Frequently Asked Questions about Optional Practical Training (OPT)

1. What is OPT?
2. How do I apply for OPT? How is my application processed?
3. Receiving mail about your OPT Application from a USCIS Lockbox Facility
4. Your SEVIS responsibilities while you are on OPT
5. Health insurance coverage while on OPT
6. OPT and Travel

Preparing an application for OPT is complicated. We hope this list of Frequently Asked Questions will help you.

When you have any questions about any aspect of employment authorization, there are a number of ways to seek guidance from an ISSS advisor"

1. E-mail us at
2. Come to Advising Walk-In Hours from 10-11:45 a.m. Mondays and Tuesdays or from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays

1. What is OPT:

Q. What is Optical Practical Training (OPT) and when do I use it?

A. OPT is work authorization for employment related to your field of study. OPT is a benefit of valid F-1 visa status. To be eligible, you must have completed one full academic year of study. Most F-1 students use this type of work authorization after they graduate.

Q. What’s the difference between Pre-Completion and Post-Completion OPT?

A. Pre-Completion OPT means OPT authorization before you graduate.

Pre-Completion OPT ends when you graduate.

Post-Completion OPT means OPT authorization after you graduate. It has a maximum duration of 12 months. Post-Completion OPT 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).

If you are a master’s or PhD student and you have completed all coursework except a final project, thesis or dissertation, you may be able to apply for Post-Completion OPT before you graduate. Contact ISSS staff at if this is your situation.

Q. Do I need a job offer to apply for OPT?

A. No. You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT.

Q. Does my CPT affect my OPT?

A. Maybe. Although CPT days are not subtracted from the amount of time available for OPT employment,

if you accrue 365 days or more of full-time CPT, you become ineligible for OPT. (Note: Part-time CPT does not affect eligibility for OPT). It is difficult for master’s degree and undergraduate students to accrue this much CPT but you need to be aware of this.

Q. Can I get 12 more months of practical training after I complete another degree?

A. Yes. A student is eligible for 12 months of practical training for EACH change to a higher educational level. For example, a student in F-1 status who enters a bachelor’s degree program of study is eligible for up to 12 months of OPT upon completion of the bachelor’s degree and then ANOTHER 12 months upon completion of the next higher degree (master’s).

2. How do I apply for OPT? How is my application processed?

Q. When should I apply for OPT?

A. We recommend that you begin the application process for OPT three months before you wish to begin working.

Q. Why? What’s the application process?

Processing of your OPT application has two steps:

Step 1: You begin the process by submitting an OPT Academic Advisor’s form to the ISSS office. It may take seven to 10 business days (approximately two weeks) for us to issue your new I-20 endorsed for OPT. You will receive an e-mail when your updated I-20 is ready.

You will need to gather all necessary documents (see your OPT checklist) for the application packet. You can come to Advising Walk-In Hours with your completed application packet if you would like an advisor to look over your OPT application before you mail it.

Step 2: Mail your complete OPT application to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox Facility with jurisdiction over the location of your residence (see the directions “Where to mail your OPT Application”)

Q. Where do I mail my application?

A. To one of the USCIS Lockbox Facilities located throughout the United States that has jurisdiction over your residence. “Your residence” is defined as the current U.S. address you indicated on the I-765 Form.

Q. What should I put as the start date for OPT?

A. That depends on your plans. Your requested OPT start date must be no later than 60 days following your program completion date.

Latest possible start-dates for OPT:
January 2014 (Winter 2014) graduates: March 26, 2014
May 2014 (Spring 2014) graduates: July 17, 2014
August 2014 graduates: October 14, 2013
December 2014 graduates: February 19, 2015

Q. What is the deadline for sending in my application to USCIS Lockbox Facility?

For post-completion OPT, the application must be received at the USCIS Lockbox Facility no sooner than 90 days prior to and no later than 60 days after the program completion date

For pre-completion OPT, the application must be received no sooner than 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year

Important note: For both pre- and post-completion OPT, your application must be received within 30 days of your OPT I-20 issue date!

Q. How long will the application approval process at USCIS take?

A. Processing time at USCIS Centers is highly variable and difficult to predict. It can take up to 12 weeks and sometimes longer. Therefore, you are urged to apply early to allow sufficient time for you to receive your EAD card.

Q. Can't I apply in person at a USCIS District Office?

A. No. EAD cards for students are not accepted at USCIS District Offices. Cards are only processed by mail at an USCIS Lockbox Facility.

