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Optional Practical Training

F-1 students may qualify for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows them to engage in temporary employment to gain experience “directly related to the student’s major area of study.” In order to be eligible for OPT, students must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year.

Optional practical training is available both before (Pre-Completion OPT) and after (Post-Completion OPT) “completion of the course of study, or, for a student in a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree program, after completion of all course requirements for the degree (excluding dissertation).”

Students in English language training programs or non-degree seeking programs are not eligible for OPT.

Please click on each link to get to the item on this page:

Types of OPT

Pre-Completion OPT

Pre-Completion OPT is for F-1 students who have not yet met the requirements to complete their degree program, but would like to request authorization to work in their field of study. In order to be eligible for Pre-Completion OPT, students must:

  • Have been lawfully enrolled as a full-time student at least for one full academic year (three quarters/ two semesters).
  • Have less than 364 days of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) at the same educational level and school.
  • Be currently in F-1 status.

The Pre-Completion OPT must be directly related to the student’s major area of study. The application process for Pre-Completion OPT requires up to 90 days processing time by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Students who are authorized to participate in Pre-Completion OPT must work part-time (under 20 hours per week) while school is in session, and may work full-time (40 hours per week) when the school is not in session; e.g. during International Vacation term. Pre-Completion OPT must end by the students’ program completion date. Time granted on Pre-Completion OPT is deducted half from the one year of Post-Completion OPT. For example, if a student works from January 1 to January 30 on Pre-Completion OPT, 15 days is getting deducted from the 365 days of the Post-Completion OPT. Students can e-mail isss@drexel.edu in case they have questions about time left for their OPT.

Students may begin engaging in Pre-Completion OPT only once they receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD card). Employment must be within the authorized dates listed on the EAD card.

In order to apply for Pre-Completion OPT, students must follow the steps below:

  1. Watch the OPT Online Workshop by clicking here.
  2. Download and complete the I-765 and OPT Request Form.
  3. Gather the required documents listed at the back of the OPT Request Form.
  4. Email isss@drexel.edu to set up an appointment for a “Submission Session.” During this session, ISSS advisors will review the documents and answer related questions to the application.

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Post-Completion OPT

Post-Completion OPT is for F-1 students who have completed “their course of student, or, for a student in a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree program, after completion of all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent).” Students may be authorized to participate in Post-Completion OPT after they have been enrolled for one full academic year. In order to be eligible for Post-Completion OPT, students must:

  • Have been lawfully enrolled as a full-time student at least for one full academic year (three quarters/ two semesters).
  • Have less than 364 days of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) at the same educational level and school.
  • Be currently in F-1 status.
  • Have met the degree program/course requirements.

Students can apply up to 90 days before their program completion date, and USCIS should receive applications no later than 60 days after students’ program completion date. The application process for Post-Completion OPT can take up to 90 days processing time by the USCIS.

Students may begin engaging in Post-Completion OPT only once they receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD card). Employment must be within the authorized dates listed on the EAD card. The starting date for the Post-Completion will be the date requested by the student or the date that is approved on the EAD card.

The Post-Completion OPT must “directly be related to the student’s major area of study.” Students authorized to participate in Post-Completion OPT must work at least 20 hours per week. Students can work for more than one employer. In any case, students should report all their employers to the ISSS.

Students can also engage in Work for Hire. This type of employment is commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by Department of Homeland Security (DHS), students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and the address of the contracting company.

Students can start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, students must work full-time. Students must be able to prove that they have a proper business license, and they are actively engaged in a business related to their major area of study.

Students can also be employed by an employment agency or consulting firm.

Post-Completion OPT has limited days of unemployment. Students are responsible to keep track of their unemployment days. Students are required to report their employment status to ISSS.

In order to apply for Pre-Completion OPT, students must follow the steps below:

  1. Watch the OPT Online Workshop by clicking here.
  2. Download and complete the I-765 and OPT Request Form.
  3. Gather the required documents listed at the back of the OPT Request Form.
  4. Email isss@drexel.edu to set up an appointment for a “Submission Session.” During this session, ISSS advisors will review the documents and answer related questions to the application.

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17-month OPT Extension

F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees included on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, are employed by employers enrolled in the E-Verify system , and have received an initial approval of Post-Completion OPT employment authorization related to such a degree, can apply for a 17-month OPT Extension. Students should check the code listed under “Primary Major” on their third page of their Form I-20, and check it against the CIP Code column of the STEM Designated Degree Programs List.

The 17-month OPT Extension is only available to each student for one time. A student who is approved for a 17-month OPT Extension can never apply for it again.

Students are only eligible to apply for 17-month OPT Extension on the most recent degree program in the designated STEM field.

