of contact for questions related to your immigration status or any other related issues while on OPT. You can still request letters or schedule an appointment with our office, or take advantage of other services provided by GEC. We encourage you to keep in contact with the Hamline community and also consider participating in Alumni events.
How can I end my OPT early and return home?
Please report your flight information to the GEC office and specifically state that you would like to return home and end your OPT early. On the day you depart, this information will be updated in your SEVIS record. If you have other questions about this, schedule an appointment or just contact our office. We encourage you to keep in contact with the Hamline community and also consider participating in Alumni events.
What happens at the end of OPT?
Students receive a 60-day grace period following completion of OPT. Employment is not permitted during this time. Before the end of the 60-day grace period you must do one of the following:
- Obtain a new I-20 from Hamline University for a new degree program (requires admission to the degree program and updated financial documents)
- Transfer SEVIS record to another institution (requires admission to the degree program and completion of Transfer Out form
- Apply for a change of immigration status
- Travel and leave the country
My employer wants to file an H1-B visa on my behalf. What do I need to know if I am on OPT?
If you change status during OPT, please provide a copy of the change of status approval notice to the GEC office so we can update your SEVIS record. If you have a pending H1-B application that is expected to begin on October 1, and if you are engaged in OPT at the time the H1-B petition is filed, you may be eligible for an automatic extension of OPT. This is referred to as the “cap-gap extension.” In order for work authorization to be extended, the H1-B application must be filed by a cap-subject employer before your OPT ends, with a requested start date of October 1. If the H1-B application is filed during your 60-day grace period but after OPT ends, your F-1 status (but not work authorization) may be extended. You may contact the GEC office and/or refer to the USCIS website for more information about the cap-gap extension.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is work authorization for paid or unpaid off-campus employment that is an integral part of the established curriculum. CPT is available during (not after) a course/program of study and must be authorized for a specific employer.
- Students must be in active F-1 status at the time of application and must have been enrolled full-time.
- Work must be identified as an “integral part of an established curriculum.” This must be required by the degree program or part of a course.
- Student must register for at least one course related to the CPT for each term during which CPT is authorized. This includes summer term.
- Undergraduate students must have been enrolled for one full academic year before starting CPT
- Graduate students are eligible for day one CPT
- CPT may be approved for one semester at a time, not to exceed the academic program end date.
- Students who exceed one year of full-time CPT (working more than 20 hours per week) are ineligible for OPT for that academic level. This is a cumulative total of 12 months CPT for all academic programs at the same degree level.
- Students who exceed two years of part-time CPT (working more than 20 hours per week) are ineligible for OPT for that academic level. This is a cumulative total of 24 months of part-time CPT for all academic programs at the same degree level.
- Students may not exceed 40 hours of CPT per week.
- CPT must be approved and authorized on the I-20 prior to the employment start date. Working off-campus without prior authorization is a violation of F-1 status.
- CPT for undergraduate students can only be authorized through the LEAP internship program supervised by the Career Development Center. Please contact the Career Development Center to discuss qualifications and begin the application process.
- After completing the LEAP agreement, bring the approved paperwork to the GEC.
- You will be notified by email when your I-20 with CPT authorization is ready to pick up. You may begin working after you pick up your I-20.
- Carefully read and submit a completed CPT Application and Learning Objectives Form to your academic advisor
- Employment offer letter. Must be on employer letterhead and must include:
- Name, address, and contact information of employer
- Brief description of job duties (job description may be provided separately)
- Exact start and end date of employment
- Number of hours per week (part-time CPT is 20 hours/week; full-time CPT is +21 hours/week)
- If your proposed CPT opportunity is approved by your academic department, ensure that the signed application is forwarded to the GEC for SEVIS authorization
- You will be notified by email when your I-20 with CPT authorization is ready. You may begin working after you receive your I-20.
How long does it take for CPT to be approved?
In most cases CPT will be reviewed and authorized within two to three business days after the GEC receives all documents listed above, as long as your application is complete and meets all requirements for eligibility. However, you must first obtain an employment offer letter and meet with your academic department or internship coordinator to complete the CPT paperwork, so be sure to factor in the necessary time (generally five to seven business days). You may not begin working until the CPT authorization is added to your I-20 so it is important to plan ahead.
Can I change employers while doing CPT?
CPT authorization is specific to one employer. If you need to change employers, you must re-apply for CPT using the same process and may only begin working for your new employer after the I-20 is updated.
Can I work at more than one job on CPT at the same time?
Some students may want to combine two jobs during the semester. This is possible only if both positions are an integral part of an established curriculum. Students must follow the same instructions and obtain an authorization for each job. Each position must total less than 20 hours per week.
How do I extend my CPT authorization?
CPT must be an integral part of your degree program. In order for your CPT to be extended, you must re-apply for CPT using the same process. Each request for CPT is evaluated by the academic department and the GEC at the time of application. You need to re-apply each semester.
My prospective employer has questions about hiring international students. Can the Global Engagement Center help?
Prospective employers may contact the GEC if they have general questions about hiring international students, but we cannot answer specific questions about your situation unless you authorize us to do so by completing an information release waiver. Another resource with basic information about hiring international students is available on the NAFSA: Association of International Educators website.
I am currently on OPT and want to come back to Hamline for a new degree. Can I continue my employment with CPT?
Maybe. However, there is no guarantee that your employment will qualify for CPT for your new degree program. CPT is case-specific and must fulfill an academic objective. As a student visa holder, employment is secondary to your primary purpose of study. All practical training must therefore be an integral part of the new academic program you are pursuing. CPT authorization can take effect only after the program start date listed on your new I-20.
If you plan to do OPT (or have already done OPT) for a particular academic level, then full-time CPT is limited to one year. This is inclusive of all CPT completed during that same academic level. Therefore, if you return to Hamline to complete a second degree at the same academic level and have already done OPT, you will be limited to one year of full-time CPT, inclusive of full-time CPT that you completed for the previous degree. For example: A student who does eight months of full-time CPT at the master’s level, then does OPT for one year at the master’s level, will only be eligible for up to four months of full-time CPT if they return to pursue a second master's degree.
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