Make sure you read the following information in its entirety.
Are you interested in gaining work experience in your field of study? There may be a solution for you called Practical Training. This webpage will discuss Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is for internships and other off-campus work opportunities that are an integral part of your degree program. The requirement for a CPT is that you cannot graduate without this work experience. Since most degree programs on campus do not require this internship experience, most F-1 students are ineligible for CPT. To know if you are eligible for CPT, ask your Academic Advisor if you are required an internship in your field of study in order to graduate/complete your studies. For more questions, ask the International Student Advisor.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Types and Application Timelines
There are two kinds of OPT, Pre-completion OPT and Post-completion OPT. Most MSSU students will choose to apply for the Post-completion OPT.
Definition of Completion Date
The completion date is generally established as the last day of the last month of the final term in which you will register (enroll) to complete academic requirements (e.g. December 31 for fall, May 31 for spring).
Employment begins and ends before the completion of the academic program.
Earliest time to apply:
- If a student has not completed a full academic year: 90 days before completion of full academic year
- If student has completed a full academic year: 120 days before OPT start date
There are three types of Pre-completion OPT:
Type A: During the student’s annual vacation
- Student must intend to register for the next term
- OPT may be part-time only
Type B: While school is in session
- Student must be registered full-time
- OPT may be part-time only
Type C: After completion of all course requirements
- After completion of all course requirements excluding thesis/dissertation
- If Type C OPT is part-time, student must be registered full-time
- If Type C OPT is full-time, student need not be registered
Employment begins after completion of academic program.
Earliest time to apply:
- Up to 90 days before program end date
Deadline for Application to be received by USCIS:
- Up to 60 days after program end date
- Within 30 days of date DSO recommends in SEVIS. You can judge this by the date in item #10 on page 1 of your OPT.
- If you plan to travel outside the U.S. after your completion, you must submit the I-765 first (even if you plan to return within 60 days) and obtain the Receipt Notice in order to re-enter.
Applying for Optional Practical Training (F-1 Students)
Process for OPT Applications
- Meet with your Academic Advisor to request an OPT recommendation letter (details listed below).
- Read the PowerPoint presentation, “Optional Practical Training (OPT), Understanding OPT Basics & Your Role”
- After you have received the letter from the Academic Advisor and have read the PowerPoint presentation, schedule the OPT appointment with the International Student Advisor. OPT requests will not be taken on a “walk in” basis. To schedule an appointment go to http://www.mssu.edu/international-admissions/index.php and click on “Make an appointment”. Be prepared for this appointment to take an hour.
- Bring the letter and the final slide of the PowerPoint presentation to the International Student Advisor for review.
- During your OPT appointment, the advisor will send an OPT recommendation to SEVIS electronically and generate a new I-20. The OPT recommendation will be printed on page 3 of the new SEVIS I-20 and the end date of the I-20 (pg. 1, item 5) may be changed.
- When you receive your I-20, sign your name (page 1, item 11).
- Prepare the OPT application (Form I-765) and required documents to be sent to USCIS.
- Make a copy of the completed application and required documents sent to USCIS.
- Send your complete application and required documents to USCIS at:
USCIS Phoenix Lockbox
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
For Express mail and courier deliveries:
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
- USCIS will send you a notice (Form I-797, Notice of Action) for the receipt of your I-765 EAD (OPT) application (takes 2 -3 weeks). Once you have received your receipt notice, you can track the status of your individual case using the case status feature on the USCIS Web Site. You may elect to receive email alerts about your case status from this Website.
- USCIS will approve or deny your OPT. If approved, they will mail your EAD to you (3 – 5 months processing time). Approximate times are listed on the cases status section of the USCIS Website.
Documents Needed to Request a New I-20 with OPT Recommendation from the International Advisor
To apply for OPT you must schedule an appointment with the International Student Advisor. Bring the following documents to the OPT advising appointment:
- OPT Online PowerPoint completed and signed
- Legible copies of immigration documents
- Copies of all I-20s from your CURRENT degree level (pages 1 & 3) (not those of your dependents)
- Form I-94 (front and back or electronic copy from USCIS, “Admission (I-94) Number Retrieval”)
- Any previous Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- Unofficial transcript (available from LioNet)
- A letter from your academic advisor
Instructions for the Academic Advisor Letter
The academic advisor letter must meet these criteria:
- On MSSU departmental letterhead
- Indicate the degree level at which the student will be applying for OPT
- The final term in which student is registered for required credits
Sample Academic Advisor Letter for OPT request
Submitting Your Request for an OPT I-20
Once you have complied all of the required documentation for an OPT I-20, you may submit your request to the Office of International Admissions.
Sending your Completed OPT Application to USCIS
Once you’ve requested an OPT recommendation through the MSSU International Admissions Office and received your new I-20, you will need to prepare and submit the following list of items to USCIS:
- Base Fee for I-765, payable to Department of Homeland Security. Personal check, cashiers check or money order is acceptable. If you use a personal check, please be sure to wait for the check to be cashed before closing your bank account.
- Two full-face passport style photos. The photos must be identical and in color with a plan white or off-white background. They must be no more than 30 days old when the I-765 is filed at USCIS. Use a pencil to gently write your name and SEVIS ID on the back of each photo. Store in a Ziploc bag and do not stable or bend the photos. Attach the fee and photo in the plastic bag on top of the entire application (on the upper left-hand corner). Be careful to not stable the photos when attaching them to the application.
- Original USCIS Form I-765 completed, signed and dated legibly by you.
Item 16 marked as follows:
(c)(3)(a) for pre-completion OPT (beginning and finishing before the I-20 end date)
(c)(3)(b) for post-completion OPT (beginning after the I-20 end date)
(for most MSSU students)
A legible signature in the designated location. Date the I-765 on the date you mail it.
- Photocopy of the new I-20 with OPT recommendation
- Photocopies of all of your previous I-20s
- Photocopy of your form I-94
- Photocopy of previous EAD, if applicable
- Photocopy of most recent F-1 VISA page (except Canadians) OR approval of change of status to F-1 (I-797) if applicable.
- Photocopy of the biographical information and expiration date of passportIf the photo on the passport is unclear or varies widely from your current appearance, attach a clear copy of another form of identification, such as a state-issued ID.
Mailing to USCIS
Use the US Postal Service (USPS) to deliver to the PO Box address.
NOTE: The Office of International Admissions recommends that you submit a paper application via USPS with a tracking number, rather than using the “e-file” option as it creates additional requirements.
If you change your mind
If after your request an OPT I-20, you decide not to send your application to USCIS, you must notify us. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org telling us that you plan to not apply for OPT and indicate the date you intend to leave the US (must be within 60 days of I-20 completion date). If you do not notify us, we will be unable to adjust your SEVIS record to accurately reflect your situation. You will also continue to be billed for health insurance.
(Most information has been taken from The International Center at Michigan University’s website during August & September 2013 at: internationalcenter.umich.edu/immig/fvisa/f_optapply.html. In addition, information has been taken from the USCIS website found at uscis.gov).