Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an benefit offered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) department that allows F-1 students the opportunity for practical work experience in a position related to their academic field of study. You may apply for OPT authorization during your academic program, after your program completion, or a combination of both. Please contact OISS to find out if and when you are eligible to apply for OPT based on your specific circumstance. 

Your ability to apply for OPT is contingent on OISS approval


Students are eligible for 12 months of full-time OPT per academic level (i.e. 12 months of OPT at the bachelor's level, 12 months of additional OPT at the master's level). In order to apply for OPT, you must:

  • Have attended a mandatory OPT Workshop at HPU
  • Currently be in F-1 student status
  • Have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year, or complete one academic year by the OPT requested start date
  • Ensure that you have not exceeded 12 months total of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Part-time CPT does not affect OPT
  • Have not previously completed 12 months of OPT at the same degree level

Students may be eligible to request an OPT opportunity while still enrolled in their academic program. This is called "pre-completion" OPT and it is uncommon that students choose to apply for this benefit. Any pre-completion OPT used will be deducted for the OPT you are eligible for after graduation (called "post-completion" OPT). Most students prefer to save their 12 months of OPT for after they complete their academic program. Please note that the number of hours you can work per week on pre-completion OPT depends on the academic calendar:

  • While enrolled for a full course of study and school is in session: students can only work up to 20 hours per week (part-time)
  • During vacation periods such as winter, spring, or summer breaks: students can choose to work full-time (20+ hours per week) or part-time

Post-completion OPT refers to the work authorization benefit to be used after a student completes their academic program. This initial benefit allows for you to request up to 12 months of work authorization for a position related to your field of study at any location in the United States. Students who have completed a STEM degree may also be eligible for an extension to this initial 12 months of work authorization (please see our page on STEM OPT Extension). Please note that:

  • You can apply for post-completion OPT as early as 90 days before your official academic program end date. Applications received earlier than 90 days before your program end date will be rejected by USCIS
  • You must work full-time (20+ hours per week) while on post-completion OPT

OPT Workshop Dates for Summer 2021

If you plan to submit an OPT application, it is mandatory that you attend one of the workshops listed below in order to obtain OISS approval. Your OPT application will be rejected by USCIS without OISS approval. Students who plan to apply for post-completion OPT cannot begin the application process until their final semester.




By Appointment Only


Online or In-person

All workshops will be a discussion-based presentation regarding the timeline, process, and regulations affecting students on OPT. Workshops will be conducted via Zoom web conference, so you must RSVP to receive the invitation link. An email confirmation will be sent to you once a request has been submitted.





OPT is a benefit of the F-1 student status, therefore OISS is still responsible for maintaining your SEVIS record for OPT even if you have graduated. Once you have received OPT work authorization you must:

  • Submit a picture or scanned copy of the front and back of your EAD card
  • Submit any updates to your employment or personal contact information within 10 days of the change. There are two ways you can report changes (but you do not need to do both):
    • Complete and sign the OPT Reporting Form and return it to iss@hpu.edu
    • Login to the SEVP Portal you received access to through email after OPT approval

Can I travel while my OPT APPLICATION is pending?

If your OPT authorization is still pending (meaning you haven't received an EAD card yet), OISS does not recommend traveling outside of the U.S. once your academic program has ended. You may travel within the U.S. without issue, just make sure you have a valid ID (U.S. state ID or passport).

Can I leave the U.S. While my opt Application is pending and wait for my EAD card from abroad?

OISS does not recommend leaving the U.S. while your OPT application is pending. USCIS will not send any EAD cards to a location outside the U.S. In this scenario, you would need to have the EAD card sent to a trusted family or friend inside the U.S., who would then need to ship the card to you. Several HPU students have lost their EAD cards this way! If your EAD card is lost, you need to submit another OPT application to USCIS (including that application fee!)-- indicating that you've lost your EAD card. You would not be able to work until you receive a new EAD card.

Can I leave the U.S. and re-enter as a tourist while my opt application is pending?

If you have a pending post-completion OPT application and re-enter the U.S. on any other status (i.e. tourist) besides F-1, your OPT benefit will be canceled.

Can I travel after my OPT APPLICATION has been approved?

You may travel within the U.S. without issue, just make sure you have a valid ID (U.S. state ID or passport). Traveling outside the U.S. is less risky once you've received your EAD card. If you plan to travel abroad and return to the U.S. to continue your OPT period, you must be able to present the following documents at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol station:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 visa
  • Your I-20 with OPT recommendation (OPT I-20)
  • A travel signature on your OPT I-20
  • OPTIONAL: A letter from your employer stating that travel will not affect your current employment

What if I can't find a job during Post-completion opt?

You are not considered employed during your post-completion OPT period unless you are working 20+ hours per week in a position related to your academic field of study. SEVIS will automatically begin counting the number of days you are unemployed based on the start date listed on your EAD card and whether you have employment listed on your record. You are allowed 90 days total of unemployment, any additional days of unemployment would constitute a violation of your F-1 status and may result in the loss of your OPT benefit. In order to maintain your status, we recommend that concerned students seek out volunteer opportunities, internships, or multiple part-time jobs in their field of study, that would permit them to fulfill the 20+ hour per week requirement.

I've Received Approval, but I'm still waiting to receive my EAD card. Can I start working?

You cannot begin working until you have the EAD card in your possession. Please contact USCIS directly for clarification or regarding any issues pertaining to the shipment of your EAD card.

Regulations normally state that students on an OPT benefit must maintain at least 20 hours of employment per week on average in order to fulfill full-time employment requirements. SEVP has relaxed that restriction for OPT students due to COVID-19 and will not penalize those who have been furloughed, given reduced hours, or placed on leave of absence as long as they remain officially employed by the organization. However, USCIS has not extended the amount of unemployment time a student is allotted and all employment must be related to the student's academic program. Students on STEM OPT are permitted to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and do not need to update their SEVIS record or Form I-983 with the remote employer address information.