Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an opportunity for F-1 students to gain practical experience working off-campus in a job directly related to their major field of study. It is recommended in SEVIS by an Immigration Counselor at Purdue International Students and Scholars (ISS), and then students submit their applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to be adjudicated. An offer of employment is not required to apply for OPT.

If granted by USCIS, the authorization is full- or part-time employment for a maximum of 12 months. OPT is not a different visa status or “change of status.” OPT work authorization is a benefit linked to your F-1 status, and extends your F-1 status for the time you are on OPT. You are eligible to apply for OPT after each higher education level completed (i.e. 12 months after a Bachelor’s degree, 12 months after a Master’s degree, 12 months after a PhD).

NOTE: If you are currently a student or just graduated and are applying within your grace period, you cannot apply directly for the STEM OPT Extension: only those currently in their 12-month OPT authorization OPT period, with a qualifying STEM degree, and working for an e-verified employer may apply for the STEM extension.

Who Is Eligible to Apply for OPT
In order to be eligible for post-completion OPT, you must:
  • Have a current, valid I-20, reflecting your current field of study and education level.

  • Have a valid, unexpired passport.

  • Have been lawfully enrolled full-time for at least two consecutive semesters (Fall and Spring) immediately prior to finishing your degree and applying for OPT.

  • Have had less than 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

  • For undergraduate and master’s non-thesis-option students: Be within 90 days of completing your degree requirements (i.e., within 90 days of the end of the semester during which you will graduate).

  • For master’s thesis-option and doctoral students: Be within 90 days of completing your course requirements (do not need to be finished defending and depositing).

  • Have not previously had OPT authorized at the same degree level (e.g., if you are completing a second master’s degree and had previously been authorized for OPT after your first master’s, you would not be eligible for OPT again until you completed a higher degree level ).

  • Obtain an I-20 stating OPT requested on page 2 before filing the I-765
  • Be in the United States when you file the I-765 with USCIS. 

Undergraduate Student Final Semester

In your last semester you may register part-time, but you must be in at least one class in which you are required to be physically present on campus. In other words, enrolling in only online courses in your last semester is not allowed by USCIS. You do not need to request a Reduced Course Load.

Graduate Student Final Semester

If this is your final semester and you are registered for less than a full time course-load, you must submit a Reduced Course Load (RCL) E-Form before you attend the OPT follow-up session (even if summer is your final semester).  If you have already submitted the RCL E-form for the current semester to ISS, no further action is required. If you have not yet submitted your RCL E-form to ISS, you need to do so by logging in to MyISS portal and selecting the appropriate RCL eform under the "F-1 and J-1 student services" category.

When to Apply for OPT

Program Completion Date

It is critical that you do not apply for OPT until your program completion date is certain.

Bachelors and Master’s Non-Thesis Students

Click to view Timeline

Students who apply for post-completion OPT and then fail to graduate on the date indicated in their application risk violating their student visa status and possibly forfeiting their OPT.

If you do not complete by the date indicated by your advisor and you are an undergraduate student or a graduate student with non-thesis option, you may not begin full-time OPT. Please contact your Immigration Counselor immediately if you find out you will not graduate as planned. You will likely need to extend your I-20 before the expiration date and withdraw your OPT application, or risk a violation of your F-1 status. This is extremely time-sensitive.

Master’s Thesis and PhD Students

Click to view Timeline

If you are a PhD or thesis-option Master’s student, you may start your OPT once you have completed all of the course requirements. You may start OPT before defending or depositing your thesis. However, you cannot continue a Teaching Assistantship or Research Assistantship position after the end date of your I-20. If you are required to register for degree- or exam-only while you are on OPT, you are not required to submit a Reduced Courseload Form (RCL).

All Students

If you are graduating before the expected program end date on your I-20, ISS will modify your program end date on your I-20.

Ex. Your I-20 has an end date of 5/16/2017, but you are graduating by the spring semester of 2016. ISS will shorten your I-20 program end date to 05/16/2016, and your OPT would need to begin within 60 days of 05/16/2016). You must graduate in the semester in which you complete all your program requirements, even if your I-20 is printed with a later end date: you cannot keep the later end date in order to give yourself more time to look for a job.

All work (assistantships or other on-campus employment) must end by the program end date listed on the first page of your I-20. No work may begin again until the approved start date listed on your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). It is a violation of your F-1 status to work without authorization, and you will lose your OPT eligibility if you work without proper authorization.

