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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a 12-month work authorization that allows F-1 students to gain additional work experience after graduation in their field of study. You can work anywhere in the US on OPT, so long as the employment is directly related to your field of study.

You can learn more about OPT by attending an OPT Informational Workshop. Attending an informational workshop is a requirement before you can apply for OPT.

You cannot apply for OPT without receiving an updated I-20 that has an OPT recommendation and your requested OPT start date. Do not submit an OPT application to USCIS without the OPT-recommendation I-20.

Upcoming OPT Workshop Dates & Registration

We recommend that you apply as early as possible because it can take 3-4 months for an OPT application to be approved by USCIS. You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. You can apply as early as 90 days before you complete your program and up to 60 days after you complete your program.

How to Apply

Report OPT Participation

SEVP has created a portal where you must report your OPT participation.  You will receive an email from SEVP to your Boise State email address with portal account setup information once your OPT period has begun.  You must report all changes of employment/unemployment, addresses or names within 10 days of the change. If you have decided not to participate in OPT then you must contact us to let us know.

Report leaving OPT early or not participating

SEVP Portal Information

Frequently Asked Questions

Application Process

How long does OPT take to be approved?

OPT takes approximately 3 months to be approved. Currently it is typically 30-45 days for approval, but this can change at any time. It is therefore very important to apply for OPT as soon as you are eligible to do so.

How do I track the status of my OPT application?

USCIS will email a receipt notice after you submit your online application. A few weeks after you submit your OPT application you will also receive a paper receipt notice in the mail. The notice includes a receipt number. You can track whether your application has been received, approved, or if USCIS has requested more information by using the receipt number on the USCIS website.

Track my OPT application

When can I apply for OPT?

You can apply for OPT as early as 90 days before your academic program ends.  You can apply as late as 60 days after your program ends but we recommend that you apply for OPT as soon as you know you would like to do so.

You do not have to have a job in place to apply for OPT.

I'm a graduate student. Can I start OPT before my I finish my degree?

If you are in the thesis or dissertation portion of your program (no classes remaining) then you may be eligible to apply for OPT before you complete your program. Please discuss your situation with us so that we can advise you regarding the pros and cons of applying for OPT before you finish your degree.

My OPT application is pending. How do I update my address?

If the mailing address for your OPT application has changed then you must update USCIS as soon as possible so that your OPT EAD can be delivered.  Just filing a change of address with the U.S. Postal Service is not enough (though you should also do that too). You can submit updates via your USCIS online account.

Update your address with USCIS

You should also update ISS so that we can make sure that your SEVIS record has the correct address for you.  Once your OPT is approved and your start date has been reached then you will update your residential address via the SEVP Portal.

Update your address with ISS

General OPT Questions

How many times can I participate in OPT?

You are eligible for OPT after each degree level you complete. For example, you may do one year of OPT after your undergraduate degree. You can do another year of OPT after your graduate degree.

I've decided to finish OPT early or I've decided not to participate in OPT. What do I do?

If you’ve decided not to participate in OPT, or you’ve decided to end OPT early, then please let ISS know so that we can appropriately update your immigration record. The date that you will be required to leave the U.S. will depend on whether you are moving to future study and the number of unemployment days you have accrued.

Notify ISS that you are ending OPT early

Where can I get help with applying for jobs?

Boise State University has a great Career Center. Their staff can help with your job search, resume development, cover letters, interview skills and much more.

Visit the Career Center

How long can I remain in the US after my OPT ends?

You can remain in the US for up to 60 days after your OPT ends. During that time you can travel within the US or submit a request to transfer to a new academic program.

If you’re planning to join another degree program then please send me your admission letter and complete the SEVIS record transfer out form at least two weeks before your 60-day grace period ends. Depending on the start date of your new program, you may be able to remain in the US until your new program starts.


Can I travel while my OPT application is pending?

Travel outside the US can be complicated after your academic program has finished and before your OPT is approved.  Therefore we cannot recommend travel while your OPT is pending. Please contact us if you need to travel so that we can advise you on the documents you may need to re-enter the US.

Can I travel once my OPT is approved?

Yes, you can travel. To re-enter the US you will need your EAD, valid F-1 visa, I-20 signed for travel within the last 6 months and proof of employment. If you do not have a job yet then we recommend that you provide evidence of your job search (upcoming interviews, for example).

Study during OPT

Can I study while on OPT?

You can study part-time in non-degree status only. Your OPT authorization ends once the I-20 is made for your new degree program.

SEVP Portal

How do I update my contact details?

You will update your contact details using the SEVP Portal once you are participating in OPT.

Access the SEVP Portal

How do I update my employment information?

You will update your employment details using the SEVP Portal once you are participating in OPT.

Access the SEVP Portal

I've forgotten my SEVP Portal Password. What do I do?

If you’ve forgotten your password then please request a reset via the SEVP Portal login page.

Learn more about SEVP Portal passwords

OPT Employment

What types of job qualify as OPT activity?

It does not matter what the position is called (volunteer, internship, job, contractor) but it does matter what you are doing on a day-to-day basis. Your OPT activity must be related to your major.

How many days of unemployment can I have on OPT?

You are allowed up to 90 days of cumulative unemployment on OPT.

How many hours per week must I work on OPT?

You must be working more than 20 hours per week on OPT to “stop” the unemployment clock.