Skip to main content

Fall 2020

Read MassArt's plan: Return to Learning & Making

You are here

Work Authorization

Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment directly related to a student’s major field of study, and it may be used before or after completion of an academic program. OPT may be used for 12 months for each degree level. OPT may be used before or after the completion of a program but it is advisable to use only after graduation. Students on post-completion OPT are limited to 90 days of unemployment. Students with certain majors may be eligible for an additional 24 month STEM extension of post-completion OPT.

MassArt must recommend OPT for the student. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will provide final approval and issue an (Employment Authorization Document) EAD. The applicant must have an EAD card before they can begin OPT employment.

  • Must have completed one full academic year of full-time study
  • Employment must be in the student’s major field of study
  • Must not have not used 12 months or more of full-time CPT (Curricular Practical Training)

Note: Students applying for Post-completion OPT will lose their OPT eligibility if they depart the U.S. during their grace period and USCIS has not received their OPT application prior to departure. Students will be unable to return until OPT is approved.

opt categories
  1. Pre-completion (rare)
    • Academic Year
      • During fall and/or spring semesters, the student has not completed required coursework. On- and off-campus work combined cannot exceed a total of 20 hours per week
    • Vacation Period
      • Authorization may be part-time or full-time
  2. Post-completion (most common)
    • After completion of degree program

application timing

Pre-completion applications
Up to 90 days before requested start date (and up to 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year, provided that the period of employment will not start prior to the completion of the full academic year).

Post-completion applications
OPT applications must be received by USCIS no earlier than 90 days before and no later than 60 days after the student’s date of degree completion.

Steps to apply for OPT
    • • Completed and signed OPT Acknowledgment Form
    • • Personal Check or Money Order for $410.00, payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security." Write your name and I-94 or SEVIS ID number on the check or money order
    • • Two (2) US passport-sized photographs taken within the last 30 days – write name and SEVIS Number on back in PENCIL or Felt Tip Pen. Do not cut to size or staple. Put photos in an envelope or Ziploc bag to protect them. Photos can be taken at CVS, Walgreens, etc. See USCIS/DOS passport color photograph specifications for more information
    • Completed Form G-1145 to receive case notifications
    • Completed and signed Form I-765 (see Sample Form for help completing) please note - we can no longer have EADs mailed to MassArt so you will need to indicate your own mailing addres
    • • Copy of your current I-94 printout (Choose "Get Most Recent I-94")
    • • Copy of your valid passport (must be valid at least 6 months into the future)
    • • Copy of your F-1 visa
    • • Copies of all Forms I-20 ever issued (please note you MUST have all previous I-20s in order to apply for OPT. If you are missing any you will need to get hold of a copy or provide a letter from the previous institution that issued the missing I-20(s)
    • • Any previous Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), if applicable
    • • Email all documents as one single document to - please do not send separate files

    • • Drop them at the front desk of Student Development for review by the International Student Advisor.
    • • Formally recommend your OPT Application in the SEVIS system
    • • Issue a new I-20 showing that your OPT has been formally recommended
    • • Contact you to schedule an optional 30-minute appointment during which time they will:
      • - Review all documents with you
      • - Answer any final questions you may have
      • - Help you put everything in the following order for sending:
        • - Two (2) US passport-sized photographs taken within the last 30 days
        • - Personal Check or Money Order for $410.00
        • - Completed Form G-1145 to receive case notifications
        • - Completed and signed Form I-765 
        • - Copy of I-20 form with OPT recommendation (pages 1 and 2; please remember to sign your I-20 form)
        • - Copies of any previous I-20 forms in reverse date order - most recent to oldest (pages 1 and travel signature page, all MassArt and previous school forms, please sign your I-20 forms)
        • - Copy of your current I-94 printout (Choose "Get Most Recent I-94")
        • - Copy of your valid passport (must be valid at least 6 months into the future)
        • - Any previous Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), if applicable
        • - Copy of your F-1 visa
    • • Your application must be received within 30 days of the date on the OPT Recommended I-20
    • We strongly recommend you use a Courier Service (such as FedEx, DHL, UPS, Registered Mail, etc) to send your application and make sure that:
      • - Someone should have to sign for the package when it is received
      • - The package should be trackable so you know where it is at all times
      • - To send by courier (FedEx, DHL, UPS, Registered Mail, etc) mail to:
        Attn: AOS
        2501 S. State Highway 121
        Business Suite 400
        Lewisville, TX 75067
      • • To send by US Postal Service mail to:
        Attn: AOS
        2501 S. State Highway 121
        Business Suite 400
        Lewisville, TX 75067
    • • Keep in mind that your application will be reviewed by USCIS and can take three to five months to process
    • • USCIS will usually email or mail you a receipt within approximately 2 weeks of when it is received. Save this document for your records. Track your case online
    • • If you need to leave the U.S. before you receive your EAD, speak with your International Student Advisor
    • • Once you have graduated, you are required to show these documents in order to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status:
      • - Valid I-20 - Page two should list your employer's information and be signed by your International Student Advisor within the last 6 months
      • - Valid F-1 Visa - If your F-1 visa is expired, you must apply for a new one at a U.S. embassy or consulate prior to your return. (Note: Canadian citizens do not need a visa)
      • - Valid Passport - The expiration date should be at least six months into the future at any given time
      • - Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
      • - Evidence of a job offer or resumption of employment. If you are returning to the U.S without evidence of a job offer, you may be questioned at the port of entry
    • • As soon as you receive your EAD card:
      • - Submit a copy of the front and back via email to your International Student Advisor 
      • - Keep your EAD card in a safe place and treat it as you would your passport
      • - If you lose your EAD card, you cannot work until after you receive a replacement card
      • - It can take 3-5 months to replace a lost EAD card and the process is like reapplying for OPT all over again (including paying the $410 fee) so be very careful not to lose it!

your responsibilities while on opt

While your International Student Advisor will continue to support you during this period by maintaining your SEVIS record, it is your responsibility to report the required information related to your OPT.

  1. When to Report an OPT Update:
    • Within 10 Days of Any of the Following:
      • Start of employment (ideally you should report as soon as possible once your OPT is approved to prevent SEVIS counting days of unemployment)
      • End of employment
      • Change of employers
      • Current employer changes name and/or address
      • Change of Visa Status (e.g. to H-1B)
      • Change in residential address
      • Update to biographical information (e.g. name, surname, etc.)
      • Leaving the U.S. and not intending to use OPT anymore
  2. How to Report an OPT Update:
    • You are required to make all OPT updates through the SEVP Portal, a tool that allows F-1 students on post-completion OPT and STEM OPT to report information to the government
  3. Travel Signatures
    • Please remember that travel signatures are valid for 6 months when you are on OPT. If you will travel internationally and need a new travel signature, please email your international student advisor