Optional Practical Training (OPT) & STEM OPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is designed to provide students in F-1 status with an opportunity to gain actual employment experience in the student’s field of study, as listed on the I-20. OPT is different from CPT in the following ways:

  • OPT is for students who have graduated from their degree program, except in rare situations. (See International Programs advisor for details)
  • A job offer is not needed before applying for OPT.
  • USCIS, not International Programs, authorizes the training. You will apply to USCIS for final OPT authorization after receiving materials from International Programs.
  • It takes one to three months to receive authorization.
  • Student may work for one or more employers, change jobs, or look for work (up to 90 days) during OPT.
  • OPT is limited to 12 months per degree level (exception for some STEM majors); it does NOT mean 12 months after each undergraduate degree or each master’s degree, if you do multiple undergraduate degrees or multiple master’s degrees. (see International Programs advisor for details)
  • Students on post-completion OPT must update their employment information and residential address within 10 days of any change. This reporting is done through iValpo or the SEVP OPT Portal (see the Study in the States website for more details on the SEVP OPT Portal).

NOTE for EMPLOYERS: no work-visa sponsorship is required for the duration of post-completion OPT and/or STEM OPT authorizations.  A student with post-completion OPT or STEM OPT authorizations is still on F-1 student immigration status through the end date of their authorization (unless the student decides to give up their OPT authorization, does not maintain their OPT status, or otherwise changes their status). For employer responsibilities while a student is on STEM OPT, see this official government webpage.

For a detailed explanation and FAQ on employing international students, please see this document.

For Complete Information

Please follow these instructions (24 month STEM extension).

For information on applying for STEM OPT, see the Study in the States website.

For instructions on filling out the I-983 from, click here.

Reporting on employment updates while on STEM OPT is done through an iValpo e-form (STEM OPT Reporting), not the SEVP Portal.  Students on STEM OPT may still use the Portal for biographical information updates.

  • You must attend an OPT workshop put on by the Office of International Programs (OIP) before you apply.
    • Notifications for workshop times will be sent out to the student body from the OIP. There are generally 2 or 3 workshops each semester.
  • If you are not able to attend a workshop due to a class or work obligation…
    • You may take an online quiz after reading through the OPT information listed above.
    • You can find the OPT quiz here.
  • Log on to iValpo using your regular Valpo login information (the blue button under “Full Client Services”) and find the OPT e-form under the Practical Training tab.
  • Complete the form, attaching the necessary documents.
  • For initial OPT, fill in your academic advisor’s name and email. The form will be routed to him/her for approval. (Advisor approval is not necessary for STEM OPT application.)
  • Once your academic advisor approves the e-form, it will be routed to the International Programs advisor. When the International Programs advisor approves the OPT request, you will receive an email notification with instructions on how to access your “OPT Requested” I-20 and how to then apply for OPT to USCIS.
  • Apply to USCIS once you have compiled everything on the checklist (follow the instructions in the e-form approval email you received). Remember, the “OPT Requested” I-20 DOES NOT give you approved OPT work authorization! You must still actually apply to USCIS for OPT/STEM OPT authorization.

To request an EAD error correction, please return the original EAD containing the error along with supporting documentation (copies of visa, passport, I-94, I-20) and a letter explaining the error to the following address:

Potomac Service Center
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
2200 Potomac Center Drive
STOP 2425
Arlington, VA 20598-2425

If the error is confirmed to be a USCIS error, the correction will be made at no additional cost to the applicant and thePSC will issue a corrected EAD within 30 days. However, if the card issued contains incorrect information that is not attributed to USCIS error, the PSC will return the EAD card. In this case, please follow the process detailed at in the Replacement EAD section of the Employment Authorization Document page in order to have the card corrected.

USCIS allows for expedited processing of your OPT or STEM OPT application if you pay a fee to request premium processing. See this page on the USCIS website for information on how to file the I-907 “Request for Premium Processing” form. The current fee amount for students on F-1 OPT status is also listed there.

The easiest way to submit the I-907 form is through your online USCIS account. Once your OPT or STEM OPT application is in “pending” status, you can easily file the I-907 form to request premium processing for that application, which guarantees a result within 30 days.

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