For Students in F-1 Status
8, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security published an interim
final rule that implemented several important changes to F-1 OPT
rules and procedures. This page has been updated to reflect
those changes. While the provisions of this interim
rule took effect immediately, they are subject to change before
the final rule is published.
This page offers information regarding the 12-month period of OPT
for which most students in F-1 status are eligible. If you
are seeking information about the 17-month extension of OPT for
students in STEM fields, click
is Optional Practical Training?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of F-1 immigration
status that permits up to 12 months of off-campus employment for
the purpose of gaining practical experience in the student's chosen
field. While the student may work for any employer in the U.S.,
the job duties must be directly related to the student’s major
area of study and commensurate with the student’s educational
level. Practical training experiences that are unpaid are
also permitted within certain limitations. Click
here for more information about experiences that count
as "employment" for OPT purposes.
Once approved for OPT, the student may work for one or more employers
at the same time, and may change jobs as often as desired within
the OPT authorization period. The student may work unlimited hours
if the OPT is approved for full-time employment. The student
is required to report information about the location of their OPT
experience/employment and may not accrue an aggregate of 90 days
of unemployment while on post-completion OPT.
The student must have
been lawfully enrolled as a full-time student for at least one
full academic year (excluding time spent in an intensive English
program), and be in valid F-1 status at the time of application.
In limited circumstances, authorized part-time study may count
towards this eligibility requirement. The student should discuss
this with an ISSO advisor.
The student must be
in good academic standing with Boston University to be eligible
for OPT. Students who are currently on a leave of absence or
on suspension from their academic programs are not eligible
The majority of students
are limited to an aggregate of 12 months of full-time OPT per
progressive educational level, regardless of how many schools
they may have attended. For example, students who use 12 months
of OPT during a Master’s program are eligible for another
12 months of OPT if they move on to a Doctoral program, but
not if they move on to a second Master’s program.
Student majoring in STEM fields may qualify for an
extension of the OPT beyond the 12 month limit (see 17-Month
Extension of OPT for STEM Majors below).
If a student has engaged
in a total of 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical
Training (CPT) during a program of study, the student is not
eligible for OPT for that program.
for study at the Center for English Language and Orientation
Programs (CELOP) are not eligible for OPT.
- IMPORTANT NOTE: If you regain F-1
status with the use of a Form I-20 issued for “Initial Attendance,"
time accrued toward eligibility for OPT will begin when the new
F-1 status is granted upon arrival at the port of entry with the
new I-20. Any time previously spent in F-1 status will not
count toward eligibility. An application to change
immigration status to the F-1 classification from within the U.S.
may also affect eligibility for OPT. Students should discuss
eligibility with an ISSO advisor if considering OPT within the
first two full semesters after changing to F-1.
F-1 students do not have to use their entire 12 months of OPT at
one time. OPT is available on a part-time basis
(20 hours or fewer per week) or on a full-time
basis (more than 20 hours per week). Part-time OPT will be deducted
from the 12 months of available OPT at one-half the full-time rate
(i.e., if a student engages in part-time OPT for four (4) months
during the summer, then only two (2) months of OPT will be deducted
from the 12-month total).
Periods in which
students can engage in OPT
DHS now differentiates between pre-completion OPT (OPT
that begins and ends prior to the completion of the program of study)
and post-completion OPT (OPT that begins and ends after the completion
of the program of study). Students may no longer apply for
a single period of OPT that begins before they complete their program
and extends beyond their program end date.
or full-time OPT during the annual vacation (summer
break) and at other times when school is not in session provided
that the student is eligible to register and intends to continue
studies in the following term.
OPT while school is in session.
- Part-time or full-time OPT for graduate students who
are finishing thesis/dissertation research or
the equivalent, but have otherwise completed all course
requirements and continue to register for “certified full-time”
study. Students will need to provide a letter from their academic
department verifying completion of course requirements, and the
date they are expected to submit the final version of their thesis
or dissertation. Students in a graduate program should discuss
their "completion date" with their ISSO advisor as this
date may vary based on college, program of study and degree requirements.
