Optional Practical Training (OPT)

If your goal is to gain work experience off-campus and CPT is not an option, or you have graduated from your program and wish to gain employment experience related to your degree, then you should consider Optional Practical Training (OPT). This authorization allows you to engage in temporary employment to gain experience directly related to your major area of study, commensurate with your degree level and is intended to enhance and supplement formal classroom education. It is available both before you complete your studies (Pre-Completion OPT) and after (Post-Completion OPT).

IMPORTANT: Please note, the information on this page and any OPT-related advising is meant to help you in completing your application but should not be considered legal advice. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) ultimately provides the decision on your OPT application. It is your responsibility, as the OPT applicant, to ensure that your OPT application is accurate and complete before you submit it to the U.S. government. Incomplete applications could result in a delay in processing time or denial. 

Please review the questions and answers below to learn about OPT and to determine if you are eligible before beginning the OPT application process.

Before Filing OPT Application

In order to be eligible for OPT, you must:

  • Have been lawfully enrolled as a full-time student while physically present in the U.S. for at least one full academic year (three quarters/ two semesters).
  • Be in lawful F-1 status at the time of OPT application. 
  • Have fewer than 365 days of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) at the current educational level.
  • Have met the degree program/course requirements (Post-Completion OPT only)

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

A job offer is not required to apply for OPT, but during Post-Completion OPT, you are expected to actively seek employment in your field of study and be employed for at least nine months after the start date of your OPT (as noted on your Employment Authorization Document (EAD)).

Applying for OPT and waiting for a response is a time-consuming process. While requests for CPT are reviewed and authorized by ISSS, OPT applications are sent to a government office called United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

You should be aware that USCIS can take 90 days or longer to review your application and send you their response. Therefore, you should anticipate that the application process from start to finish can take at least 3 months (90 days) depending on the volume of OPT applications sent to USCIS. If you choose to search for a job while waiting for your OPT application to be approved, it is a good idea to communicate this timeline to potential employers.

Pre-Completion OPT: You may apply up to 90 days before the date that you want your OPT authorization to start. In order to avoid processing delays, you may consider choosing to apply earlier than the 90-day window and requesting an OPT start date that is before your intended employment start date. For example: If you would like your OPT start date to be June 15, but you anticipate that your application will take longer than 90 days to process, you could consider choosing June 1 or earlier as a start date (assuming you apply promptly 90 days before the requested start date, which in this example is March 1).

Post-Completion OPT: The earliest you can apply is 90 days prior to your program end date (i.e. your graduation date; the last day of final exams in your final quarter of study). The latest you can apply is 60 days after you complete your degree requirements (your grace period), but it is strongly recommended that you complete and file your application well before this deadline. If USCIS does not receive your application before your 60-day grace period ends, the application will be denied and your F-1 status will end.

Doctoral students: You are eligible for Pre-Completion OPT while you are completing your coursework, and then Post-Completion OPT after you complete your coursework but before completing/defending your dissertation. However, you must successfully defend your dissertation and receive your degree before OPT authorization ends if you will apply for the STEM OPT Extension. If you are applying for Post-Completion OPT, please also note that you must end on-campus employment (including teaching/research assistantships) on or before the I-20 program end date used for your Post-Completion OPT application. You may return to your on-campus employment once you receive Post-Completion OPT authorization if the position is related to your degree of study. You may NOT engage in any employment between your program end date and the OPT start date listed on your OPT EAD card.

Your employment authorization begins on the start date listed on your EAD card. You cannot start working prior to receiving your EAD card or prior to the OPT start date on the card. Working before the start date on your EAD card may result in termination of your F-1 status and OPT authorization. Unauthorized employment may also impact future visa applications and/or your admissibility to the U.S.

Yes. To engage in an off-campus unpaid internship, you must have employment authorization such as Pre-Completion OPT, while bona fide volunteering opportunities do not require authorization.