Note: Health insurance is required for all OPT students who are degree seeking, registered and have not yet graduated. Please see the Purdue University Health Services (PUSH) website for more information: https://www.purdue.edu/push/Insurance/Waivers/cpt.html


Earliest Time to Apply

The earliest USCIS can receive your application is 90 days before your program completion date. We highly recommend you submit the application packet to the ISS Office as early as possible within these 90 days before your program completion date.

You may submit your request for your OPT I-20 to ISS 100 days before your program completion date.

However, your application will be denied if it is received more than 90 days before your program completion date.

Latest Time to Apply

The latest USCIS can receive your application is the 60th day of your grace period (60 days after your program completion date).

You must apply with ISS no later than 21 days before then end of the 60 day grace period. If you apply any later, please Contact Student Services to discuss your request.

USCIS Processing

USCIS will take up to 3-6 months to process OPT applications. 

USCIS has limited provisions for requests to expedite a pending application or petition.  Information about requests to expedite and the limited reasons for which expedited processing may be requested can be found on USCIS Requests to Expedite Applications or Petitions.

12 Month OPT Latest End Date

Pursuant to part 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations section 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(A)(3):  F-1 Students must complete all practical training within the 14 month period following the completion of study, except that a 24-month extension, pursuant to 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(C), of the regulation does not need to be completed within said 14-month period.

How to Apply for OPT

Step 1: Learn about OPT

If you have any doubts about your eligibility or when to apply for OPT, please discuss these questions with ISS before you begin the application process. Contact our office according to the information on Contact Student Services.


Step 2: Discuss your Plans with your Academic Contact

You must discuss your plans for graduation/course completion and OPT application with your academic department before proceeding with an OPT application. It is vital that you do not apply for OPT until your program completion date is certain. Who the correct departmental contact is varies by department: it could be your academic advisor, major professor, department head, or dean. Contact your academic department for instructions.


Step 3: Complete the "Post-Completion OPT Recommendation I-20 Request" E-form Group

Access e-forms at MyISS>F-1 Optional Practical Training>Post-Completion OPT Recommendation I-20 Request

Deadline to Complete Step 3

The priority deadline for ISS submission to request an OPT I-20 is 21 days before your 60-day grace period end. ISS cannot guarantee that you will meet the USCIS submission deadline if you request your OPT I-20 any later than 21 days before the end of your 60 day grace period. If you apply any later, please Contact Student Services to discuss your request. 

I-765 Information

  • USCIS instructions state Form I-765 must be filed while the applicant is in the United States.
  • Obtain an I-20 showing OPT requested on page 2 before submitting the I-765 to USCIS either online or by mail.

Process to Complete Step 3

  1. Complete the “OPT Online Workshop and Quiz” to ensure you understand essential information about OPT.

  2. Complete the “OPT Application Document Instructions” e-form. You will receive detailed information on how to prepare the required documents for your application to send to USCIS. Be sure you have access to a scanner and printer before you start this e-form, as you will be scanning and printing documents. Keep the documents in a safe place until you are ready to send your application. You will prepare the following documents:

    1. Filing Fee - You may pay by check, money order, cashier's check, or credit card.

    2. 2 passport-sized photos (taken within 30 days and never used for any other purpose) in a small plastic bag. Write your name, birthdate, and I-94 in ballpoint pen on the back of each photo.

    3. I-765 form, signed and dated. Details on accessing the USCIS Instructions and a guide prepared by ISS can be found in the e-form. You must have an I-20 showing OPT requested on page 2 before submitting the I-765 either online or by mail.

    4. Photocopy of valid, unexpired passport biographical page

    5. Photocopy of F-1 visa (all students except Canadian citizens)

    6. Front and back of I-94 OR printout of your most recent electronic I-94 (print by visiting www.cbp.gov/I94)

    7. Photocopy of any I-20s showing Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization on page 2. If you have not had CPT, you do not need to include I-20 photocopies of other past I-20s.

    8. Photocopy of any previous EAD cards (if you have been previously authorized for OPT or economic hardship)

    9. Photocopy of your job offer letter (optional and only if you have one)

    10. If filing by mail, completed Form G-1145 (optional but recommended). If filing online, this form is not needed.

  3. Complete the “OPT Statement of Understanding” e-form, in which you will determine if you are within the right timeframe to apply for OPT and better understand what your responsibilities are under OPT.

