Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides students who have an F-1 visa with the opportunity for hands-on work experience complementary to their academic field of study.
A student is eligible for a maximum of 12 months* of full-time OPT per academic level. For example, a student may apply for OPT after completing a bachelorís degree and then again after completing a masterís degree. While engaged in OPT, individuals are still considered F-1 students and must report any address changes to the DigiPen International Student Services department.
*Students in the BS in Real-Time Interactive Simulation; BS in Computer Science and Game Design; BS in Computer Science and Digital Audio; BS in Computer Engineering; BFA in Digital Art and Animation; BA in Game Design; MFA in Digital Arts; or MS in Computer Science are eligible to apply for an OPT extension. This extends employment for an additional 17 months, for a total of up to 29 months. This is called a STEM OPT extension and is only available to students in science, technology, engineering, and math majors (animation was added to the eligibility list in 2011).
There are two types of OPT:
Because of processing delays, applications should be mailed to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as early as 90 days before your program end date. You cannot begin employment until USCIS approves the OPT application and you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
Please contact International Student Services to learn more about the OPT application process.
1. Read all of this text before beginning the application process.
2. Bring the following to International Student Services:
3. After reviewing the items listed above, International Student Services will recommend to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, through the online SEVIS system, that practical training permission be authorized. The advisor will print a new I-20, then sign and date the I-20.
4. After all forms are reviewed and signed, the student mails the following to USCIS within 30 days:
For U.S Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
For Express Mail and Courier deliveries:
5. USCIS will send you a receipt within 30 days. The receipt will have the date USCIS received your application, the date the receipt was mailed to you, and an estimate of when your application will be processed. Average processing time is at least three months. The receipt will also have a "LIN number" at the top right-hand corner. You may use this number to check the status of your application online.
6. If USCIS approves your application, you will be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) within approximately 90 to 120 days. The EAD is a photo-identification card, similar in shape and size to a driverís license, on which is noted the beginning and ending dates of your OPT authorization.
7. When you receive the EAD, please bring, mail, or fax a photocopy of the card to DigiPen's International Student Services.
8. Remember to tell ISS if you change your address at any time during your OPT authorization.
When can I work?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) permits employment:
How many hours can I work per work on OPT?
Generally, you may work full-time (more than 20 hours per week). The only exception is for students who are registered for a full-time credit loadóthey may only work up to 20 hours per week.
When should I apply for OPT authorization?
You may apply as early as 90 days before you complete your degree. It can take U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) three to four months to approve your application. Remember that you cannot begin employment until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
How much time am I eligible to work under OPT?
USCIS allows students to work for a maximum of 12 months* at the full-time rate, per academic level (once after completion of bachelor's degree and once after master's degree). Part-time OPT (while registered as a student for a full-credit load) accrues at half the full-time rate. For example, for every two months you work on part-time OPT (while registered for a full course of study), you deduct one month of full-time OPT.
*Students in the BS in Real-Time Interactive Simulation; BS in Computer Science and Game Design; BS in Computer Engineering; BS in Engineering and Sound Design; BFA in Digital Art and Animation; BA in Game Design; MFA in Digital Arts; or MS in Computer Science are eligible to apply for an OPT extension. This extends employment for an additional 17 months, for a total of up to 29 months. This is called a STEM OPT extension and is only available to students in science, technology, engineering, and math majors (animation was added to the eligibility list in 2011).
If you have worked under Curricular Practical Training (CPT):
What happens if I move after I mail my OPT application?
The U.S. Postal Service will not forward mail from USCIS if the address on the envelope does not match the name on the mailbox. Please contact USCIS for your options.
How long does it take to get approved for OPT?
Typically, it takes three to four months.
If I change my mind and decide not to work, can I cancel my OPT authorization?
The answer depends on your situation.
OPT applications are not meant to be cancelled! Please plan carefully and apply for OPT only if you are sure that you want to work.
Do I need a Social Security Number to work in the U.S.?
Yes. Contact ISS for procedures and assistance.
When I receive my EAD card, should I give a copy to the DigiPen ISS department?
Yes. International Student Services needs a copy of your EAD card for your file.
Where can I work?
You may accept any job that is related to your field of study and appropriate for your level of education.
Is it possible to extend my practical training beyond 12 months without applying for the STEM extension?
No, you cannot extend practical training beyond the 12-month limit. However, you may qualify for up to 12 months of Optional Practical Training for each degree level you complete. For example, you may qualify for 12 months of practical training after you complete your bachelorís degree, 12 months after you complete your masterís degree, and another 12 months after you finish your doctorate degree.
What happens if I can't find a job?
Practical training is not a vacation. During the OPT authorization period, you should be either working in your field of study, or actively seeking suitable employment. If you are unable to find a job after an aggregate of 90 days, you should make plans to go home, return to school for another degree, or change to a different immigration status.
Can I leave the United States while my OPT application is being processed?
If your OPT application is pending, it is not recommended you travel out of the country. Once your OPT has been approved and your EAD issued, you may not re-enter the United States unless you have evidence of employment.
Can I travel abroad and return to the United States after receiving my EAD card?
Yes, as long as you have the following documents with you.
Can I continue to work an OPT after my EAD card expires?
No. When your EAD card expires, you must:
What if I lose my EAD card?
If you lose your card, you need to apply for a replacement by completing Form I-765 again and resubmitting it with all supporting documents, including the fee, to the USCIS.
Mail to USCIS the following:
Make a copy of your entire packet before sending it to USCIS. Be sure to mail your application to the USCIS Service Center serving the area of your current residence.