Last Updated: September 13, 2022
A compilation of questions commonly asked about Optional Practical Training and STEM Optional Practical Training.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Students may remain in the U.S. for 60 days from the actual date of completion of studies. This may be earlier than the originally projected date of completion noted in section #5 of your I-20.
OPT Application Process
ISS reviews applications for completeness before the student files with USCIS. If satisfied, ISS will issue an updated I-20 with an OPT recommendation, which is required for the application to USCIS.
In general, the program completion date is the last day of the final semester of required enrollment, usually the commencement date. For graduate students in thesis or dissertation stages, the program completion date may also be when all graduation requirements have been met (such as when the defense is successfully completed). Graduate students who complete all course requirements and have only a thesis/dissertation remaining may be eligible for post-completion OPT.
Participation in Commencement does not mean students have graduated if they have not fulfilled all graduation requirements.
Any changes after an application is submitted to USCIS can be technically challenging, and could result in the cancellation, denial ,or delay of the pending application.
OPT applicants have to wait until they receive their EADs before they can renew their licenses. Once EADs have been received, renewal dates will be based on OPT start and end dates on EADs, typically 1 year.
Students who receive RFEs should make appointments with ISS Advisors and bring their notices with them. ISS advisors will review them and help prepare appropriate responses.
Students remain in F-1 status.
If applications are rejected/denied, however, students should contact their ISS advisors to discuss options, which may include reapplying for OPT, if possible.
No. Students must be physically present in the U.S. in order to apply for OPT. Travel outside the U.S. is possible after the application is successfully submitted.
As long as your F-1 record is active and maintained and you are enrolled full-time while studying abroad, that time is counts toward the one-year minimum enrollment requirement for OPT eligibility.
While on OPT
No for pre- and post-completion OPT.
However, STEM OPT applicants have their work authorizations automatically extended up to 180 days if an application is timely submitted, and do not need the EAD to show this extension benefit.
Work can be paid or unpaid for pre- or post-completion OPT.
Work under STEM OPT must be paid.
Volunteer work may count as employment under pre- or post-completion OPT.
Volunteer work does not count as employment under STEM OPT.
OPT is a benefit for students in F-1 status and is NOT a visa.
Post-completion OPT can be extended for students who have qualifying Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) majors. See the OPT Application Process for STEM OPT.
Students have a 6-day grace period to stay in the U.S. following the end date of post-completion OPT or STEM OPT.
No. Students on OPT are only allowed to enroll in avocational or leisure courses.
Generally, any U.S. income received is liable for taxes.
A copy of the approval notice of the new immigration status should be sent to ISS via UH FileDrop to: firstname.lastname@example.org so that the F-1 immigration record can be updated or closed appropriately.
Students must inform ISS of their departure date from the U.S. so that the F-1 record can be closed accordingly. They must also put their employment end dates into their SEVP Portal Accounts. In addition, they must inform their employers of their last day of work. If there are no unemployment days left in their OPT work authorization period, they must depart the U.S. immediately on or before their last day of employment.
Under current SEVP guidance, students can work remotely (including work abroad) if their companies are taking precautions due to COVID-19 and have the capability to supervise and train the students adequately.
Under current SEVP guidance, students may work under 20 hours per week without accumulating unemployment days.
Students doing Post-completion OPT or STEM OPT are not required to have medical insurance (although medical insurance is highly recommended).
OPT SEVP Portal FAQ
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Portal is a tool that allows F-1 students on post-completion Optional Practical Training and STEM OPT to report changes to their home address, telephone number and employer information directly to SEVP. The SEVP Portal will allow you to:
- View details about your post-completion OPT or STEM OPT.
- Report changes to your address, telephone and employer information.
- View and update data on all your employers in one place, except for STEM OPT.
From March 23, 2018, all students currently on post-completion OPT or STEM OPT will receive a message from SEVP instructing them how to set up their account in the portal. This email will be sent to the student's email on his/her F-1 record profile. ISS uses the student's UH email for the F-1 record profile. Students who apply for and are approved for OPT will receive the SEVP Portal email on the date that the OPT authorization starts. They cannot set up the account any earlier.
Yes. The SEVP Portal allows you to report OPT information directly to your F-1 record without having to go through the ISS Office. Update any of the following in the SEVIS Portal:
- Profile Information, including
- Mailing Address;
- Physical Address;
- Phone Number
- Employer Information, including
- Adding or deleting employers;
- Employer Name;
- Employer Address;
- Job Title;
- Full or Part-Time;
- Start and End Dates;
- Relation of Employment to Field of Study
Reminder: If you finish at one employer, enter the end date of employment. Do not delete employer.
Yes, with exceptions. STEM OPT updates through the SEVP Portal are still limited. ISS recommends that you only use the SEVP Portal to update:
- Profile Information, including:
- Mailing Address;
- Physical Address;
- Phone Number
Note: Remember to put the above in your MyUH account as well.
For any updates to employers, please see the ISS Page on OPT Reporting Requirements under the STEM OPT Extension section for more information.
If you are currently on post-completion OPT or STEM OPT, SEVP will send a message to your UH email address.
- The email will be sent from: Do-No-Reply.SEVP@dhs.ice.gov
- The email subject line will have: Optional Practical Training Approval – the next step. Create an SEVP Portal account
The email will have:
- A unique link to access the account set-up.
