Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training

After completing nine consecutive months of full-time study, a student in F-1 status may apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) for a specific period of Optional Practical Training.

The Optional Practical Training may occur during a program of study or upon completion of the degree and is limited to a total of 12 months. The employment must be in the student’s field of study and at a level commensurate with the student’s educational level. It is not necessary to have an offer of employment to apply for work authorization but it is wise to have an offer for employment BEFORE the completion of studies.

Before completion of studies, a student may obtain work authorization:

  • Part-time (20 hours a week) when school is in session. The time worked is deducted from the 12 month total but on a part-time basis (i.e., six months of part-time work equals a three month deduction.)
  • Full-time during the school vacation periods.

Process for Applying for Optional Practical Training

  1. Obtain a transcript from the Student Records and Financial Services Office or print from BannerWeb, showing full-time enrollment for last two semesters.
  2. If you have any questions about whether or not you have met the graduation requirements meet with your academic advisor BEFORE applying for Optional Practical Training employment authorization.
  3. From the International Student Advisor obtain: INS Form I-765 "Application for Employment Authorization" and complete all questions and sign and date the application. In question #3 be sure to use an address in the U.S. where you can receive mail for at lest four months from the time of application. The answer to question #6 is: (c) (3) (i). And INS Form I-538 and complete all questions in section A and sign and date the form.
  4. Have two (2) "Green Card" color photos taken within 30 days of making the application. These photos must show front view of your face. Photo just like your passport. The pictures must have a white or light background and should be no lager that 1 1/2 inches by 1 1/2 inches with the image no larger than 1 1/4 inches. These pictures can be obtained from any professional photographer who takes passport and "green card" pictures. These pictures can be obtained for $12 at:
    Alfred Travel
    West University Street
    Alfred, New York
    Phone: (607) 587-8842
    LIGHTLY, in pencil, put your name and admission number on the back of each photo.
  5. Make an appointment with the International Student Advisor to complete the application process. Bring to the meeting:
    • The completed I-765 form
    • The completed I-538 form
    • The two photos
    • A check or money order for filing fee (see amount) made payable to "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service"
    • ALL I-20s issued to you by ALL of the school you have attended since beginning F-1 status
    • Your I-94 card
    • ALL previous Employment Authorization Documents (EAD cards)
    • Your unexpired passport.

All of the necessary photocopies for your application and for your office file will be made in the International Education Office and your application will be assembled for you in the correct order. Your original I-20(s), I-94 card and passport will be returned to you.

For further instructions, please refer to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Web site.

The USCIS processing time can be up to three months. Be sure to apply for work authorization well before you will need it. You cannot begin employment without your EAD card.