Q. What about the OPT application fee?

A. The USCIS application fee for Post-Completion OPT is $380.

3. Receiving mail about your OPT Application from a USCIS Lockbox Facility:

Q. I may be moving while my application is pending. Can I give the ISSS Office as my mailing address?

A. Yes. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will mail EAD cards to an office address at a university. If you will be moving before you receive your EAD card then you will want to have the EAD card sent to you at a friend or relative’s address or at the ISSS office address. Be sure to make a copy of form I-765 before you send your OPT application packet to the USCIS Lockbox Facility.

To use a friend or relative’s address, complete form I-765, by showing your mailing address like this:

Your Name
c/o (the name of your relative or friend)
Street Address
City, State Zip Code

To use the ISSS office address, show the mailing address on form I-765 like this:

Your Name
Binghamton Univ Intl Stu Office
PO Box 6000
Binghamton, NY 13902-6000

Q. What happens after I mail my application to US Citizenship and Immigration Services?

A. You can request e-mail and text notification of the receipt of your OPT application from USCIS. Complete Form G-1145 and attach it to your I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. Approximately two to three weeks after your application is received you will receive an alert message with a Receipt Number that you can use to track your application.

Q. Can I track my application after it has been sent to USCIS?

A. Yes, you can sign up for e-mail updates online.

You will find very general updates on this website. You can also sign up for email alerts about your application.

4. Your SEVIS responsibilities while you are on OPT:

Q: What is my visa status when I am on OPT?

A: You are still in F-1 status when you are on OPT. OPT is a benefit of your valid F-1 status and you must continue to follow all of all the regulations that govern your visa status. Be sure to read the ISSS BU-News every week so you are aware of any changes to the regulations governing that may affect your immigration status.

Q: What’s this about a 90-Day unemployment Rule?

A. For students authorized for Post-Completion OPT there is a limit to the number of days you can be unemployed. If your periods of unemployment added together total 90 days you may need to leave the United States. If you have close to 90 days of unemployment you will want to seek guidance from an ISSS advisor, contact us at

The 90-Day Unemployment Rule is in effect on the start date of your OPT. Remember, once your EAD card is issued the 90-Day Unemployment Rule affects you even if you are traveling outside of the United States.

Learn more about the 90-Day Unemployment Rule online.

Q: What kind of job can I accept:

A: Your job must be related to your current degree program. Although you may have received a degree in the past, you cannot use this as a basis for your OPT employment.

You can review the list of possible employment activities online to learn about the kinds of activity related to your degree that USCIS would consider as employment.

Q. What do I need to do while on OPT? Do I have to let you know where I am working?

A. You are required to report to the ISSS when you start and end employment. You can use the webform to update us. Be sure to update your information immediately whenever there is a change.

Q. I have a job offer but my EAD card has not arrived yet. Can I begin work?

A. NO! In order to begin employment, you must have your EAD card in hand!

Q. Can I work at any job with OPT authorization?

A. No! OPT authorization is only for employment related to your field of study. Working in an unrelated job is a serious violation of your F-1 status. Do not put your valid status at risk.

Q. Once I receive my EAD card, is there anything else I should do?

A. Yes. Bring your EAD card to the ISSS office so a photocopy can be made for your file. Note: Employment cannot begin until the date authorized for practical training on the EAD and you have your EAD card “in hand.”

Q. I have already received my EAD card. I will not graduate as expected. My OPT end date is later than the ending date on my I-20. Do I need to file for an extension since my OPT end date is after my new graduation date?

A. YES! You must file for an extension if you will not graduate before the program of study completion date on page 1, section 5 on your SEVIS I-20. The OPT end date is only related to the OPT employment authorization. These are two separate issues.

Q. What about change of address or change of name while I am on post-completion OPT?

A. While on Post-Graduation OPT, students must continue to report any name or address changes to the ISSS, because the ISSS continues to maintain the student’s F-1 record until OPT ends. Be sure to update your information immediately whenever there is a change by using this webform.

5. Health insurance coverage while on OPT:

Q. Do I need to have health insurance when I am on OPT?

A. Yes. If you are unemployed or if your employer does not yet cover you for health insurance, you will need to arrange to continue the health insurance coverage through the SUNY International Health Insurance. You can arrange for your coverage to continue at the student rate directly through the Office of International Student and Scholar Services. This is very helpful if your employer does not provide health insurance coverage, or if there is a several months waiting period before health insurance benefits will commence.

If you have question about health insurance while on OPT, contact us at

6. OPT and travel

If you have questions regarding travel while on OPT, visit the following links for detailed information:


 Office of International Student and Scholar Services
Division of Student Affairs
Binghamton University
State University of New York
PO Box 6000
Binghamton, NY 13902-6000
Visit our webpage:

Updated 12/2013

Last Updated: 8/24/16