A common misconception is that the only difference is employees get paid and volunteers do not. According to US labor laws, there is more to distinguish between employees and volunteers than whether an individual receives a regular paycheck. Work that is unpaid may still be considered "employment" for international students and requires employment authorization like CPT or OPT.

In most cases, an "unpaid internship" is a temporary practical experience directly related to your major area of study and is intended to enhance and supplement formal classroom education. Bona fide volunteering generally does not fit this description. If you are not sure that an opportunity is an unpaid internship or volunteering, please reach out to ISSS.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 12, 2021 that F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM OPT 24-month extension now have the option to file their applications online. View the full announcement on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services site. Students may still submit a paper application through the mail if preferred. Please note the following:

  • Whether you choose to file your OPT application online or through the mail, you must complete the application process below and obtain the OPT I-20 before filing your application with USCIS. Filing for OPT without an OPT I-20 endorsed by ISSS will result in denial of your application.
  • The wait time for adjudication of an OPT application submitted online is the same as the wait time for an application submitted through the mail. However, filing online will result in an immediate receipt notice, while an application filed through the mail will take several business days to be received and receipted by USCIS.

Complete instructions for filing online vs. via paper application will be provided to you with the OPT I-20.

The F-1 regulations require a student to be in F-1 status to apply for OPT, and a student does not have visa status while outside the U.S. (even though their SEVIS record is active). Also, the questions on Form I-765 assume that a student is present in the U.S. If you are abroad and wish to apply for OPT but are not able to return to the U.S., please email isss@drexel.edu.

No. Students may not request all 36 months (12+24) in the initial OPT application: you must apply for initial 12 months of Post-Completion OPT first, and then apply for STEM OPT Extension while you have an active OPT EAD card. The earliest you can apply for the 2-year STEM OPT Extension is 90 days before your OPT EAD card expires.

After you graduate and you apply/are approved for Post-Completion OPT, you are still in F-1 visa status sponsored by Drexel University. You must continue to maintain your F-1 visa status by following F-1 visa regulations for students on OPT. Your F-1 status ends 60 days after the expiration date of your EAD card or on your last unemployment day, whichever comes first. For more information, see the question below, "What happens to my F-1 status when my OPT ends?"

Pre-Completion OPT: Your OPT employment start should be the date you wish to begin employment. In order to avoid processing delays, you may consider choosing to apply for an OPT start date that is before your intended employment start date. For example: If you would like your OPT start date to be June 15, but you anticipate that your application will take longer than 90 days to process at USCIS, you may consider choosing June 1 or earlier as a start date (assuming you apply promptly on/around 90 days before the requested start date, which in this case is March 1).

Post-Completion OPT: Your OPT employment start can be any date between your program end date (i.e. your graduation date; the last day of final exams in your final quarter of study) and 60 days after your program completion date. When indicating your start date, you will need to consider the date your employment offer (if any) begins and the date in which you apply for OPT since it may take USCIS 90 days or longer to process OPT applications. You may not begin working until you have the OPT approval in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Standard OPT: F-1 students are allowed a total of 12 months of OPT for each degree level (Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate). You may use portions of your 12-month OPT during your program of study (Pre-Completion OPT) or you may wait and use the entire 12 months after graduation (Post-Completion OPT). Pre-completion part-time OPT accrues at a rate of 50% (example: 6 months of Pre-Completion part-time OPT is counted as 3 months deducted from the total 12 months you are allowed). Pre-Completion full-time OPT accrues at a rate of 100% (example: 6 months of full-time Pre-Completion OPT is counted as 6 months deducted from the total 12 months you are allowed).

STEM OPT Extension: Students in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields may be eligible for an additional 24-months Post-Completion OPT if they meet the required STEM OPT criteria. Visit STEM OPT Extension to determine if you are eligible and how/when to apply.

You can apply for OPT and remain inside the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa sticker as long as you are maintaining your F-1 status (i.e. your I-20 is valid and you are following F-1 regulations). It is only necessary to renew your F-1 visa if you plan to depart and re-enter the U.S. during your OPT authorization. In order to renew your F-1 visa, you would have to leave the U.S. and schedule/attend a visa renewal interview at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate (ideally in your home country).

