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Advising & Counseling

International Student FAQs: F-1 Visa Optional Practical Training Authorization

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 students?

  • Is intended to provide hands-on practical off-campus work experience that is directly related to a student’s major area of study.

  • May be authorized by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for 12 MONTHS, with student eligible for another 12 months of OPT when he or she changes to a higher educational level.

  • May be full-time or part-time, but part-time OPT (20 hours per week or less) is deducted from the 12-month available training period at one-half the full-time rate. Part-time OPT can only be used prior to completion of your degree.

  • Is available to students who have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis in F-1 status for at least one academic year. While on OPT, individuals are still considered to be F-1 students at RVCC even though they may be working elsewhere in the United States.

How can it be used?

  • Summer vacation and semester break – either part-time or full-time employment
  • While school is in session – part-time employment only
  • After completion of all course requirements for a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral
    degree, excluding the thesis or equivalent – part or full-time employment
  • After completion of ALL requirements for the course of study – full-time
    employment only.

How do you apply?

Pick up on Application for F-1 Optional Practical Training Employment Authorization, fill it out and return it to us. When you return it, we will review your application to make sure that you qualify. If we agree that you do, we will recommend that USCIS authorize your OPT employment and send your application to USCIS for processing of your work authorization.

How long does it take?

After you return your application to International Student Services, plan that it will take about three months for your EAD (Employment Authorization Document) to be returned to us from USCIS. It could take less or more depending on the USCIS workload. Unfortunately, there is no way to make the process go faster.

It’s important to take USCIS processing time into consideration when planning the date you want to start working! You cannot begin to work until you have you EAD CARD!!

What if you want to travel before starting After-Completion of Studies OPT?

You are required to have your employment authorized and a job to which you are returning.

What if you don't find a job?

The only way you can cancel, and not lose your authorized OPT, if you don’t find a job, is for us to return your EAD to USCIS before it shows your authorized employment to begin. You can not be unemployed for a period of time greater than 90 days.

How can OPT be extended?

You can extend your OPT up to the maximum 12 months of full-time employment permitted. After completion, OPT can only be extended if it has not yet expired.

NOTE: You cannot start working until INS authorizes your employment and you have your EAD card!



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