Optional Practical Training (OPT)

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

  • OPT is off-campus employment authorization that allows F-1 students to gain work experience in the major/field of study in which they are currently studying.
  • You may use OPT during (pre-completion) or after (post-completion) your studies. NOTE: while school is in session, you may apply to do part-time OPT employment only.  After the completion of ALL requirements for your course of study, you may apply only for full-time OPT employment.
  • The maximum amount of work you are permitted is 12 months of full-time employment for each higher educational level you pursue in the U.S. If you work part-time (less than 20 hours per week) before graduation (pre-completion OPT), your work time accrues at ½ rate (for instance, if you work part-time for six months, you’ve only used three months of your OPT).
  • Certain majors in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields also qualify for a 24-month extension of OPT after completing their post-completion OPT. Please refer to the STEM OPT page for more information.

Pre-Completion OPT

Pre-Completion OPT is Optional Practical Training that you can apply for while you are a student (before you graduate). The application process for pre-completion OPT is the same as the process for post-completion OPT. The only difference is that you must select “pre-completion” in MyGlobal Portal when completing the OPT request and you must select “pre-completion” on the I-765 Employment Application.

Please note the following about pre-completion OPT:

  • Pre-completion OPT must be related to your field of study.
  • Must be part time (20 hours or less) during the semesters. It can be full time during the breaks.
  • Pre-completion OPT is deducted from the total 12 months of Post completion OPT at a 50% rate. For example, if you get 12 months of pre completion OPT, then you are eligible for to apply 6 months of post completion OPT.
  • If you decide to apply for post-completion OPT after graduation you will need to submit another application for the I-20 and submit another application to USCIS (with another application fee payment).
  • You cannot start working until pre-completion OPT is approved by USCIS and you have the EAD in hand
  • Once you request the OPT dates and the I-20 is issued, the employment start and end dates cannot be changed.

The request for the I-20 to apply for pre-completion OPT is available on MyGlobal Portal.

How Can I Qualify for It?
  • You must have been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year.
  • You must be able to describe how the type of work you are seeking directly relates to your major. You do not have to have a job offer to apply for OPT, but if you are applying for pre-completion of studies OPT, it is wise that you be as sure as possible of a job so that you don’t waste any of your 12 months of OPT time.
  • If you have already used 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training, you are not eligible for any OPT.

How Do I Apply for OPT?

The first thing to do when thinking about applying for OPT is to attend a required OPT workshop. After attending an OPT workshop, you may submit your OPT request in MyGlobal Portal.

Once received through MyGlobal Portal, your OPT request will be reviewed by the Office of Global Engagement. When approved, you will receive an “OPT requested” I-20. This new I-20 indicates that one of the Montclair State University Designated School Officials has entered an OPT request for you in SEVIS. You have 30 days from when the OPT request is entered in SEVIS to submit the online OPT application and supporting required documents to USCIS.

I-765 Online Filing:

Once you have the OPT I-20 in hand, you can begin to fill out the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, online. https://www.uscis.gov/i-765

    1. Gather and scan required documents (listed below):
  • Passport style Photograph. Photos must be taken within the last 30 days and cannot have previously been used for a passport, visa, or other US government-related application.
  • I-94 record. Download your electronic I-94 from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/
    • Do not scan your travel history
  • One of the following:
    • Copy of previously issued EAD OR Copy of your Government issued ID (passport biographical page clearly showing your name, date of birth)
  • F-1 visa from passport (even if expired) or change of status approval notice from USCIS
  • Most recent I-20 with OPT recommendation on page 2. I-20 must be issued less than 30 days old. Sign and date page 1 of I-20 before scanning. Do not electronically sign the I-20. Complete the OPT application through MyGlobal Portal and receive OPT I-20 prior to submitting the form I-765 online. Failure to submit the OPT I-20 will result in a denial of the OPT authorization.
  • All previous I-20s. Include I-20s from previous college/university, if applicable. This should include I-20 with CPT recommendation and previous OPT recommendation, if applicable.

Do not file the Form I-765 online until you have received your updated Form I-20 recommending OPT from the Office of Global Engagement.

Have digital versions of all required documents ready in a folder to drag and drop into the USCIS system. Make sure the files are clear and readable, not encrypted or password-protected, in English, and in one of the following accepted file formats: JPG, JPEG, PDF, TIF, or TIFF.