When renewing your F-1 visa while applying for Post-Completion OPT, the documents listed below will be required for the F-1 visa application. However, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will visit for your visa renewal interview to ask if any other documents will be required.

  • Valid passport.
  • I-20 with Post-Completion OPT recommendation and recent travel signature on page 2. The signature may not be older than 6 months.
  • While your OPT application is pending: OPT Receipt Notice (proof of application), which is mailed to you 2-3 weeks after USCIS receives your application.

It is important to note that it may be more difficult to obtain a student visa while on Post-Completion OPT as the issue of non-immigrant intent with the intention to return to the home country at the completion of the OPT could be more difficult to prove once the student has obtained a degree and is working in the U.S.

Below are some of the most common reasons applications have been denied:

  • Didn't mail the application within 30 days of the OPT recommendation I-20 print date
  • Accumulated more than 364 days of full-time CPT at their current degree level
  • Applied more than 90 days before end date of the program of study
  • USCIS didn't receive the OPT application before the 60th day following completion of the program of study
  • Didn't sign the I-765 between the lines on signature line
  • Didn't check one of the boxes at the top of the I-765 form
  • Didn't use an address that is valid for at least 90 days
  • Didn't sign the check or had insufficient funds

It is unlikely your OPT application will be denied if you avoid errors on your application, but if you do receive a denial, please contact ISSS immediately. If you are applying for Post-Completion OPT, you may be able to reapply if there is still time for USCIS to receive your application before your 60-day grace period ends. Please note that if you travel outside the U.S. after graduation, you will no longer be eligible to reapply for OPT since the remainder of your grace period will be considered forfeited.

After Filing OPT Application

As long as USCIS receives your application for OPT before your 60-day grace period ends, your F-1 visa status will remain active until you receive a decision from USCIS in response to your application. You may remain in the U.S. while your application is pending, even if more than 60 days have passed since your program end date.

Pre-Completion OPT: If you are on Pre-Completion OPT, you may travel and re-enter according to the general travel requirements for F-1 students.

Post-Completion OPT (prior to degree completion): If your OPT application has not been approved yet, but you are returning to the US to resume your studies, you may travel according to the general travel requirements for F-1 students.

Post-Completion OPT (after degree completion, during 60-day grace period): Traveling abroad after your Program End Date and before your OPT is approved may be slightly risky. The F-1 regulations do not directly address this issue, but most students with OPT pending during this time have had success re-entering the US with a copy of the USCIS OPT Receipt Notice.

If you decide to travel, carry the following documents:

  • Valid passport.
  • Valid F-1 visa sticker in the passport (Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are exempt from the visa requirement).
  • I-20 with OPT recommendation and recent travel signature on page 2. The signature may not be older than 6 months.
  • OPT Receipt Notice (proof of application), which is mailed to you 2-3 weeks after USCIS receives your application.

If you filed your OPT via mail, complete a Form AR-11, Alien's Change of Address Card, online using the Change of Address page.

If you filed your OPT application online, update your address in the USCIS online account that you used to submit your application.

As a reminder, F-1 visa regulations require that you inform ISSS of your new address within 10 days of the change as well.

If the case status on USCIS is showing that your EAD card was mailed, but you never received it, there is a possibility that it was undeliverable or lost by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Follow these steps to request a replacement EAD card:

  • Call USCIS to obtain the tracking number for your EAD Card. If you are have registered for an account with USCIS.gov, the tracking information should show in your account if the card has been mailed.
  • Check the tracking number. If it shows “delivered,” contact USPS to see if they are able to locate the mail for you. If USPS is responsible for the lost card, you will need to obtain an official letter on a letterhead from USPS stating such. If approved, USCIS will then issue a new replacement EAD at no additional cost.
  • If your case status shows “undeliverable,” it means that USPS may have returned the EAD to USCIS. Follow the instructions in the online USCIS case status to request that USCIS resend the card to you.