  4. Complete the “OPT Application Document and Information Verification” e-form, in which you will specify your requested OPT dates, upload required documentation, and enter information about your academic program and departmental contact. Be sure you have scanned copies of the following documents before you begin this e-form, as you will upload them in the e-form. Files must be saved as valid PDF or image files (JPG, GIF, PNG, or BMP):

    1. I-765 form, completed and signed (You must have an I-20 showing OPT requested on page 2 before submitting the I-765 either online or by mail.)

    2. Valid, unexpired passport biographical page

    3. Front and back of I-94 OR printout of your most recent electronic I-94 (print by visiting www.cbp.gov/I94)

    4. Optional: if your current I-20 does not reflect your current education level, please follow instructions on Change of Education Level.

When you submit this final OPT eform, the departmental contact you entered will be notified and required to fill in their portion of the e-form in regards to your application. You will receive email notification once s/he has submitted their part.

Once the academic contact has completed their part, your application will be forwarded to ISS for processing. ISS processing time may take up to 10 business days from the date we receive all required e-forms and documents.

Important note: You cannot change your requested OPT dates after you submit your e-form to ISS.

ISS Processing Time

The OPT application is a step-by-step process in which multiple people are involved. For this reason, it is extremely important to submit your OPT application well in advance so that everyone has time to complete their portion. To be fair to all students, ISS processes all requests within 14 calendar days and cannot accommodate expedite requests.

End of Oncampus Employment Authorization

Do not work on campus past the program end date on your I-20, and do not work again in any capacity, paid or unpaid, until you receive work authorization from USCIS.


Step 4: Receive your I-20 with OPT Recommendation from ISS

OPT is recommended by ISS if eligibility requirements are met, and your Immigration Counselor will create a new I-20 reflecting the recommendation. Ultimately, however, OPT is authorized (or denied) by USCIS in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

ISS will contact you via email once a new I-20 has been created and is ready to pick up. ISS processing time will take a maximum of 10 business days, but you should wait for an email. The email will give you final instructions for assembling and sending your OPT application packet.

When you receive your I-20, sign it by hand. Then make a photocopy of the signed I-20. You will KEEP your original I-20 and include the photocopy in your application packet (if filing by mail) or upload an image of it (if filing online).


Step 5: Assemble, double-check, and submit your completed application to USCIS

Filing I-765 by Mail

If you decide to file by mail, final instructions for preparing and sending your OPT application packet, as well as extremely important information to remember while you are on OPT are found OPT I-765 Mailing Instructions. Please bookmark this page and/or download a PDF of the document and keep it with all your important documents.

Filing I-765 Online

If you decide to file online, please review USCIS I-765 site for instructions to file online. If you have any questions, please contact USCIS. You may also share your online application with an ISS student counselor during a WebEx Dropin session if you have specific questions.

IMPORTANT: You must file Form I-765 while in the United States. You must have an I-20 showing OPT requested on page 2 before submitting the I-765 either online or by mail.

Follow instructions for submitting the I-765. Double-check all documents: remember that it is your responsibility to ensure the application is correct and complete.

Do not delay in sending your application, as it is very time-sensitive. If using mail, ISS recommends you send your application packet via USPS and use tracking to monitor when your packet is received by USCIS.

We highly recommend photocopying your complete application packet before you send it, and keep the photocopies for your records.

USCIS I-765 OPT Filing Window

USCIS must receive your I-765 application:

  • No earlier than 90 days before your program end date

    • USCIS will deny your application if it arrives too early. Check your program end date on the front page of your I-20.

  • After you have received an I-20 showing OPT requested on page 2
    • USCIS instructions also state that you must be inside the US when you file
  • Within 30 days of the OPT recommendation date

    • You can find this date next to the ISS staff signature on the first page. This is the date the I-20 was created and OPT recommended.

  • No later than the last working day on or before the 60th day of your grace period

    • Your grace period begins on the day after your program end date, found on the front page of your I-20. 

What Happens After I Apply For OPT?

After mailing your OPT application

  • Track your USPS package to monitor delivery of your application to USCIS.

  • In the event that your delivery is delayed, returned, missing, etc., contact USPS customer service to determine the problem, and follow their recommendations. If you determine that your OPT application will not be delivered to USCIS within 30 days of the OPT I-20 creation, contact ISS.