    1. Create an online account https://myaccount.uscis.gov.
    1. Select ‘Application for Employment Authorization (I-765). It is near the bottom of the list.
    1. Complete Form I-765
    1. Pay the I-765 fee and submit the completed application

REMEMBER: You may not begin working, volunteering or interning until you have received your EAD card, AND not until the start date printed on the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

OPT Application Frequently Asked Questions

When should I apply?

The earliest that you can submit an OPT application is 90 days before your program end date. The latest is 60 days after your program end date (your grace period). It is recommended that you apply earlier rather than later.

How long does it take to receive a decision from USCIS?

USCIS can take up to 90 days to process your application and reach a decision. It is recommended that you apply as soon as you are eligible to!

What happens if I apply late?
  • You may not get the OPT start date you requested. If the application is pending past your requested start date, you will not be able to begin working. You will be able to start working on the start date that is listed on your EAD card, which could be later than you initially intended.
  • Depending on how late you apply, you may not get the full 12 months that you were initially eligible for due to the USCIS processing time. By law, post-completion OPT must end by the 14th month after your program end date, so if the OPT period goes beyond that mark due to late adjudication, the OPT end date will be cut short to the 14th month mark.
What should my OPT start date be?

This is entirely up to you, but your chosen start date MUST begin within your 60 day grace period (the 60 days from your program end date).

Can I travel while my OPT application is pending?

If your application is pending but you have not yet completed your academic program (the end date on your I-20), you are free to travel. If your program has ended and your OPT application is pending, it is not recommended that you travel until you are approved and have your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card in hand.

Can I apply for OPT even if I don’t have a job lined up already?

Yes! You are not required to have a job at the time of application. Students receive 90 consecutive days (including weekends) of “unemployment” time within the 12-months listed on the EAD card. This allows you to still keep your status while searching for a job. If you are still unable to find employment during this time and you run out of unemployment time, your OPT will automatically expire. 

My OPT Application Was Approved (or Denied), Now What?

What should I do after I am approved and receive my EAD card?

Once you receive your OPT approval, you will be mailed an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card – please note that EAD cards can take additional time to be mailed. Remember to make a copy of the Approval Notice and EAD (front and back) for your records. You are not authorized to begin employment until the start date on the EAD has been reached, even if you have the card in hand. 

If you have a job, you may begin working on the start date that is reflected on the EAD card. You MUST submit an OPT employment update through MyGlobal Portal so that the Office of Global Engagement team can enter it into SEVIS. Entering your employment information will stop your unemployment time from accruing.

What happens if I am approved for OPT but I don’t have a job yet?

Don’t worry! Students are given 90 days of unemployment time to use if they are approved for OPT and do not yet have a job. Unemployment will start the day that you are approved for OPT if you do not submit your employment information to MyGlobal Portal. You have 90 consecutive days (including weekends) to find employment. Once your employment is entered, your unemployment time will stop accruing. If you lose your employment, you must let us know, and your unemployment time will pick up from where it left off.

Does my OPT employment have to be paid, or can it be unpaid?

For the first 12 month period of Post-Completion OPT, the employment does not have to be paid employment. Employment can include self-employment, an unpaid internship, or volunteering in a position directly related to your academic field. Please note the regulations on volunteer work

For the 24-Month STEM Extension, employment must be traditional paid employment with a company that is enrolled in the E-Verify program.

What happens if I still don’t have a job after 90 days?

The SEVIS database automatically calculates unemployment days based on the information students submit to MyGlobal Portal. If a job is not entered into SEVIS by the end of the 90 days, there is a chance that your record will auto-terminate. 

Students who exceed the 90-day unemployment limit begin to accrue unlawful presence, which may jeopardize access to future U.S. immigration benefits, including readmission to the United States. OGE recommends that students depart the United States and contact their DSO to close their SEVIS record in order to avoid accruing unlawful presence.

What happens if my OPT application is rejected?

If your OPT application is rejected BEFORE the end of your 60 day grace period, you do have the option to reapply. If you apply late, and your OPT application is rejected after your 60 day grace period, your SEVIS record will automatically be completed and you will not have the option to reapply. At this time, you will be required to leave the country. 


Any other questions? Please contact oge@montclair.edu