Optional Practical Training

Undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status can work towards getting practical training in their field of study.

This is called Optional Practical Training (OPT). There are two types: pre-completion and post-completion.

New OPT STEM Extention Requirements!

Your major must be eligible for the STEM OPT as determined by the Department of Homeland Security's approved list of majors that appear on the Department of Education CIP Code list of STEM majors.  Read more about the determination of STEM eligible majors at Study in the States .

Application Process:

Three months prior to the end of your first 12 months of OPT:

1. Have your employer complete the I-983 Training program form (form and instructions below)

2. Email completed form for approval to international@callutheran.edu

3. Once approved, gather all the items on the checklist (below). 

4. Schedule a phone appointment to complete the application using the button below.

OPT STEM extension checklist


I-983 Instruction

Maintaining your STEM OPT Extension

Credit Card Authorization Form (if desire to pay by credit card)

Schedule STEM OPT Phone Appointment


Pre-completion OPT

Pre-completion OPT is done before you graduate.

Post-completion OPT

Post-completion OPT is done after you graduate.

Pay $10.00 for Certified Mailing



Watch opt workshop video

Before you apply for post-completion OPT

Understand that

  • You must be in the U.S. to be eligible to apply.
  • You are applying for an Employment Authorization Document commonly known as an EAD card.
  • This card will permit you to accept employment, apply for a social security card, and renew your driver's license.
  • Immigration defines employment as a job, internship, volunteer position, or starting your own business.
  • The employment must be related to your major.
  • You must be in the U.S. in active F-1 status for at lease one full academic year prior to applying for OPT and that travel outside the U.S. is not recommended while your application is being processed.


    Before you apply for OPT

  • Be absolutely sure that this is your last term or semester.
  • Know that you are eligible to apply for one OPT for each degree level: associates, bachelors, masters, and doctorate.
  • Understand that when you choose a start date for your OPT, the dates cannot be changed, so think carefully about the start date you select when you apply.
  • If you realize after applying that you have to take more courses, you will lose a substantial portion of your OPT as your full-time OPT will be reduced to part-time until you complete your studies.
  • You cannot begin a new course of study while on OPT.  Your OPT ends on the day your SEVIS record is transferred to a new school..  Records can be scheduled for release after OPT and before the new course of study begins.
  • You must have a valid passport for at least 6 months at all times.

Know when to apply

The sooner you apply for OPT, the better.

  • Earliest you can apply: 90 days before graduation
  • Start date: Must always be within 60 days after graduation
  • Normal Processing Time: 90 - 120 days from receipt of application by USCIS
  • Latest you can apply: 58 days after graduation (avoid if possible).  USCIS must have your application no later than day 59.
  • Your OPT start date must begin within 60 days of graduation. You cannot begin work before your start date or before you get your EAD card — even if you find a job.

Prepare for your application appointment

We have prepared a checklist of what you need to do before meeting with us to apply for OPT.

You must watch the video, pay the mailing fee, and prepare all the items on the checklist prior to your appointment.

If you do not bring all the required items to your appointment, we will have to reschedule your appointment since all items are required to accompany your application.


Application process

1. Meet with us

You will have a 30 minute phone appointment with us. We will call you using the phone number you provided. Be on time for this meeting!

We will mail you instructions for putting your completed application together with the completed I-765 and new OPT I-20.

You will mail your completed application to the address provided in the instructions once you receive the required items from us.

2. Save your receipt

In about a month, you will receive a receipt that allows you to track your application. Keep this in a safe place.

It takes between 90 and 120 days to process and receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.

3. Track your application progress

Your receipt will have a tracking number on it. Use this to track the progress of your application online.

4. Receive your EAD card

Your EAD card should arrive within 120 days.

After you get your EAD card, if you also applied for a Social Security card on the application, it should arrive about two weeks afterward.

5. Start working

You cannot begin work until:
  1. You receive your EAD card
  2. It is the start date you have chosen
Application costs

Cost to apply

The cost to apply is $410. 

The preferred method of payment is a money order. Money orders can be obtained at any local grocery store, 7-11, or drug store for a small fee. You will need to exchange cash for the money order.

You can also pay by credit card by bringing a completed Authorization for Credit Card payment form to your OPT appointment. Be sure to notify your bank of the pending charge so that it is not declined.

Cash is not accepted.


Cost to mail

The cost for OPT associated mailings is a flat $10.00.

Click here to pay the OPT mailings fee.


Before OPT

Travel outside the U.S. while you have an OPT application in pending status is not recommended.

Once you are in possession of your employment authorization document (EAD card), you may travel and return with an employment letter.

During OPT

Travel during your OPT is permitted if you have:

  1. Valid visa
  2. Employment letter from your employer which states when you will return
  3. Signed I-20 from OISS with current employment listed on page 2
  4. EAD card
Maintaining your status

This is your responsibility!

You do not need to come into our office during this time, but you do need to report your employment and residential address. 

Reporting Methods:

  • Employment - Where you are working is reported through your SEVP portal, then email international@callutheran.edu for your new I-20
  • Current U.S. address - Any change of residential U.S. address must be reported within 10 days using your MyCLU portal account.
  • Ending OPT early - Send an email to international@callutheran.edu if you are ending your OPT early to return home or to begin another academic program.

 For complete detail you can download the guidance document here.


Must be related to your degree

Your employment must be related to your degree. Business majors must look for a business-related job, while biology majors need something biology-related.

Employment includes:
  • Internship
  • Job
  • Self-employment
  • Volunteering
You are entitled to:
  • 90 days of unemployment
  • 10 days of grace between jobs

Beginning another academic program

You are not allowed to begin another academic program while on OPT.

If you begin a new academic program, then your OPT automatically ends with the transfer of your SEVIS record for the new academic program.

Changing status to H-1b

To change your status from F-1 OPT to H-1b, you must be sponsored by your employer while still on OPT.

Important dates

  • Applications: Accepted starting April 1
  • H-1b start date: October 1

After you apply

After you apply for H-1b, you can continue working on your OPT until a decision is made beyond the expiration of your OPT.

This is called Cap Gap.

We will issue an extended I-20 to reflect the Cap Gap when provided with evidence of a pending application. Use the button below to apply for a cap gap extension I-20.