  • If you paid your application fee with a personal check, monitor your bank account to ensure there are sufficient funds in the account for your check to clear. If there are insufficient funds, there may be serious implications for your OPT application. Once you see that the check has cleared, you will know that USCIS has received your application.

  • Be patient in waiting for your receipt notice. If you have not received it by 20 days after you sent in your application, contact ISS.

After you receive Form I-797 Receipt Notice in the Mail

Once your application has been received, USCIS will send you several pieces of mail. If you filled out the G-1145, you will also receive electronic updates. Pay close attention to your mail and save everything sent from USCIS.

  • The receipt notice is your official receipt from USCIS confirming receipt of your application and payment of the application fee. The notice will include a receipt number, which is the file number associated with your OPT application. You can use this number to check your case status online at: USCIS Case Tracking Site

  • You may check the USCIS Processing Time Information website to get an estimation of how long each USCIS office is taking to process different types of cases: USCIS Processing Times You will need to choose which Service Center your application was sent to. (Check your receipt number: the first three letters indicate the Service Center.) On the next screen, you will be able to see the approximate date that USCIS is processing I-765s.

  • Make a photocopy for your records.

  • Verify that your name, birthday, and mailing address are correct on the receipt notice. If there are any errors, ISS.

  • Your Given Name should be listed first, and your Surname should be listed second. Please ensure that your given and surnames are in the correct order.

  • If circumstances change and it  will be impossible to receive your EAD at the address listed on the  receipt notice, contact USCIS to change your address. (Contact information is provided on your receipt notice.)

Request for Evidence (RFE):

You may or may not receive an RFE if a mistake in your application is discovered, something is missing, or USCIS wants more information.

Important: You will be required to respond to the RFE within a specified amount of time. If you receive an RFE, contact ISS as soon as possible, so that we can assist you in responding and answer any questions you may have.

Approval Notice:

You may or may not receive an approval notice confirming your OPT has been approved. This approval notice is not considered proof of work authorization. You must wait until you have your EAD card and your OPT start date has arrived to begin working.  Sometimes USCIS sends an approval notice, and sometimes not, so do not be concerned if you do not get an approval notice.

Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card:

This is your official permission to work in the United States. If you receive your EAD card before your OPT start date, you must still wait for your OPT start date to arrive before beginning work.
Employment Issues on OPT

Failure to meet minimum "employment"  qualification guidelines while on OPT will result in the accumulation of days of unemployment.  Exceeding the aggregate maximum number of days of unemployment will result in a violation of status.

In order to qualify as employment for OPT:

  • The position must be directly related to your major field of study, and;
  • The position must be commensurate with your education level, and;
  • You must work a minimum of 20 hours per week. If you have more than one qualifying job, the combined hours worked for all qualifying jobs must total at least 20 per week to avoid accumulating days of unemployment.

The type of employment may include:

Multiple employers – A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be directly related to the student’s degree program and commensurate with the student's degree level.

Short-term multiple employers (performing artists) – A student, who's degree such as a musician or other type of performing artist, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration.  Note:  Gigs must be directly related to the student's degree program.

Work for hire - This is also commonly referred to as contracting or sub-contracting, where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, the student must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract period and the name and address of the contracting company.

Self-employed business owner – A student on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in activities directly related to the student’s degree program. Please consult an immigration attorney for guidance on starting a business.

Employment through an agency or consulting firm – A student on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing he or she worked at least 20 hours per week, each week, while employed by the agency and the employment must be directly related to the student's degree program and commensurate with the student's degree level.

Paid employment – A student must work part time (defined as: at least 20 hours per week, each week, when on post-completion OPT), or full time (any position that requires the student to work 21 or more hours per week).

Unpaid employment –A student may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for a student on post-completion OPT. A student must be able to provide evidence acquired from the organization to verify that the student performed a minimum of 20 hours per week, each week during the volunteer period. 

(Resource: SEVP Policy Guidance 1004-03)

Please note: Volunteering is only appropriate when it does not violate the United States Department of Labor's Fair Labor Standards Act. There are NO ongoing volunteer opportunities at Purdue University for F-1 students on OPT. You should not suggest that you would like to volunteer in your department or any other department at Purdue, and no department should allow you to volunteer without checking with ISS first. Please see ISS before accepting any volunteer opportunities. Failure to do so could result in a severe violation of your F-1 Status.

