OPT | Optional Practical Training

Post-Graduation Work Authorization for F-1 Students

OPT stands for Optional Practical Training and is a benefit of the F-1 student visa. OPT is work authorization for F-1 students after graduation. Students are eligible to apply for OPT the semester that they will graduate. OPT allows 1 year (up to 3 years for STEM) work authorization anywhere within the US after graduation but only within the student’s field of study/major.

Learn more below:

OPT Regulations

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment opportunity for F-1 students, available after the completion of each degree level – BS, MS, PhD.
  • Employment should be in the field of study. In addition to a full time position, part-time work and/or internship opportunities are also permitted.
  • Students must obtain employment 90 days after their OPT start date (the date chosen for their I-20). Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during OPT.
  • OPT is for 12 months, or a 17 month extension for STEM students.
  • STEM extensions should be filed 120 days before OPT ends.
  • Students MUST attend an OPT Processing Event to apply for OPT.
  • After the OPT application has been submitted students SHOULD NOT leave the U.S. until they receive their OPT card. Students who have to leave will forfeit their application and will need to re-apply.
  • Students may travel while on OPT. They must have a signed I-20, valid passport, F-1 visa, I-94, and a job offer to re-enter the U.S.
  • OPT applications typically take 3 months to process though 120 days is the time allotted.
  • First students will receive a receipt letter with a reference number. Liz Smith will send an email when the letter arrives and it is important that students pick up and save this letter. This receipt will enable you to track your application status online.
  • All students on OPT are required to report to the Director of International Student and Scholar Services within 10 days of:
    • Any change in name or address
    • The name and address of their employer
    • Any change to the name and address of the employer
    • Any interruption of such employment (laid off dates)
  • Students on OPT are reported to USCIS by GVSU.
  • Students on OPT are eligible to take classes at any institution in the U.S. as long as they are also working.
  • If a student has concluded their OPT status, and is pursuing another degree, they must contact PIC so that PIC may transfer their SEVIS record.
  • Students on OPT are required to complete tax forms by April 15th.
  • Students interested in the H-1 process should attend the Legal Seminar on working after graduation hosted each semester by the Padnos International Center.

OPT Application

The Padnos International Center's International Student Services (ISS) hosts an OPT Processing Event biannually in September and January. The date varies based on the date of graduation each semester. Students graduating in the summer should contact ISS at the beginning of May. 

OPT Application Guide Fall 2021

Click for PDF of OPT Application Guide

OPT Employment Reporting

Report your OPT Employment

Please report your OPT Employment on the GVSU OPT Portal found here. 

STEM Extension

STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering Mathematics. Students should check the ICE Website's STEM List to see if their major is considered as STEM and therefore are eligible for a 24 month OPT STEM Extension.

Request STEM I-20

Students wishing to apply for the OPT STEM Extension must complete the following information and submit it to the OPT STEM PORTAL

  1. Submit a scanned copy of the I-983 form. This must be completed by you and your supervisor. You should keep the original.
  2. Your name, current address and phone number
  3. Your employer's name, address, and E-verify number 
  4. Your Supervisor's name, email address and phone number
  5. Your job title
  6. How your position relates to what you studied at GVSU
  7. Dates of current OPT Authorization
  8. First date of employment at current employer

Once GVSU receives this information, we will review and process your new I-20.  We will send the I-20 to you. Then, you will need to complete the information for your STEM application for USCIS

STEM Application

STEM Application Checklist

  • Completed I-765 form: On # 20 write ( C ) ( 3 ) ( C )
  • Completed G-1145 form
  • Check or money order for $410.00 (pay to the order of: USCIS)
  • Passport photos – 2 please!
  • Copies of the following documents:  (Keep your originals)
  1.             New I-20
  2.             Passport identification page
  3.             F-1 visa
  4.             I-94 (you probably need to print a copy of your electronic I-94)
  5.             Transcript
  6.             Diploma
  7.             Current EAD Card

Make copies of all the items above including your method of payment and mail your application packet with tracking to this address:

USCIS Chicago Lockbox

U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

STEM Employment Reporting

Every 6 months, you are required to update GVSU and SEVIS on your OPT STEM employment.  Please be sure to update your SEVIS Portal as well as updating the GVSU OPT STEM Portal found here.   If you have questions, please email Kate Stoetzner, stoetznk@gvsu.edu 


Department of Immigration & Citizenship Enforcement (2/19/2009)

Department of Homeland Security Announcement 

US Citizenship and Immigration Services Q and A