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  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)

International Student Services

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  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)

    Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary 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 CIP Program Codes List student you qualify for an additional 17 month OPT extension. Please read below for more information and contact ISS for more information.  The OPT process should begin 90-days prior to your program completion date. ISS recommends to set an appointment ahead of time or plan this process a semester before your anticipated completion date. 

    Eligibility Criteria

    • You must have been a full time student for at least one academic year
    • You must currently be in F-1 status
    • You must be in good academic standing and be making normal progress toward finishing your degree
    • You must not have used more than 12 months of OPT in the past at your current degree level (Bachelor's or masters)
    • You must attend a mandatory OPT sessions conducted through ISS every semester
    • You do NOT need to ahve a job offer in order to apply for OPT
    • Valid passport (must be valid at least for 6 months)

    When you can use OPT

    You can use your OPT:
    • Before you finish your program and this is Pre-Completion OPT
    • After you finish your program - Post-Completion OPT
    • Or a combination of the two, as long as the total amount of OPT does not exceed 12 months

    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 on post-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 (Do not worry about this form. ISS staff will complete this form for you at the time of your appointment)
    2. Passport copies (color copies-enlarged, of your picture page)
    3. Color copies of two additional government issued photo IDs (enlarged)
    4. Photocopy of I-94 card (front and back) or your computer print out from I-94 Print Out
    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. $410 check or money order made payable to: U.S. Department of Homeland Security
    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)
    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
    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 STEM Extension Process can be found at: STEM Links  

    1. Please follow steps 1-7 above
    2. Copy of the job offer
    3. Copy of your current OPT employment card (color-enlarged)
    4. Copy of your official transcript
    5. Copy of your degree
    6. Your I-983

    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