Also note that you may not begin working until the start date on your EAD card. If you begin working, even in an unpaid position, before the start of the EAD card, this is considered unauthorized employment. This is a severe violation of your status and will result in the loss of your OPT benefit.

You may change jobs while on OPT, as long as each position is directly related to your major field of study. You may not work at any student positions, or any graduate assistantship positions.
Unemployment on OPT

Immigration regulations state that “students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment” during the initial period of Post-Completion OPT (8 C.F.R. 214.2[f][1])[ii][E]).

This means that beginning on the OPT start date printed on your EAD card, each day that you do not have qualifying employment or participate in qualified volunteer activities counts toward unemployment. This includes weekends and holidays, as well as days spent outside the United States. If you are employed (i.e. on payroll) and are on leave or vacation from a current job, this generally does not count toward days of unemployment, as long as you are otherwise working a minimum of 20 hours per week.

If you are getting close to your 90 day unemployment limit and will not be employed by the 90th day, before that date you should consider:

  • Changing visa categories
  • Request a release of your SEVIS record to another SEVP certified school or begin a new degree program at Purdue
  • Begin appropriate volunteer work
  • Prepare to exit the U.S.

Note that qualified volunteer activities must be in your major field of study, commensurate with your degree level, and must be performed at least 20 hours per week. You must be able to provide evidence from the organization for which you are volunteering that you participated in qualifying activities at least 20 hours per week during the period of volunteer period.

You are responsible for counting the number of days of unemployment you have accrued while on OPT, so it is important to keep track of start and end dates of each job you have. Purdue University is not required to report to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) if a student has exceeded the 90 days of unemployment, however we must report all employment information reported to us by the student.  You should be aware that your SEVIS record may be terminated, and/or you may be denied future immigration benefits if SEVP or USCIS determines that you exceeded the limitations on unemployment.
Reporting Requirements on OPT

Updates While OPT is Pending:

Employment Information:

Employment information is not required for the OPT application, and cannot be reported until you are on your approved period of OPT. The OPT Reporting e-form only becomes visible in myISS once you are on your approved period of OPT.  Once your OPT begins, all employment related changes must be reported through myISS within 10 calendar days of the change.

Personal Information: 

You are required to report personal information changes, such as a change of address, while your OPT application is pending. Please report biographical changes in myISS under "Biographical Information" and address changes under "F-1 and J-1 Student Services – Address Update (U.S. Residential)".  All personal information changes MUST be reported within 10 calendar days of the change.

OPT-Related Documents:

You may wish to upload copies of your receipt notice, approval notice, EAD card, or job offer letter. The "Upload an OPT-Related Document" will be available to you while your OPT application is pending and also once you are on your approved period of OPT. Note that this e-form is NOT meant for you to upload any OPT application documents, Social Security cards, or credit cards.

Respond to a Request for Evidence:

If USCIS sends you a Request for Evidence (RFE), you may upload it in the "Respond to a Request for Evidence" e-form so that ISS may assist you with it. This e-form will be available to you while your OPT application is pending and also once you are on your approved period of OPT.

Updates While on Approved Period of OPT:

Once you are on your approved period of OPT, you will use the "OPT Reporting" e-form group in the "F-1 Optional Practical Training" category to report any changes to personal and employment information within 10 calendar days of the change. You must inform ISS each and every time your information changes. Also use this e-form to periodically validate information while on OPT. This e-form may also be used to request a new travel signature or reprinted I-20 while on OPT.

There are 5 e-forms in the OPT Reporting e-form group. Regardless of what you need to report, you must go through each one sequentially so that ISS can collect enough data to fully submit a report. Use the following e-forms to report:

Report OPT Employment Information  

  • Starting employment with new employer
  • Employer name change
  • Work location change
  • Supervisor change
  • Job title and job description change
  • Changes in full-time vs part-time employment

Report Employment End Date

  • Report the end date of employment 

Travel Signature/Reprint Request on OPT

  • Indicate if you would like an I-20 printed after filling out e-forms to update information
  • And/or to request a travel signature
    • NOTE: when requesting a travel signature, please ensure that you have already reported your employment information here. If in doubt, please report the information again, and we will check your record to ensure up-to-date information.  