Please note if USPS determines that they are NOT responsible for the loss of the EAD, you will have to file for a replacement Lost EAD Card and pay the USCIS I-765 filing fee.

If you are required to submit another I-765 to USCIS, you must contact ISSS and obtain an "EAD Replacement I-20" to include in your packet.

If you have been approved for OPT but your card has been lost, you may be able to begin your employment while your application for the replacement card is pending. However, you must clear this with your employer. More information about this is available on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

As soon as you receive your OPT EAD, please check if all information on the card is accurate. Pay special attention to your name, start date and end date.

If your EAD contains incorrect information that is not due to a USCIS error, you will need to apply for a replacement by gathering all documents required on the OPT Application Checklist [PDF]. Once you have gathered all documents, scan/email the materials to ISSS so that an ISSS advisor can provide you with 2 new I-20s (1 for the packet, 1 for you to keep) as well as an OPT petition cover page for the application itself (confirming that this is not a new OPT application). Once we have finalized all materials, you will be submitting to USCIS again and it may take 2-3+ months for a replacement EAD to arrive. In the meantime, you are permitted to report any and all employment to us via a copy of the offer letter as well as the OPT Employment Update Form [PDF] and we can update your status and provide you with an updated I-20 to use as your valid form of work authorization.

If your EAD contains incorrect information because of a USCIS error, you do not need to submit a new Form I-765 or a filing fee. Instead, complete the USCIS Typographic Error Form on their website. If USCIS determines that you are required to submit another I-765 to USCIS, you must complete the process above for an EAD card replacement not due to a USCIS error.

If any of the following happen, call or email ISSS immediately for advice:

  • You receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) in the mail or see in Case Status Online that one was sent.
  • You receive your I-765 application back in the mail or see in Case Status Online that it was rejected and/or returned.

Either of the above are an indication that something is seriously wrong with your OPT application. No progress will be made on your application until USCIS receives the necessary documentation from you. The allowable time period to respond to an RFE or rejected application is limited and will be indicated on the materials from USCIS. If you fail to respond by the deadline, your application will be denied.

After OPT is Approved

In addition to the reporting responsibilities expected of all current F-1 students (see Maintaining Status), you must report the following to ISSS:

  • Any change in your employer, employer name, or site of employment: complete and submit an OPT Employment Update Form [PDF]
  • Any interruption or end of employment

This information must be reported within 10 days of any change. Email isss@drexel.edu to report any of the changes above. Any change in employment that results in a material change to the I-20 (i.e. employer name, employment dates, change in state/city of site of employment) will result in the issuance of an updated document reflecting the update reported. Please note that your employer name will be listed on your I-20 in the same manner that you report it.

During the Post-Completion OPT dates, you must report the following to ISSS:

  • Any change in your personal information or address
  • Any change in your employer, employer name, or site of employment: complete and submit an OPT Employment Update Form [PDF]
  • Any interruption or end of employment
  • Any change of visa/immigration status
  • Your departure from the US without intent to return in F-1 status and resume OPT

This information must be reported within 10 days of any change. Email isss@drexel.edu to report any of the changes above. Any change in employment that results in a material change to the I-20 (i.e. employer name, employment dates, change in state/city of site of employment) will result in the issuance of an updated document reflecting the update reported. Please note that your employer's name will be listed on your I-20 in the same manner that you report it.

SEVP Portal: SEVP launched the SEVP Portal to allow students access to update employer and address information themselves in their record. If you make any change in the SEVP Portal, please also report the change to ISSS via email as you may need a new I-20 reflecting the changes made. For guidance on using the Portal, please visit the SEVP Portal Help page. If your account is locked or you need password assistance, please email isss@drexel.edu for assistance.

Failure to Report - Immigration Implications

Not complying with the OPT reporting requirements and/or accumulating more than 90 days of unemployment is considered a violation of F-1 status and may have severe consequences for your current F-1 and other future immigration benefits (i.e. H-1B application, "green card", etc.). Additionally, your SEVIS record may be terminated, and you will no longer have valid immigration status in the US.

