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Work Authorization

Disclaimer: Please note, these directions are meant to help you in completing your application but should not be considered legal advice. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) ultimately provides the decision on your OPT application. It is your responsibility, as the OPT applicant, to ensure that your OPT application is accurate and complete before you submit it to the US government. Incomplete applications could result in a delay in processing time or denial. MassArt in no event shall be held liable for any delay, denial, or mistake on your OPT application.

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
      • Authorization is always full-time and you are required to work 20 hours or more per week

application timing

Pre-completion applications

Up to 90 days before the 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
    • 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 (click get most recent)
    • One of the following: Previously issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (scans of both front and back) OR Government-Issued ID (such as a passport) showing your picture, name, and date of birth; a birth certificate with photo ID) if you have never been issued an EAD
    • • Most recent I-20
    • • Draft of Completed Form I-765 (see Sample Form for suggestions for completing)
    • • If you have previously been approved for CPT or OPT, you MUST submit copies of all I-20s that list CPT/OPT authorization
    • • If everything you submit is fully accurate and correct, your International Student Advisor will:
      • - Formally recommend your OPT Application in the SEVIS system
      • - Issue and email you a new I-20 showing that your OPT has been formally recommended
      • - Email you with any suggested changes and the suggested order you should send the documents in
    • • To successfully e-file the I-765, you must have all documents listed under Step 1 AND
      your new OPT Recommended I-20 from your International Student Advisor.
    • - Create a USCIS Account or Sign In To Your Already Existing Account: At the USCIS website, create an account. Details on how to create an account are also available at the USCIS website.
    • - Select the I-765 Form to File Once Logged In: Select “Application for Employment Authorization (I-765).” It is near the bottom of the form list. Proceed with completing the I-765 details; use your previous I 765 as a draft and make any changes needed as you proceed with filing.
    • - Complete the I-765 Form and pay the fee online (you can refer to the one you submitted for my review as a draft but should also make any suggested changes here)
    • - Review and Submit: Here you will review all of the information you have provided so far and you will then click to submit your I-765 online application.
    • • 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
    • • Your EAD card is an extremely important document that will be mailed to the physical address that you indicated on your I-765 form. As soon as you receive it, you must:
      • - 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
    • Visit "Travel In And Out of the US" for more information about travel.