- Full-time OPT
after completion of the program of study.
Students must be registered for graduation in the University
Information System (UIS), or provide a letter from their academic
department verifying the date of expected completion of the program
of study when they meet with their ISSO advisor to apply for OPT.
Students who do not graduate when expected must continue to register,
and must apply for an extension of their Form I-20 prior to the
expiration date on page one of the Form I-20.
Failure to graduate when expected may affect eligibility for OPT.
Students should consult with their ISSO advisor.
When to Apply
When students are eligible
to submit OPT applications to the USCIS differs depending on whether
they are applying for the OPT to begin prior to completion of studies,
Applying for Pre-Completion OPT: Students
may apply as early as 120 days before the date they wish to begin
OPT; however, they may not apply more than 90 days before meeting
the one full academic year enrollment requirement.
Students may submit their
OPT application up to 90 days prior to their program end date,
and up to 60 days after the program end date when applying for
post-completion OPT. Also, students may not apply for OPT more
than 90 days before meeting the one full academic year enrollment
USCIS must receive the
OPT application no more than 30 days after the ISSO advisor signs
the recommendation for OPT on the student's Form I-20.
We recommend that students apply as early as possible (three to
four months in advance of the intended OPT start, if they are eligible)
as it can take this long for the USCIS to reach a decision on the
Students may remain lawfully
in the U.S. while the OPT application is still pending (even if
beyond the end of the 60-day grace). Students should not travel
out of the U.S. following completion of studies until the OPT application
is approved. Students on post-completion OPT must present the Employment
Authorization Document (EAD) and proof of employment in order to
reenter the U.S. (See “Maintenance of F-1
Status for Students Engaging in OPT After Completion of Studies”
Filing the Post-Completion
OPT application during the 60-day grace period. Students
who choose to wait to file their OPT application after the completion
of their program must be aware that they cannot choose an OPT start
date later than the last day of their 60 day grace period and could
lose some of their OPT time if their application is not adjudicated
quickly. Students who choose to leave the U.S. prior
to submitting an application for OPT during the 60 day grace
period are not permitted to return to apply for OPT. If a student exits the
U.S. during this 60 day period, their F-1 status ends and they are
no longer eligible to submit an OPT application. A student
must apply for OPT from within the United Stated during the grace period.
How to Apply
Forms and Documentation
Download the following set of PDF documents to begin your application
(paper copies are also available at the ISSO):
This package includes the OPT application form (Form I-765), a
list of the documents you must prepare before meeting with your
ISSO advisor; photo specifications; and the OPT Acknowledgement
that you must sign before receiving an OPT recommendation from
for Graduation, if applying for Post-completion OPT
Students who are applying
for OPT to begin after completion of their program of study will
need to register for graduation with their academic department.
Students should consult with their academic advisor prior to applying
for OPT regarding questions concerning completion of all their degree
3. Schedule an Appointment with your ISSO Advisor
Students must schedule
an appointment with an ISSO advisor to process the OPT application
paperwork and to receive a new Form I-20 with a recommendation for
Mail the Application
Applications must be received
by USCIS no later than 30 days after the DSO recommends
the student for the OPT authorization.
After receiving a new Form
I-20 with a recommendation for the OPT authorization from the ISSO
advisor, students must mail the completed application to the USCIS
Lockbox facility at one of the the following addresses. After
the Lockbox facility processes the check and mails a receipt notice
to the student, the application will be forwarded to the appropriate
USCIS Service Center for adjudication.
||By Express Mail or Courier
2501 S. State
We recommend sending the
application by an overnight or express courier service (U.S. Express
Mail, Federal Express, DHL or UPS ) or via the U.S. Post Office
via Certified Mail with a Return Receipt requested to provide confirmation
In the event that the application is lost or if ISSO follow-up is
required, it is very important that students keep official verification
that their applications were mailed and received by the USCIS. It
is also important to provide the ISSO advisor with the receipt number
(usually beginning with “EAC“) provided on the USCIS Notice of Action
of Application Acceptance (new service as of February 2010):
If you would like an email and/or text message sent to you
informing you that USCIS has accepted your application, you may
submit a Form G-1145
with our OPT application. Please be aware that this is NOT
a subsititute for proof that the application was delivered to USCIS.