All OPT employment must be in a job that is related to the student's degree program. This employment may include:

Paid employment: You may work part time (at least 20 hours per week while on Post-Completion OPT) or full time.

Multiple employers: You may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to your degree program and for Pre-Completion OPT cannot exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours (20 hours per week for part-time Pre-Completion OPT).

Work for hire: This is also 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 the Department of Homeland Security, you must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.

Self-employed business owner: Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, you must work full time. You must be able to prove that you have the proper business licenses and are actively engaged in a business related to your degree program.

Employment through an agency or consulting firm: Students on Post-Completion OPT should be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.

Unpaid employment: Students on OPT may work as volunteers or unpaid interns where this does not violate any US labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for students on Post-Completion OPT. If requested by the Department of Homeland Security, you must be prepared to provide evidence from the employer that you worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.

Remote work: Students on OPT may work remotely for an employer. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for students on Post-Completion OPT. If requested by the Department of Homeland Security, you must be prepared to provide evidence from the employer that there was a bona fide employer-employee relationship where you receiving training and guidance that, as mentioned above, is intended to enhance and supplement formal classroom education.

Please note the following:

Full-Time Employment Requirement: Students on Post-Completion OPT must work at least 20 hours per week. For the purposes of reporting, please follow the definitions noted here for employment hours. If you have concerns regarding meeting the 20 hours per week minimum, please reach out to ISSS.

  • Part-time: 20 hours or less per week
  • Full-time: More than 20 hours per week

Unemployment Limit: Students are permitted a maximum of 90 days of unemployment. Please review the section "What if I can't find a job while I am on OPT?" for more information on this regulation and reach out to your International Student Advisor if you have any questions or concerns.

Pre-Completion OPT periods of unemployment: A job offer is not required to apply for Pre-Completion OPT. There is no penalty if you do not actually work during Pre-Completion OPT except that you will lose that time from your 12-month OPT eligibility and you will lose your $410 filing fee.

Post-Completion OPT periods of unemployment: Although a job offer is not required in order to apply for Post-Completion OPT, SEVP Policy Guidance (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) advises students that "during Post-Completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment," and there is an aggregate limit 90 days of "unemployment" that can be accrued while on Post-Completion OPT.

Each day (including weekends) during the period when OPT authorization begins and ends that the student does not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment. OPT authorization begins on the employment start date as shown on the student's EAD.

For students reaching the limit of unemployment time, the SEVP Policy Guidance states that, "prior to reaching the limit on authorized unemployment the student should prepare to transfer to another SEVP-certified school, change educational level, depart the United States, or take action to otherwise maintain status in the United States ... A student who exceeded the period of unemployment while on Post-Completion OPT has violated his or her status unless he or she has taken one of the following actions:

  • Applied to continue his or her education by a change of educational level or transferring to another SEVP-certified school;
  • Departed the United States;
  • Taken action to otherwise maintain legal status."

In other words, you must take one of the actions above before your last day of unemployment. Otherwise, you will be violating your immigration status which may have a negative impact on your future immigration benefits in the U.S.

Pre-Completion OPT: Students may travel according to the general travel requirements for F-1 students.

Post-Completion OPT (prior to degree completion): If your OPT has been approved before you graduate, and you are returning to the U.S. to resume your studies, you may travel according to the general travel requirements for F-1 students.

Post-Completion OPT (after degree completion, during 60-day grace period): The following documents are needed to re-enter the US after you graduate and your I-20 has expired:

  • Valid passport.
  • Valid F-1 visa sticker in the passport (Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are exempt from the visa requirement).
  • The most recently issued I-20 with a valid travel signature on page 2. The signature may not be older than 6 months.
  • OPT EAD (Employment Authorization Document).
  • Proof of employment in the form of a letter from your employer stating the job title, job description and salary.

