Regular Optional Practical Training (OPT)

What is OPT?

Graduation cap & diploma

There are two types of OPT. This page discusses Regular OPT; for information about STEM OPT, please click here. Regular OPT is temporary employment authorized by Immigration for F-1 visa holders for 12 months. It must be directly related to your major and gives you a chance to put your classroom knowledge into real world practice.

Required OPT Workshop

After watching the video: Include your workshop completion date when you submit you OPT application for review.

OPT Application Review

OPT Forms

Application for Regular OPT

Fill out online first, then print and sign.

OPT SAMPLE Online Application

Use this as a guide for filling out the application.

OPT Employment Update Form

Submit any time there is a change in your employment

Online OPT Application

USCIS announced that Optional Practical Training applications (Regular and STEM OPT) can be submitted online via

You will receive the receipt notice immediately; however, the processing time for EAD cards will not change. USCIS will continue to receive and process paper OPT and STEM OPT applications.


  • You will still be required email your application to our office at to review and generate the OPT I-20. You will have to save/download a completed I-765 form to send to our office for review.
  • The online filing requires the same documentation—it will be uploaded to the USCIS portal. The OPT I-20 will have to be signed, scanned and uploaded. Electronic signatures on I-20s are not accepted.

Application Checklist:

  • OPT Request Form and responsibilities sheet (submitted to the VISA office but not to USCIS)
  • Online I-765 form AFTER creating and select FILE A FORM ONLINE.
  • OPT I-20 issued by ODU, signed with ink. No electronic signatures.
  • Copies of biographical information page(s) from your passport
  • Copy of most recent visa stamp
  • I-94 arrival record OR I-94 card (from a pre-May 2013 entry)
  • Copies of any previous EADs
  • Two passport-style photos. Photos must be JPG, JPEG or PNG.
  • Payment Options: credit/debit/online checking account. You will know when you payment is accepted immediately.
  • See the OPT Online example to make sure you properly prepare your application

Frequently Asked Questions

Your OPT application should be submitted to the VISA office up to 120 days before your program end date and no later than 30 days after your program end date. Once you collect your application and new I-20 from VISA, be sure to send/submit it immediately to US Citizenship & Immigration Services. Your application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the I-20's issuance.

Yes, with some exceptions for Ph.D. students who have completed their coursework (discussed in detail in the OPT workshop). You must have already applied for graduation with the Registrar.

VISA's processing time for OPT applications—once all required documentation is received and is verified to be complete—is up to ten business days.

USCIS processing time varies and can take 2-5 months. We will discuss processing timeline trends in the OPT workshop.

You can apply for post-completion OPT before graduation once you have successfully completed all your coursework. Schedule an appointment with your immigration advisor to discuss the details and timeline.

Sometimes, USCIS will contact you because they can't read something clearly, your pictures do not meet requirements, you haven't submitted all I-20s or some other reason. This is called a Request for Evidence (RFE). Simply respond with what they are requesting; if you want VISA to be sure you are responding properly, you can scan the RFE in PDF format to our office e-mail address. Any time you submit something to USCIS, be sure to keep a scan/copy with your important papers.

Unfortunately, you will have to wait until you receive your EAD card. You must not work unless your EAD card is with you and the date on the card has arrived.

USCIS does not permit students on OPT to be degree-seeking in any program. If you wish to begin another degree, you will need to get a new I-20 and be prepared to stop work when the I-20 is issued.

However, you can be a non-degree student taking one or two classes for your professional or personal development.

No, you do not need to have a job to apply for OPT. You may have a maximum of 90 days of unemployment on Regular OPT; this time counts both inside and outside the U.S. In your final semester, you should be seeking advice and resources from Career Development Services with the goal of beginning your OPT upon graduation (for most students).

Yes. When you first receive employment and any time there is a change in your employment, you must submit the OPT Employment Update form within five days. You do not need a new I-20 when you update your employment information.

To qualify as being employed (i.e. to stop count for the 90 days of unemployment), you must work at least 20 hours per week. There is no maximum to the number of hours you can work.

Yes. You may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern while on OPT where it does not violate labor laws. Check with the Human Resources office at the company or a labor lawyer to verify this. The volunteer work must be at least 20 hours per week. You must still obtain a letter--for your own records, not for submission to VISA--from your supervisor for the volunteer position to verify that you are volunteering at least 20 hours per week. Volunteer positions must be within your field of study and details submitted via the OPT Employment Update form.

Per USCIS, before the end of day 90 of your unemployment, you must do one of the following:

  • Leave the U.S. and continue your job search from your home country (but return in another visa status)
  • Return to school for a new degree program (but lose OPT)
  • Change to another visa status

When you receive your EAD card, please send us a copy to Your OPT is granted on an ODU I-20 and, therefore, we are the office who updates your F1 record. Current information is required to properly maintain your status. The following pieces of information must always be current while on OPT:

  • SEVIS U.S. Address
  • SEVIS Home Country Address
  • Any change in employment
  • Name changes
  • Change of status
  • Any visa stamp or passport updates

IMPORTANT NOTE: If your address changes while your application is pending with USCIS, you must contact them at the phone number found at the bottom of your OPT receipt.

While USCIS is processing your Regular OPT application, we recommend you not leave the U.S. because they may contact you for additional information. If you aren't here, you won't be able to provide it.

A travel signature is required just as when you are studying but you can only return to the U.S. on OPT if it is to begin or resume a job. You must have a job offer letter and, if you were previously working the company, pay stubs as well. Your OPT I-20 will have your first travel signature; beyond that, you must submit your I-20 (and your dependents', if applicable) to VISA.

If you are leaving the U.S., you must get an F-1 visa to re-enter for your OPT. Special travel conditions apply for trips to Mexico, Canada and islands adjacent to the U.S. Most students' visa stamps will expire while they are on OPT--or even before--but stamps are only required to enter the US, not to stay.

If your job is not obviously directly related to your major, ask your supervisor to write a letter on company letterhead to justify the connection between your education and your position. Keep this letter for future reference. [In this example, the student is actually the accountant for the restaurant chain.]

No. Your OPT I-20 is valid together with your EAD. Your OPT I-20 expires when your EAD expires. The second page of your I-20 should have the information regarding your work authorization.

Yes. You can work in any position that applies to your major—as long as you submit an OPT Employment Update for each position.

You need your OPT I-20 and EAD to do this. If you don't yet have your EAD, you can request a letter from VISA and take that along with your OPT I-20 to the DMV along with their other required documents.

No, but we strongly recommend you maintain insurance on a month-to-month basis until you get a job where it is offered to you. You are eligible to continue with ODU's insurance; please contact VISA to request the form.