Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Eligibility Requirements:

  • You must have been in valid F-1 status at least 9 consecutive months.
  • The employment must be directly related to your major area of study, and must be equivalent with your educational level.

OPT Guidelines:

  • The maximum amount of time granted to work in F-1 practical training status will be 12 months.
  • You may change jobs during the 12 months.
  • No offer of employment is required, but you are expected to work or be actively seeking employment after you receive authorization for OPT and receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • You must receive approval for OPT from USCIS before you begin work.

How to Apply:

Submit all of the items below to the International Student Advisor:

  • Submit all the original form I-20 IDs you have received (be sure to include most recent I-20 with USCIS entry stamp)
  • Complete and sign Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
    • Notes:
      • Mark Item 16 with "(c)(3)(B)"
      • The address you put on the form is the address the EAD card will be sent. If you do not receive the card before you graduate you must arrange with the campus post office to have your mail forwarded to your new address in the United States.
  • Write a check to the "Department of Homeland Security" in the amount of $340 (this is required to process form I-765).
  • Obtain two full-frontal passport photographs.
    • The 2 photos must be taken no earlier than 30 days before submission. The photos should be a standard, full-frontal face position. Your head should be bare unless you are wearing a headdress as required by a religious order to which you belong. Lightly print your name and your I-94 number on the back of each photo with a pencil.
  • A photocopy of I-94 (both sides).
  • A photocopy of ID and photo page of your passport and visa page.
  • Completed Faculty Advisor Recommendation Form
  • A photocopy of your previous EAD (if applicable).

While on OPT:

  • You must keep the International Student Advisor at Gettysburg College updated with your most current contact information.
    • Address
    • Phone numbers (land and cell)
    • Email address
      • Information can be emailed to Brad Lancaster at blancast@gettysburg.edu or you can call in the information by calling Brad at 717-337-6377.
  • The ideal scenario is to have uninterrupted employment during the OPT period. If you are finding difficulty finding a job, or if you lost your original OPT job, you should dedicate your full effort to looking for a job, and keep documentation that can demonstrate the job search. For example, you should keep a list of employers you have contacted, resumes you sent, calls you made, and time spent researching companies.  If the Department of Homeland Security ever evaluates gaps in employment, such documentation will be expected.

Travel and Reentry After Graduation:

Many of the same F-1 procedures used while studying apply.  One common overarching regulation is that you can only leave the US temporarily (less than 5 months) in order to be readmitted to resume employment for the remainder of the OPT period.

  • If you have your EAD, in order to travel and return you must have:
    • A Form I-20 that is endorsed by the International Student Advisor within the preceding 6 months.
    • An unexpired EAD card.
    • Must be returning to resume employment or begin a job for which you have an offer - travel with a letter from your employer verifying your employment or the offer of employment
  • It is not recommended that you travel if you have not secured a position. If you choose to travel and have not yet secured a job:
    • You may be questioned on whether or not you are returning to the US to continue or start a job.
    • The longer you have had an EAD but have not been working, the greater the likelihood you may encounter difficulties.
    • If you are not employed you should be prepared to explain the substantial steps you have taken to secure employment.
  • If you do not have your EAD, you may travel while your OPT application is pending but there is some risk because you are traveling after your coursework is completed but before you are officially authorized to work in the US after graduation. If you must travel, in order to return you must have:
    • A Form I-20 that is endorsed by the International Student Advisor within the preceding 6 months.
    • Your I-765 receipt
    • Documentation that demonstrates that you will be resuming your search for employment.