Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is work authorization available to international students who have been in valid F-1 status for at least four consecutive quarters and who plan to seek employment in the US in their field of study. OPT is recommended by PAU Student Services, but final approval is granted by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). This final approval can take between two to three months, so plan ahead! OPT allows for a total of 12 months of employment.

  • Pre-completion OPT is employment authorization prior to graduation.
  • Post-completion OPT is employment authorization after graduation.
  • Any pre-completion OPT periods of time are subtracted from the 12 months.

When can I apply?

For post completion OPT, the earliest you can apply is 90 days before your F-1 program completion date (see Section 5 of your I-20). The latest date the USCIS will accept your application is 60 days after your completion date. For Pre-completion OPT the earliest you can apply is 90 days before your employment start date. In addition, OPT applications must be submitted to USCIS within 30 days of the printing of your OPT I-20 from Student Services.

APPLICATION OVERVIEW - See Request form for more important details!

Download, read carefully and complete either the Pre-Completion OPT Request Form or the Post-Completion OPT Request Form

Download and use Form I-765 PAU Notes and Instructions to assist you as you are completing the official I-765 form.   DO NOT submit the notes and instructions version to USCIS, be sure to submit the official form!

Step 2:

Gather all immigration documents and other supporting materials to submit with the application for employment authorization, including the following:

  • Form I-94 - photocopy - download here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/
  • Valid passport - photocopy of photo page
  • Visa (if applicable) - photocopy of visa page
  • Photocopies of any previous employment authorization documents (EAD)
  • Two passport photographs (Read photograph requirements here)
  • Fee (check or money order payable to the US Department of Homeland Security)
  • Form G-1145 if you want USCIS to send you an email or text receipt notification. (optional) 

Step 3:

Schedule a meeting with the Associate Director of Student Services to receive the updated Form I-20 with OPT recommendation, and to review your application to ensure you have properly completed the Form I-765 and have all of the required supporting documents.

Step 4:

Mail the Form I-765 and supporting documents listed in item 3 with the appropriate USCIS Service Center (depending on where you live). There is a list of USCIS Service Centers listed in the OPT request forms.

Important OPT Reminders:

  • A job offer is not required to apply for OPT. However, once you find a qualifying job, you must notify PAU Student Services.
  • The employment may occur anywhere in the U.S.
  • No special permission is required to change employers or terminate your employment. However, you must notify student services of your unemployment and/or new employer's information at by emailing lharris@paloaltou.edu
  • The OPT application generally takes between 2 to 3 months to issue the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that allows you to begin working on OPT. There is no way to expedite an application.
  • The Form I-765 must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date your advisor made the OPT recommendation in SEVIS (see page 1 of the printed Form I-20 for the date).
  • If you move and do not provide USCIS with your new address, your EAD will be returned to USCIS. To change your address, submit an online Form AR-11 to USCIS, and ask international student advisor to update SEVIS.
  • Your OPT employment must be directly related to your field of study and cannot begin until you have the EAD card in hand (and the start date has arrived).
  • F-1 status is dependent upon full-time employment, part-time employment or volunteer service while on post-completion OPT. You cannot accrue more than 90 days of unemployment while on post-completion OPT. If you are close to 90 days, consult with the international student advisor.
  • You will need to continue to update the international student advisor with address changes and changes in employment while on post-completion OPT.