Personal Information on OPT

  • Legal name
  • Living address 
  • Phone number
  • Email

Submit your OPT Report to ISS

  • To submit your request fully to ISS, you must submit this last e-form in the group. If you do not submit this e-form, ISS will not be notified of any of your update requests. You will receive an email confirmation once you have successfully submitted the e-form group.

Note on Address Updates:

Please note that updating your residential address has no connection to the EAD card mailing address. If you need to update the EAD card mailing address, contact the USCIS National Service Center. To avoid unnecessary complications and problems, ISS recommends you file your OPT application with a requested EAD card mailing address that will remain valid for at least four months. Please see this USCIS notice regarding addresses on OPT applications: https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/uscis-begin-using-more-secure-mail-delivery-service 

Updates if Ending OPT:

Use the "Report No Longer on OPT" e-form if you are ending your period of OPT for any reason, including changes of visa status, transferring to a new school, starting a new degree program, or departing the U.S. before the end of your OPT.

Report No Longer On OPT

  • Change in visa status, including approval of H1-B petition, other approval of adjustment of status, or any other change in immigration status. You must submit proof of approval for any change in status.
  • Transfer to another school to start a new degree program
  • Change to a new degree program at Purdue University
  • Permanent departure from the U.S. before the end of your OPT if you decide to end your work early and forfeit the remainder of your OPT

How to Log In to myISS:

If you still have an active Purdue student account:

  1. Go to MyISS
  2. Log in with "Full Client Services for Students & Scholars" by clicking the blue login button in the left box on the main page. 
  3. Enter your Purdue Career Account ID and password.
  4. Expand the appropriate section on the left-hand side of the screen.
  5. Click the appropriate link and follow instructions in the e-form.

If you are no longer enrolled or engaged in activity at Purdue:

  1. Go to MyISS
  2. Log in with "Limited Services for Students & Scholars" by clicking "Limited Services" in the right box on the main page.
  3. First time users:
    • If it is your first time accessing myISS, you will need to request a PIN. Click the "E-mail me my Limited Access PIN" button.
    • Enter your PUID. USE ONLY ONE OF THE LEADING ZEROS. Do not enter dashes. You will enter a 9-digit number. Ex. 012345678
    • An email with the PIN will be sent to the email address Purdue ISS has on file for you. Be sure to check your spam folder. Contact ISS if you do not receive an email - we may not have a valid email address on file for you. Keep record of your PIN!
    • After you have received the PIN, navigate back to the Login page, enter your PUID (ONLY 9 DIGITS - DO NOT ENTER THE FIRST ZERO), your date of birth, and the PIN.
    • Expand the appropriate section on the left-hand side of the screen.
    • Click the appropriate link and follow instructions in the e-form.
  4. Returning users:
    • Enter your PUID (ONLY 9 DIGITS - DO NOT ENTER THE FIRST ZERO), your date of birth, and the PIN.
    • Expand the appropriate section on the left-hand side of the screen.
    • Click the appropriate link and follow instructions in the e-form.
Travel on OPT

International travel while on OPT or while OPT is pending is possible, but you should exercise caution.

For more detailed information on traveling, please see F-1 Travel Abroad.

Until graduation date

Filing for OPT should not have an effect on your ability to travel and reenter the US before your graduation date. However, it is advisable to take as much information about your OPT application as possible. To reenter the US before your graduation, even if you have applied for OPT, you must present the following documents to the officer at the port-of-entry:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport
  • I-20 with travel signature dated within six months of your reentry to the US
  • I-797c Notice of Action Receipt from USCIS (recommended)
  • Job offer letter (recommended, not required)

After graduation date

You are strongly advised not to travel outside the US before you receive your EAD card. The following documents must be presented upon reentry to the US:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport
  • I-20 with travel signature dated within six months of your reentry to the US
  • Valid EAD
  • A job offer letter from a prospective employer or a job letter from a current employer. (recommended and may be required)

Please note that while your EAD card indicates “Not valid for reentry to the United States,” it is still possible to travel internationally while on OPT. It only means your EAD card is not a reentry document. Your F-1 visa is your re-entry document, and during your OPT period, you must still have a valid F-1 visa to reenter the United States.

For more information about reentering the US, including information on traveling while OPT is pending, please see the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website

Important: Do not attempt to reenter the United States on a B visa or visa waiver while waiting for OPT approval, or because you have an expired F-1 visa. Doing so automatically ends your F-1 status and you forfeit your OPT. ISS cannot correct or change this.

