Chadron State College
Chadron State College

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training Regulations for F-1 Students

Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an opportunity for F-1 students to participate in professional, temporary employment that is directly related to their major field of study after graduation. Students may work part-time or full-time during their OPT and may work for more than one employer.

  • The Post-completion OPT has a maximum duration of 12 months and ends at the end date on your EAD card, when you begin a new educational degree program, or when you change to a new visa type (for example, H1B).
  • You can be authorized to work for a period up of 12 months (full time) for each degree level attained.
  • Authorization for optional practical training is automatically terminated when a student transfers to another school.

You MUST apply for OPT and you are advised to do so in your last semester at CSC. The application process can take up to 3 months, so it is important to apply as soon as possible after the first day you are eligible, which is 90 days before the Program End Date on your I-20. You can apply up to 60 days after your Program End Date on your I-20, but this is not advised! All post-completion OPT must be completed within the 14 month period immediately following the end of your I-20 Program End Date. Since application processing can take up to two-three months, there is a risk you can lose a portion of the period of eligibility if you apply too late.

If you decide you would like to apply for a Post Completion OPT, you need to work with the OIE to complete the application. In the meantime, you can begin gathering your application documents and working on them. Bring them with you to our office.

OPT Application Process

  1. Read the Employment Authorization Instructions
  2. Provide a $410 check or money order made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DO NOT ABBREVIATE).
  3. Provide 2 passport-style photographs taken within 30 days of filing the application. Gently print your name on the back, without damaging the photo.
  4. Complete the Employment Authorization Form
  5. Get a new OPT I-20 from the OIE to include with your application packet.
    • **OPT applications must be submitted to USCIS within 30 days of the DSO signature date on your I-20 or your application is not valid.
  6. Ask the OIE to provide computer screen shots from SEVIS showing any previous CPT authorizations.
  7. Provide a front and back copy of your I-94.
  8. Provide a photocopy of the most recent visa you used for entering the U.S.
  9. Provide a photocopy of your Passport pages showing your name, photo and date of birth.
  10. Provide copies of all previously issued EADs, if any.
  11. We recommend that you send copies of I-20s reflecting previous CPT authorizations and OPT authorizations.
  12. The EAD application must be completed and sent to USCIS within 60 days of a student’s I-20 program end date.
  13. Students may only begin working after receiving the Employment Authorization Document issued by USCIS on or after the start date on the EAD
  14. Follow the mail instructions on Form 765 to mail the application. Mail Documentation to Phoenix for Nebraska:
    PO Box 21281
    Phoenix, AZ 85036

If you have additional questions regarding OPT, email our office at or call 308-432-6376.

OPT Frequently Asked Questions

I do not have a job offer yet. Can I go ahead and apply for OPT?
Absolutely! You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. You are encouraged to apply as soon as you can (90 days before your Program End Date) as it can take months to process.

How many OPTs am I allowed?
You can do an OPT per completion of each educational level. When you complete your bachelor’s degree, you are eligible for up to 12 months of OPT. If you then go on to graduate school and complete your master’s degree, you are eligible for another 12 months of OPT.

When should I apply for OPT?
We strongly recommend that you begin the OPT application as soon as you can. Per federal regulations, you cannot apply sooner than 90 days prior to the Program End Date on your I-20.

I did a CPT during my studies. Does this impact my OPT eligibility?
Only if your CPT was full time for 12 months. Otherwise, it does not impact your OPT.

I have to indicate a start date for my OPT. What should that date be?
Your requested OPT start date must be no later than 60 days following your program end date on your I-20.

What is the absolute latest date I can submit my OPT application to the USCIS Lockbox Facility?
The USCIS Lockbox Facility must receive your application no sooner than 90 days prior to and no later than 60 days after the program end date on your Form I-20.

How long does it take USCIS to approve my application?
It varies. It can take up to twelve weeks and sometimes longer. Apply early to allow enough time to receive your EAD card.

Is there an OPT application fee?
Yes, it is $410.00 and must be paid by check or money order.

Can I track my application after it has been sent to USCIS?
Yes. Sign up for email updates on the Government dashboard

My OPT start date has arrived, but I still do not have a job! What do I do?
You can be unemployed for an aggregate period of 90 days. If all of your periods of unemployment added together total 90 days, you may be required to leave the United States. Please contact OIE for help if this happens.

Are there requirements regarding what type of jobs I can accept?
Your job must be related to your just-completed degree program.

Do I have to keep OIE updated while on OPT?
We will need a copy of the offer letter from your place of employment so we can place in your file and update your SEVIS record.

Can I begin work without my EAD card in hand?
No, you must have this in your possession. If you begin work before you receive your EAD card, you will be in serious violation of regulations. Once you receive your card, make a copy and provide it to OIE.

Can I travel outside the United States while my OPT application is pending?
Yes, you may travel outside the U.S. after you have filed for OPT. However, you may be asked to provide the USCIS Processing Center receipt proving that your application has been filed. If you to travel abroad make sure you have documentation from your employer confirming the job offer or actual employment. Otherwise, you assume the risk of not being allowed to re-enter the United States.

More questions?
E-mail us at
Call us at 308-432-6376.
Schedule an individual appointment.