We strongly advise all F-1 students on Post-Completion OPT, but particularly those with expired F-1 visas, to exercise caution in choosing whether to travel. If you are asked to travel for business, you should ensure that your employer is aware of the risks.

Taking a class or classes that may later be used to satisfy new degree program requirements is not recommended. As per the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidance, recreational and avocational classes are permissible.

If you are a Doctorate student and still working on the dissertation, you can continue to be enrolled until you successfully defend your dissertation. However, please note that you would still remain subject to the 90-day unemployment rule.

Transferring your SEVIS record to another institution or changing your educational level at Drexel (e.g. from Bachelor's to Master's or Doctorate) will automatically cancel your OPT. It is very important that you plan your transfer out date carefully.

Notify ISSS about any lost or stolen cards immediately.

To apply for the EAD replacement card, you must follow the "Apply for OPT" instructions below, including the fee payment, copies of each I-20 previously issued to you, and a new OPT I-20 from ISSS. On the Form I-765, you will check the box for Replacement of Lost Employment Authorization Document.

    You can remain inside the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa sticker as long as you are maintaining your F-1 status (i.e. your I-20 is valid and you are following F-1 regulations). It is only necessary to renew your F-1 visa if you plan to depart and re-enter the U.S. during your OPT authorization. In order to renew your F-1 visa, you would have to leave the U.S. and schedule/attend a visa renewal interview at a US Embassy/Consulate (ideally in your home country).

    When renewing your F-1 visa while on Post-Completion OPT, the documents listed below will be required for the F-1 visa application. However, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will visit for your visa renewal interview to ask if any other documents will be required.

    • Valid passport.
    • I-20 with OPT recommendation and recent travel signature on page 2. The signature may not be older than 6 months.
    • OPT EAD (Employment Authorization Document).
    • If you have obtained employment: Proof of employment in the form of a letter from your employer stating the job title, job description and salary.

    It is important to note that it may be more difficult to obtain a student visa while on Post-Completion OPT as the issue of non-immigrant intent with the intention to return to the home country at the completion of the OPT could be more difficult to prove once the student has obtained a degree and is working in the U.S.

    Expiration of OPT Authorization

    Once your Post-Completion OPT EAD card expires, you have a 60-day grace period of F-1 status. You are no longer authorized to work once your OPT EAD card expires, but you may remain in the U.S. during this time to make arrangements to take one of the following actions:

    • Apply and confirm your attendance to a new program at Drexel or another SEVP-certified school and complete a change of educational level or SEVIS transfer.
    • Depart the United States.
    • Taken action to otherwise maintain legal status (e.g. change visa/immigration status).

    Note: Only those students who complete their Post-Completion OPT will receive the grace period. Students who have exceeded the 90-day unemployment limit are not eligible for a grace period. Read more about the post-completion grace period.

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

    The "H-1B cap-gap" is the period of time between the end of your OPT and the beginning of your H-1B status. If you have authorized OPT and have filed a timely application for change of status to H-1B with an employment start date of October 1, your OPT employment authorization will be automatically extended while the change of status application is pending through October 1 or is approved.

    You are eligible for H-1B cap gap if:

    • Your employer files an H-1B petition for you on or after April 1, and requests a change of status to H-1B to begin October 1.
    • You are still within your OPT authorization period when your employer submits the H-1B petition on your behalf (on or after April 1).

    If your change of status application is denied, rejected or revoked, and your OPT EAD is still valid, your work permission will expire on the OPT EAD end date.

    If your OPT has expired and you are on cap gap, your work permission will be terminated on the rejection, denial, revocation, or withdrawal date.