Travel Signature             

Travel signatures while on OPT are good for six months. Please look at your I-20 to check if your last travel signature will be less than six months old on the date of your return to the US. You will also want to ensure that your I-20 is completely up to date when you travel. (Ex. If your current I-20 says “OPT Requested” and your OPT has since been approved, you will want to request a new I-20 with travel signature.  If you need a travel signature while on OPT, please log in to myISS and navigate to the “F-1 Optional Practical Training” category, and then to the “OPT Reporting” e-form group. In this e-form group, you can verify that you have reported all personal and employment information, as well as request a travel signature.

Getting an F-1 Visa Stamp on OPT

If your F-1 visa has expired and you wish to travel outside of the US, a new F-1 visa must be obtained before re-entering the US. If you need to apply for a new visa, please Contact Student Services to discuss the visa application process.

Also see this guide: Renewing Your Student Visa

If a petition has been filed on your behalf, such as for an H1-B, you should consult with legal counsel in regards to traveling with a pending petition.
Attending Classes and OPT

While on OPT, you may not take classes toward an educational or professional objective, such as a degree or certificate program.

You are allowed to take classes that are avocational or recreational in nature as long as the classes will not result in an educational or professional objective. A program of study that “leads to the attainment of a specific educational or professional objective” is not avocational or recreational. The definition of program extends to all approved academic programs at Purdue University whether credit is being earned toward a degree objective; through non-degree admission; part-time or full-time enrollment; or, for an undergraduate or graduate Certificate program.

You are advised to discuss these plans with a student counselor if you have questions according to Contact Student Services.

If you decide to begin a new program with an educational or professional objective, you will need to either change your educational level (if you will pursue your new program at Purdue) or transfer your SEVIS record (if you will attend a different university).

As soon as you begin your new program at Purdue or on the date your SEVIS record is released (transferred) to another institution, the rest of your OPT is forfeited and you must stop working.  You cannot save any unused OPT days.
Social Security Information

Social Security Number Information

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit number issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and temporary non-residents with employment authorization by the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSNs are used to track individuals for taxation purposes. It is not used for identification purposes.

In order to work in the United States, you must obtain a Social Security number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA). A non-U.S. citizen may obtain a SSN if s/he has permission to work in the United States or is required to by a federal, state, or local government agency. Currently, SSNs are only issued to non-residents who have been granted employment eligibility. Dependents with F-2 status are not eligible for a SSN because they are not permitted to work.

Once issued, your Social Security Number is yours for life. Keep your card in a safe place along with your other important documents. If you lose your SS card, you must apply for a replacement card and show proof of current employment.

The SSA provides information for international students on how to apply for a SSN here: SSN Information

Applying for OPT and SSN

If you do not already have a Social Security number (SSN), you may apply for one at the same time you apply for OPT using the same form I-765. This will allow you to apply for an SSN or replacement card without having to visit a Social Security Office. USCIS will send the required information to apply for an SSN to the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you are approved for OPT, you will receive an EAD card showing your work authorization, and within two weeks after that, you should receive your Social Security card.

Please note, USCIS and SSA will use this address to send you documents related to your OPT application and your SSN application. Federal mail is not forwarded by the U.S. Postal Service, even if you have done an official "change of address" notification. Therefore it is best to use a secure address.

Grace Period on OPT

You have a 60-day grace period after your EAD expires. During this time, you may:

  • Remain in the U.S. and prepare to exit before the end of the grace period
  • Apply to continue your education at Purdue or transfer to another SEVP certified school
  • Change visa categories

Please note that during your grace period, you cannot work and you cannot leave and re-enter the U.S.

If you exceeded the 90 days of unemployment on OPT (or total of 150 days while on STEM), you do not have a grace period.

If you have been granted a STEM extension or Cap-Gap extension, these extensions begin immediately after the date your OPT expires, without a 60-day grace period in between. You need to apply for either of these extensions before your EAD expires.
H-1B Cap Gap Extension

Overview of H-1B Cap-Gap

H-1B is a work visa that is sponsored by an employer. The H-1B cap is the limit on the number of H-1Bs allowed each year. The cap does not apply to all H-1B visas. You must discuss with your employer and/or immigration attorney whether your H-1B petition is subject to the cap.