- Instructions to set up your account.
- You will need your SEVIS ID number in order to set up the account.
- This link can only be used once and is unique to your email.
- The link cannot be shared.
- You must set up your portal account within 14 days of receiving the email or the link will expire.
- If you fail to set up your portal account within 14 days, you must contact ISS for help to have a new email sent to you.
You must contact ISS to have SEVP send an email. You must also check that your UH email account is active.
ISS requires you to keep your UH email account active if you are going to be on OPT. You may do this by enrolling in the UH 'Ohana Online Services. If you have not graduated yet, you may pre-enroll. If you graduated but forgot to enroll, you have a 180 day grace period in which you may enroll. Read the 'Ohana Online Services policies. Once you sign up, your UH email will remain active up to one year. You will need to renew annually, and will receive alerts to do so. If you fail to sign up or renew your UH email account in time, your account will be closed and all associated emails and stored content will be wiped.
Yes. If your account expired for whatever reason, you may still request to re-activate it. Follow these instructions to reactivate UH email account. You may lose data related to that account depending on how long the account was inactive.
If you have been locked out because you forgot your password, or your account was automatically deactivated, you may contact ISS to help reactivate your account. If you need to submit a report immediately and cannot wait for the account reset, you may report directly to ISS.
Yes. If you created an SEVP account on one OPT, you may use it on successive OPT at higher levels of study as long as your SEVIS ID number is the same. This includes STEM OPT. Your portal account will deactivate if you start a new program after your first OPT. Please contact ISS to help re-activate your existing SEVP Portal account if you plan to apply for another OPT.
OPT During COVID-19
Yes, the federal government has allowed Designated School Officials (your ISS Advisor) to transmit electronic I-20 forms and digital signatures on I-20 forms on a temporary basis.
You must be physically present in the U.S. at the time you submit your Optional Practical Training (OPT) application. It is generally permissible to depart the country after the application has been submitted and successfully received by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The ISS will continue to process OPT applications as soon as we receive your submitted request and will communicate with you about how to pick up and mail your application to USCIS. If you have not applied for OPT yet, but plan to do so, we strongly encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible.
USCIS temporarily closed its domestic field offices and has suspended routine in-person services until at least May 3. However, USCIS still continues to perform duties that do not involve in-person services. OPT applications are adjudicated at the USCIS Service Centers (specifically, at the Potomac Service Center) and not at the field offices. In addition, OPT adjudications do not involve any in-person contact. For these reasons, we do not anticipate your OPT application to be affected by closure of USCIS field offices.
Unfortunately, you cannot use an international address to receive your EAD. Please find another friend’s address within the U.S and update your mailing address with USCIS. Go to the US government's website, to check your USCIS CASE Status Online. Once there, click "Change of Address" and follow the instructions. Be sure to complete the "In Care of for Mailing, C/O" section.
Yes, you may. Be reminded to have all the required documents when reentering the U.S. after program completion/graduation: your I-20 with a valid signature, active F-1 visa and your Receipt Notice from USCIS that shows you have applied for OPT. If your OPT is approved while you’re abroad, you should have your EAD card with you on your return.
Please be reminded of the risks involved if you are not in the U.S while your OPT is pending. If your OPT application is denied while you are outside of the U.S. and your program completion date has passed, you should not re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status. It may be possible to re-enter the US in another visa category (for example, ESTA or tourist visa) to prepare for departure, but you would no longer be eligible for OPT. USCIS may also mail you a request for evidence (RFE), if additional information is needed for your OPT application. You would need to respond to USCIS’ RFE by their specified deadline or risk OPT denial. Lastly, please be reminded in time of COVID-19, international travels and visa restrictions are unpredictable and may impede your ability to return to the U.S.
OPT Remote Employment
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) recognizes that the spread of COVID-19 may affect students engaging in OPT/OPT STEM. In accordance with SEVP guidance, we would encourage you to work with your employer to seek alternative ways to maintain employment, such as teleworking or other arrangements. Please be reminded to document the decisions and details on these arrangements as part of your immigration records in case it is requested.
Due to COVID-19 remote work is permissible. According to SEVP guidance you do NOT need to update your employer address information in SEVIS nor on the I-983 form for remote work. However, please continue to report any OPT/OPT STEM changes in your physical address, new employment status, or unemployment.
For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT and are NOT accumulating any days of unemployment. SEVP has not specified a minimum number of hours that must be worked.
Currently, there has been no new guidance from SEVP/U.S. government to waive the 90-day for OPT and the added 60-day for STEM OPT unemployment. Universities and immigration attorneys have advocated for temporary relief to this limit; however, there has been no update.
No. The employer address information does not need to be updated in SEVIS for OPT nor on the Form I-983 for STEM OPT students working remotely.
Students who are unemployed due to COVID-19 should contact their local or state employment agency for more information.
OPT Grace Period
OPT / STEM OPT participants who do not exceed the limits of unemployment receive a 60 day grace period. During this grace period, students can prepare to leave the United States, prepare to start a new academic program at UH Manoa or a different school (must start classes within 5 months of OPT end date), or submit a Change of Status application to the federal government.
ISS strongly recommends that you depart the U.S. as close to the end of your 60 day grace period as possible. Some students may choose to submit a Change of Status application to the federal government if they cannot return home for months.