Student Services :: International Education

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training is a benefit of F-1 status that authorizes off-campus employment. Students who have maintained F-1 status for a full academic year (3 consecutive terms) are eligible.

Employment must be directly related to the student's major and field of study, and is for a maximum of 12 months.

OPT requires a $340 payment to the Department of Homeland Security, and could take up to 4 months to be approved. Travel outside of the U.S. is permitted while the application is pending, but is not advised. Students must travel with a Receipt Notice (Form I-797), their I-20 with travel endorsement, their F-1 Visa, and their passport.

If you are looking for information on Curricular Practical Training (CPT), contact international@virginiawestern.edu.

When To Apply

Students can apply for OPT pre-completion prior to completing their degree. Employment is limited to 20 hours per week during the academic term. It will require a separate application.

Students can apply for OPT post-completion within 120 days of completing their degree and will begin employment within 60 days of completing their degree.

How To Apply

  1. Complete Form 1-765 and make payment.
  2. Print the application and receipt notice. A paper receipt, Form 1-797, will be mailed within 1-2 weeks.
  3. Mail the following supporting documentation to USCIS (USCIS, Vermont Service Center, 75 Lower Welden Street, St. Albans, VT 05479) within 30 days of E-filing:
    • Confirmation of Receipt Notice.
    • SEVIS 1-20: Copy page 1 and page 3 off all I-20s issued including the most recent with the proposed employment dates. Make sure page one of each I-20 have been signed and dated. Do not send originals.
    • Passport identity page with your picture.
    • Photocopy of the front and pack of the I-94 (white card in passport).
    • Photocopy of any previously issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD) cards.
    • Two recent photos of yourself. The USCIS requires that the photos meet the specifications for the full frontal/passport type of photos and not be more than 30 days old when your application is filed. Fore more information on photo standards, visit the Department of State web site. We recommend that you write your name lightly on the back of each photo in pencil, and do not staple.
  4. Bring or send a good quality copy of your EAD (front and back) with the expiration date legible to the International Advisor in Chapman Hall, Room 105.

    If the USCIS does not approve or deny your application within 90 days, you may request an Interim EAD by making an appointment at the local USCIS office.
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