The period of time when an F-1 student’s status and work authorization expire through the start date of their approved H-1B employment period is known as the "cap-gap”. The H-1B cap-gap extension allows certain students with pending or approved cap-subject H-1B petitions to remain in the U.S. in F-1 status until the start date of their approved H-1B employment period, even if the OPT authorization and/or F-1 grace period would have otherwise expired before October 1.

Who is Eligible for the H-1B Cap Gap Extension

You are eligible for the cap gap extension if both:

  • Your employer files a cap-subject H-1B petition for you on or after April 1 and requests a change of status to H-1B to begin October 1.
  • You are within your OPT authorization period or 60-day grace period following the OPT expiration when your employer submits the H-1B petition on your behalf.

If your OPT authorization is still valid when your employer submits your cap-subject H-1B petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), your OPT authorization will be extended. You can continue working in F-1 status through the extension date.

If your OPT authorization is expired but you are in your 60-day grace period when your employer submits your H-1B petition to USCIS, your F-1 status is extended. You cannot work but you can remain in the U.S. through the extension date.

Extension Dates

The length of your extension depends on the status of your H-1B application:

  • Filed: If your H-1B petition is properly filed (but not yet receipted or approved), your OPT authorization is extended to June 1. If your OPT authorization already expired but you were in your 60-day grace period at the time of filing, your F-1 status is extended to June 1.
  • Selected for receipting: If your H-1B petition is selected for receipting, your OPT authorization is extended to September 30. If your OPT authorization already expired but you were in your 60-day grace period at the time of filing, your F-1 status is extended to September 30.
  • Approved: If your H-1B petition is approved, your OPT authorization is extended to September 30. If your OPT authorization already expired but you were in your 60-day grace period at the time of filing, your F-1 status is extended to September 30. 

How to Request the H-1B Cap-Gap Extension

The cap gap extension of F-1 status automatically begins when your employer submits the H-1B petition to USCIS.

Important note: ISS cannot and will not check your SEVIS record for H1-B application updates. Only your employer can provide accurate, official updates regarding your H1-B application.

Students are strongly encouraged to stay in close communication with their petitioning employer during the cap-gap extension period for status updates on the H-1B petition processing. 

To obtain your Cap-Gap I-20:

  1. Log into myISS at MyISS. Read the instructions for how to log in.
  2. Click on the F-1 Optional Practical Training section.
  3. Update any information you need to in the "OPT Reporting" e-form groups.
  4. After you've updated your information, click on the "Request H-1B Cap-Gap Extension I-20" e-form. Follow the instructions in the form to select the situation that applies to you and upload the required documentation (see below). 

If your H-1B petition is:

  • Filed:
    • If your original OPT authorization is valid through June 1, do not request a new I-20 based on H-1B filing only: wait instead for the receipt or approval notice.
    • If your original OPT will expire before June 1, submit a copy of the petition and FedEx, UPS, or USPS Express/certified mail receipt to ISS.
  • Selected for receipting:
    • Submit a copy of the I-797 Notice of Action Receipt Notice to ISS.
  • Approved:
    • Submit a copy of your I-797 Approval Notice to ISS.

ISS will print an I-20 for you that indicates the extension of your F-1 status and (if eligible) extension of your OPT employment authorization. The cap-gap extension benefit is automatic, so you can continue working (if eligible) and remain in the U.S. while waiting for your new I-20.

Travel during H-1B Cap-Gap Extension

After an H-1B petition for a change of status is filed, consult your employer's immigration attorney about all international travel, whether or not your EAD is expired.

  • If your EAD is expired, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status.
  • You must consult your employer's attorney about whether and when you may be eligible to re-enter the US in H-1B status.

Denied H-1B Petitions

If USCIS denies, rejects, or revokes an H-1B petition filed on behalf of an F-1 student covered by the automatic cap-gap extension, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period (from the notification date of the denial, rejection, or revocation of the petition) before he or she is required to depart the U.S., change degree level, transfer to another SEVIS approved school, or change status as long as the student has not otherwise violated status. The student cannot (1) leave and re-enter the U.S. during this time and (2) cannot work.

For denied cases: It should be noted that the 60-day grace period does not apply to an F-1 student whose accompanying change of status request is denied due to discovery of a status violation. Such a student in any event is not eligible for the automatic cap-gap extension. Similarly, the 60-day grace period would not apply to the case of a student whose petition was revoked based on a finding of fraud or misrepresentation discovered following approval. In both of these instances, the student would be required to leave the United States immediately.