    To apply for a cap-gap extension I-20, please do the following:

    • Update your employment and address information by emailing ISSS. NOTE: Not having accurate employment and address information in SEVIS will significantly delay the issuance of the cap-gap I-20.
    • Email one of the following documents to ISSS:
      • For cap-gap extension through June 1, a statement from your employer that a change of status H1B application has been properly filed on your behalf and proof of delivery to USCIS, OR
      • For cap-gap extension beyond June 1, please submit either a scanned copy of the USCIS receipt OR a proof that the H-1B petition has been wait-listed. Please note: When ISSS can issue an I-20 with cap-gap employment notation depends on whether your SEVIS record contains information on the H-1B petition your employer has filed on your behalf.

    ISSS will notify you via e-mail when your new I-20 is processed.

    Note: The 90-day unemployment limit continues during the cap-gap extension period.

    Traveling Abroad during Cap-Gap

    There is information on traveling outside the US during Cap-Gap on the Study in the States website. However, make sure that you consult with your employer and/or immigration attorney regarding any travel abroad during this time.

    Pending H-1B Petitions After September 30

    Please refer to this USCIS notice and consult the immigration attorney assisting with your H-1B application.

    Visit the page STEM OPT Extension to learn about this benefit and determine your eligibility. If you are eligible and would like to apply, USCIS must receive your STEM OPT Extension application before the expiration of your OPT authorization. Otherwise, your F-1 status will end and you will not be eligible for the extension.

    Apply for OPT

    Thoroughly review the information above to determine if you are eligible to apply for Pre-Completion or Post-Completion OPT. Additionally, watch our OPT Eligibility Guide video for a comprehensive overview. Please note that an update to this video is in progress and that our application process is listed here (there are no “in-person or online sessions”).

    IMPORTANT: POST-COMPLETION OPT AND FAILING TO GRADUATE
    If you are not 100% certain that you will graduate as planned (for example, you are taking a course that you might not pass which will change your graduation date), consider waiting to apply for OPT until after you have received your final grades. If you apply for Post-Completion OPT and will not pass one or more courses, you MUST notify ISSS prior to the program end date on your I-20. Otherwise, your OPT will be invalidated.

    Discuss your interest in OPT with your Academic Advisor and request that they complete an Advisor Recommendation Form:

    Hold onto the completed form. You will submit it to ISSS in Step 4.

    Download and complete an OPT I-20 Request Form [PDF]. If you are not sure what start/end dates to request, please re-watch the video provided in Step 1 and review the answer to the FAQ, “What should I indicate as my OPT employment start date?”

    After reviewing all of the information on this web page and the videos in Step 1 and Step 3, complete the OPT Application Session Quiz. You must pass this quiz in order for us to accept your documents in Step 5 and receive your OPT I-20.

    Email isss@drexel.edu the following documents to request your OPT I-20:

    • Completed Advisor Recommendation Form (from Step 1)
    • Completed OPT I-20 Request Form (from Step 2)

    If your request is approved, ISSS will create your OPT I-20 and provide it to you in the manner you have indicated on the OPT I-20 Request Form. Along with your OPT I-20, we will include complete online OPT application instructions and mailed OPT application instructions to USCIS so that you may choose which option to pursue.

    Please do not send any additional documents from your application. It is your responsibility to use the resources provided by ISSS ensure that your OPT application is complete and accurate. If you have any specific questions or concerns about an item in your application, please consult an ISSS advisor.

    Use the instructions provided with your OPT I-20 to submit your OPT application to USCIS. Whether you pursue the online or mailed application process is your choice. Please keep in mind that you must only choose one or the other; do not submit both an online and paper application to USCIS as this will result in denial of your OPT application.

    Review the FAQs section After OPT is Approved to make sure that you are following F-1 visa regulations for students on OPT and reporting necessary updates. You are not required to email a copy of your EAD card to ISSS, but you must report the following within 10 days of the change:

    • Any change in your personal information or address
    • Complete and submit an OPT Employment Update Form [PDF] to report:
      • A new employer
      • A change in employer name
      • A change in site of employment
      • An end of employment
    • Any change of visa/immigration status
    • Your departure from the U.S. without intent to return in F-1 status and resume OPT

    See the FAQs section Expiration of OPT Authorization to learn your options as your OPT authorization approaches its end date.