Optional Practical Training

OPT Application Checklist


What is OPT?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an extension of F-1 status and provides temporary employment directly related to your academic major. Though OPT can be done during your time at Luther (pre-completion OPT), most Luther students opt for post-completion OPT after they graduate.

Am I Eligible for OPT?

You are eligible to apply if:

  • You have been a full time student in good standing for one full academic year and are currently in F-1 status
  • You are seeking employment in the major field of study listed on your current Luther I-20
  • You are completing your program of study at Luther College (for post-completion OPT)
  • You are physically present in the U.S. at the time of your application for OPT
  • You have not exceeded 365 days of full time CPT

You do not need a job offer in order to apply for OPT.

You are not eligible to apply for OPT if you leave the U.S. after graduation and before applying for OPT.

When Should I Apply?

The earliest you can apply for post-completion OPT is 90 days before completing your degree. You can apply up to 60 days after your program completion date.

You must be in the United States in order to apply for OPT.

How to Apply

Effective April 12, 2021, F-1 students seeking OPT approval can file the Form I-765 online via myUSCIS. Instructions will be available soon. Please Note: Students most NOT file an online I-765 without first meeting with the DSO and receiving their OPT I-20.

How to Choose your OPT Start Date

As part of the OPT I-20 request process, you must request a particular OPT start date. This is the day on which you would like to start your OPT work authorization. When choosing your start date, you should consider the following:

  • The requested start date must be within 60 days of your program completion date. It can be as early as the day after your completion date and up to 60 days after that.
  • It is not guaranteed that you will be approved for the start date you request. Your approved start date will appear on your EAD card and may be later than your requested start date, depending on when you apply for OPT and how long it takes to process. Please note that you may not begin working until your approved EAD start date, regardless of the requested date on your I-20.
  • If you have a job offer, you will want to discuss with your employer an appropriate start date based on when you applied for OPT (consider the 3 to 5 month processing time).
  • If you don't have a job offer, consider how long you think it might take to find a job and make an estimate of when you can begin working.
  • If you choose an earlier start date, you may be able to begin your employment earlier, BUT if you don't find a job, you will begin accruing unemployment days sooner. If you choose a later start date, your unemployment days will begin accruing later, BUT you'll have to wait longer to begin employment.

While You Wait for Your EAD Card

Your OPT application will be processed in approximately 3 - 5 months. You may NOT work on or off campus until you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) AND until the employment start date on the card.

Traveling, especially internationally, while your application is pending is allowed but not recommended. If you leave the country while your OPT application is being processed, you may be unable to re-enter. If you do plan to travel while the application is pending, please consult your DSO before doing so to check what documents you should carry with you.

Working and Reporting While on OPT

You may start working on the start date listed on your EAD card (you must have the actual EAD card in hand before starting work).

You have 90 total days of unemployment allowed on OPT. Unemployment begins accruing on the start date listed on your EAD card. Once you have reached 90 days of unemployment, you are considered out of status. In some cases, your SEVIS record may be auto-terminated and you will have to depart the U.S. immediately (no grace period).  Approved vacation from a job does not count as "unemployment" if you are still considered an employee there.

You are required to update your DSO with any changes of name, address, or email. Additionally, you MUST report your employment within 10 days of starting work by completing this form with the name and address of their employer, start dates, number of hours worked, title upon starting work, and other information included on the form. Any changes in employment or additional employers also need to be reported.

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