If USCIS were to lose your application before opening the envelope
and completing data entry, your signed Return Receipt from the Post
Office or other shipper's proof of delivery would be required to
establish that you attempted to file your application in a timely
Processing of the OPT Application
of Action or Request for Evidence
Students should receive an official Notice of Action (Receipt Notice)
from USCIS approximately two to four weeks after mailing the application.
This notice will confirm official receipt of the application and
assign a case number to the pending application.
In the course
of adjudicating the application, USCIS may send a blue Form I-797
“Request for Evidence” to an applicant when an item
in the above checklist is missing, or USCIS requires additional
information before making a decision on an application. If such
a letter is received, students should contact the ISSO immediately
Checking the Status of the
Students may check their case status on-line at https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/Dashboard.do.
Students who still have questions after checking the case status
on-line should contact the ISSO. It may take up to 90 days to reach
a decision on the case. If the application takes longer than 90
days from the date on the official receipt notice, students may
contact the ISSO immediately to inquire about procedures to request
a temporary employment authorization card.
of OPT Application
USCIS has no provision for canceling an OPT recommendation after
adjudication. For students who have applied for OPT to begin after
completion of study, failure to complete the program of study as
expected (due to an "incomplete" or failing grade, or
otherwise failing to meet graduation requirements) can result in
permanent loss of OPT for the student's current level of education.
Students who have not yet mailed their application for OPT, may
request cancellation or change of dates on their OPT recommendation
through a second appointment with their ISSO advisor. Students who
have a pending application for OPT (not yet approved) and who learn
that they may not graduate as expected, should contact the ISSO
immediately to determine if cancellation of their OPT is still possible.
All students are advised to confirm their eligibility for graduation
with their academic advisor or department prior to applying for
OPT, since change or cancellation of an OPT application at a later
time may not be possible.
Once the application is approved, USCIS will mail the student an
Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to the address the student
indicated on the Form I-765. Students must bring this card
and their I-20 to the ISSO so the EAD can be copied for
the file and the I-20 can be endorsed for travel. It is illegal
to begin employment before receiving the EAD or before the start
date on the card.
of F-1 Status for Students Engaging in OPT after Completion of Studies
after Completion of Program
Students are not eligible to continue working on-campus at Boston
University after the completion of their program unless they have
received an EAD and their OPT dates cover the dates of employment.
Students who intend to work on campus after completion of their
program will no longer be paid through the Student Employment Office
and will need to complete a new I-9 form at the ISSO during designated
walk-in hours in order to be paid as an employee/scholar paid through
the Office of Payroll.
Students are required to
report the following information to the ISSO through the entire
period of OPT. Failure to report properly could be considered
a violation of F-1 immigration status.
OPT Location/Employer Reporting Requirement
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now requires all students
in F-1 status who have been granted Optional Practical Training
employment authorization to report the name and address of their
OPT location/employer. Students must also report if their
employment is interrupted at any point.
Click here for reporting instructions.
of Your Name and Address
Students are required to report any change of their name or U.S.
address (within 10 days of moving) to Boston University for as
long as they remain in F-1 status. The ISSO has arranged for students
on OPT to maintain access to the Student Link throughout their
period of OPT. Report any address changes in the Immigration-U.S.
address field in the Student Link (http://www.bu.edu/studentlink).
Report name changes through the ISSO Contact web
page or by sending an email message to email@example.com.
Failure to report a name or address change could be considered
a violation of F-1 status and may result in termination of the
Students approved for post-completion OPT may not accrue
more than an aggregate of 90 days of unemployment during the entire
12-month OPT period. Students must be engaged in at least
20 hours of OPT activity per week; periods with activity of less
than 20 hours per week will be counted toward unemployment accrual.
