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  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)

International Student Services

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  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)

    Optional Practical Training (OPT) is work authorization available to international students who have been in valid F-1 status for at least one academic year (two consecutive semesters) and who plan to seek employment in the U.S. in their chosen field of study. OPT is recommended by international student advisers at MSUM International Student Services, but the final acceptance of your OPT is granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). OPT duration generally is 12 months. If you are a STEM program student you qualify for an additional 17 month OPT extension. Please read below for more information and schedule an appointment with Janet Hohenstein by e-mailing hohenst@mnstate.edu.

    Eligibility Criteria

    • Maintain valid F-1 status for at least for two consecutive semesters
    • Valid passport (must be valid at least for 6 months)
    • In good academic standing

    OPT Types

    Pre-Completion OPT

    Pre-Completion OPT allows international students who have not completed the degree requirements to be authorized for off campus employment. This process is the same as applying to a post-completion OPT. Students must complete all of the necessary steps involved with applying for OPT. Students must be eligible to apply for OPT - please see above. However, MSUM International Student Services does not recommend this option for international students.  

    Post-Completion OPT

    Post-Completion OPT provides international students to work up to 12 months after completing the program. This is the most favorable option among the international students. Students must be eligible to apply for OPT - please see above.
    Please note: students must notify International Student Services when you change jobs, employers and if you are unemployed.

    Application Deadlines

    The earliest you can apply for OPT is 90 days before your completion date. Undergraduate student completion date is considered to be the last day of final exams of the semester your degree requirements are fulfilled. Graduate students completion date is the day on which all degree requirements are fulfilled, such as filing your thesis or dissertation in Graduate Programs. If you are in a graduate program that does not require a thesis or dissertation, your completion date would be the last day of final exams of the semester your degree requirements are fulfilled. The latest date the USCIS will accept your application is 60 days after your completion date. We strongly recommend our students to apply for OPT ahead of time.

    Unemployment Limits

    Students onpost-completion OPT have limited on periods of unemployment. In order to maintain F-1 visa status students must NOT EXCEED a total of 90-days of unemployment. If you are on STEM Extension you have a total of a 120 day limit on unemployment, counting from the beginning of the initial OPT. Please read below for more information on STEM extension.  

    STEM Extension

    Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a new regulation which changed several key features of F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT). Students from certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs are eligible to apply for a one-time 17 month extension. Please note: students must notify International Student Services when you change employers, jobs and if you are unemployed during OPT period. 

    Students must meet the following criteria:

    • You must currently be in a valid period of OPT, working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to your major area of study
    • Your OPT employer must be registered in the U.S. Government E-verify employment authorization system
    • You must have graduated from MSUM STEM fields - STEM programs

    Application Process

    Students must complete the following process for OPT. Bring all of the documents except #7 to International Student Services for your appointment.  

    1. Complete form I-765
    2. In item #16 on the form enter ( c )( 3 )(B)
      (This indicates to the USCIS that you are applying for Post-Optional Practical Training.)
    3. Passport copies (color copies-enlarged, of your picture page, U.S. visa stamp)
    4. Photocopy of I-94 card (front and back)
    5. Photocopies of any previous employment authorization cards (i.e OPT (extension), economic hardship)
    6. Two passport size photos (need to be on a white background and should show your entire face)
    7. $380 check or money order made payable to: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    8. New I-20 printed by International Student Services (OPT I-20) 

    Once all the above documents are completed, mail your application to
    (If you are living in MN)
    USCIS
    PO Box 21281
    Phoenix, AZ 85036
    (The above address is if you are sending your packet through USPS regular mail)

    For express mail / courier deliveries
    USCIS
    Attn: AOS
    1820 E Skyharbor Circle S Ste 100
    Phoenix, AZ 85034

    Once you have submitted all your documents, USCIS will mail you a receipt number. Please hold on to that receipt number. This receipt will have your case number and important information regarding your OPT. Please note: students cannot begin work UNTIL they receive the work authorization card.  

    STEM Extension Process

    All of the above sections will apply when submitting the OPT STEM extension application. Students who will be requesting STEM extension must submit the OPT extension application 90 days prior to their OPT end date.  

    OPT Extension Process

    1. Please follow steps 1-7 above
    2. Copy of the job offer
    3. Copy of your current OPT employment card (color-enlarged)

    OPT STEM Extension Process Handout

    Please note: all students must report to International Student Services when you change jobs, change employers and if you are unemployed

    OPT Reporting

    OPT is a great opportunity for F-1 students. To maintain F-1 status during OPT you must comply with U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employment and reporting requirements. DHS requires all international students to report to their school all periods of employment and unemployment while authorized for OPT. If you change your employment, became unemployed recently or changed your mailing address, please update your information within 10-days through