Students must apply for the 17-month OPT extension prior to the expiration of their Post-Completion OPT. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accept 17-month OPT Extension applications as early as 120 days before the expiration of a Post-Completion OPT.

In order to apply for a 17-month OPT Extension, students must follow the steps below:

  1. Download and complete the I-765 and the 17-month Optional Practical Training Extension Request Form.
  2. Gather the required documents listed on the 17-month Optional Practical Training Extension Request Form.
  3. Send an email to isss@drexel.edu with all the required documents attached and request a phone/in-person appointment with an ISSS advisor. 

The start date of the 17-month OPT Extension will be automatically set to the day after the expiration of the current Post-Completion OPT authorization. The end date will be 17 months later, and it is not possible to request a shorter or longer period.

If the application for the 17-month OPT Extension is successfully received prior to the expiration of the Post-Completion OPT period, students may continue employment until the application is approved or until 180 days from the 17-month OPT Extension receipt notice date; whichever is sooner.

6-month Validation Report

Students approved for the 17-month OPT Extension have additional reporting requirements in order to maintain their status and work authorization. These students are required to send the following information to ISSS at isss@drexel.edu every six months, even if there has not been any change to their employment or address:

  • Legal name
  • Residential or mailing address
  • Employer name
  • Employer address, and/or
  • Interruption or loss of employment

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Unemployment Days, Reporting Employment  and Change of Address

On Post-Completion OPT, when students are not employed, days get subtracted from their 90 days of unemployment. Student on their 17-month OPT extension have 120 days unemployment during the “total OPT period” (including the initial Post-Completion OPT from which 17 months has been extended).

Students are responsible for tracking their unemployment days. When students pass the permitted unemployment days, they need to contact ISSS, isss@drexel.edu, to check their F-1 status.

Note: OPT employment must be in the U.S. 

As soon as students have found employment (whether paid or unpaid, part-time or full time), they should report their updated employment status to ISSS. A formal employment offer letter has to be emailed to isss@drexel.edu. The letter should be on the Company/Organization’s letterhead, be signed by the supervisor, and should include the following information:

  • Company’s name
  • Mailing address (at where the student is working physically)
  • Hiring date
  • Position title (related to the student’s field of studies)
  • Job description

Students can download a sample offer letter from here. Students must immediately inform ISSS of any changes to their employment at isss@drexel.edu.

While on OPT, students must continue to update ISSS regarding their residential address. Residential address cannot be a P.O. Box or an office address. Students are required to send changes to their residential address within 10 business days of the change to isss@drexel.edu.

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Following Up with an OPT Application

Student who include a Form G-1145 (optional form) to their OPT application package will get notified via e-mail or cellphone by USCIS about the reception of their OPT application package. The message provides a receipt number, but does not constitute the official notice of acceptance. The message notice also provides a brief statement on how to get additional information about the status of the OPT application. The message does not grant any immigration status or benefit. Students can download the Form G-1145 here.

Within approximately 2 to 4 weeks after students have mailed their application, they will receive a paper copy Receipt Notice from USCIS. This notice states the date when the application was received, and give students and an application receipt number. Students can use this number to check the status of their application here.

Students have to use a valid mailing address at where all communications from the USCIS should be received directly. ISSS is not responsible for any loss or delay of the OPT application. For questions on this matter, students must contact USCIS directly at 1-800-375-5283.

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Traveling on Post-Completion OPT and 17-month OPT Extension

After applying for OPT, travelling is not recommended while the status of the application is pending. However, in case of an emergency, students who leave the U.S. and wish to come back before the start date of their OPT must show special documentation.

If OPT is pending (not yet approved), students will need the following documents to reenter the U.S.:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp
  • I-20 with OPT recommendation and recent travel signature (within past 6 months)
  • OPT Receipt Notice (proof of application)

If OPT is approved, students will need the following documents to reenter the U.S.:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp
  • I-20 with OPT recommendation and recent travel signature (within past 6 months)
  • Unexpired EAD card
  • Proof of employment (offer letter or employment confirmation letter from employer)

Readmission to the U.S. is at the discretion of the officer at the point of entry.

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Health Insurance Coverage

Students are responsible to maintain adequate health insurance coverage during grace periods and on Post-Completion OPT and 17-month OPT Extension.

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Completion/Termination of OPT

Once an EAD card is expired, students have a 60-day grace period. Students are no longer authorized to work during the grace period. Before the grace period is over, students must do one of the followings:

  • Transfer to a new academic program (please see section ‎14 for Transfer-Out)
  • Depart the U.S. (before the 60-day grace period ends)
  • Change their status if other visa sponsorship is available (e.g. H1-B).

Note: Only those students who complete their OPT will receive the grace period. For students who have exceeded the 90-day unemployment are not eligible for a grace period.

Authorization to engage in OPT is automatically terminated when a student transfer to another school or begins studying at another educational level.

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