It is strongly recommended that students keep thorough and accurate
records of their OPT experience/employment in case they are ever
required to show proof of their OPT activities.
There are no restrictions on the maximum hours a students may work
once they have been authorized for post-completion OPT; they may
work part-time (at least 20 hours per week), full-time or overtime,
and may work for multiple employers. Students may only work after
receipt of the EAD, only for the dates as specified on the EAD,
and only in the field of study related to the degree on which the
OPT was recommended. Click
here for more information about experiences that count
as "employment" for OPT purposes.
Students should consult with an ISSO advisor BEFORE traveling outside
the U.S. if they have applied for OPT to commence after completion
of their studies. Students should not travel outside the U.S. after
completing their studies unless they have received their EAD. In
order to reenter the U.S. in F-1 status during OPT after completion
of studies, students will need their EAD, Form I-20 with the OPT
endorsement, a travel signature less than six months old signed
after receiving the EAD, a valid F-1 visa, and a valid passport.
Students should also carry proof of their employment or other valid
OPT activity, or a job offer. Students who have not secured OPT
employment in their field are advised not to travel abroad after
degree completion as they may not be readmitted to the U.S. in F-1
from the U.S. or Entry to the U.S. in a New Immigration Status
Authorization for OPT is automatically terminated if the student
is physically absent from the U.S. for more than five months or
if the student is admitted to the U.S. in another immigration status
(such as entry as a B-2 visitor).
Beginning a new
program of study
Authorization for OPT is automatically terminated if the student
officially transfers their SEVIS record another school or begins
study at another educational level.
Options after Post-Completion Optional Practical Training
17-Month Extension of OPT for
Students who graduate
with certain majors in the fields of science, technology, engineering
and mathematics (STEM) may be eligible for an extension of their
OPT authorization. Click
here to learn more about this limited benefit.
H-1B Cap-Gap Extension of Status and Work Authorization
A student's F-1 status and
OPT employment authorization will be extended if the student is
the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition requesting change
of status and an employment start date of October 1st of the following
fiscal year. This benefit applies to all students on post-completion
OPT. The extension of status and work authorization automatically
terminates upon the rejection, denial or revocation of the H-1B
petition filed on the student's behalf. Students should
make an appointment with their ISSO advisor -- prior to the expiration
of their OPT -- to discuss how they can take advantage of this benefit.
Click here for more information about the cap-gap provisions.
60-Day Grace Period
Once students have completed their period of post-completion OPT,
they are permitted to remain in the United States for up to sixty
days in order to prepare for departure from the U.S. Students are
not permitted to continue employment during this period. While travel
within the U.S. is permitted during the grace period, departure
from the country and reentry in F-1 status is not permitted during
this time. Once a student departs the U.S., the grace period is
Change of Program
Students who intend to continue their education immediately following
completion of OPT must obtain an I-20 for the new program of study
within 60 days of the end of their OPT and must begin the new program
of study within five (5) months of the end of the OPT. If the program
of study will begin more than five months after the end of the OPT,
the student will need to leave the U.S. within the 60-day grace
period and request a new "initial attendance" I-20 in
order to reenter to begin the new program of study.
to another Immigration Status
Students who intend to remain in the U.S. following completion of
OPT and whose primary purpose will not be full-time study
may qualify to apply for a change of immigration status. The ISSO
advisor may be able to give general information about eligibility
for change to another nonimmigrant status (such as H-1B or TN temporary
nonimmigrant worker categories, or F-2 dependent category). General
information about immigration status can be found on the USCIS web
site at www.uscis.gov.
Note of Caution Regarding Illegal Employment
While USCIS regulations allow OPT as an employment benefit, working
without proper authorization is a serious violation of nonimmigrant
status. Students must wait until they receive their EAD before beginning
employment. Although the ISSO can advise students on immigration
policy, it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to comply
with all USCIS regulations that pertain to their lawful F-1 status