Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an off-campus work benefit for students on an F-1 visa.  While it is possible to use OPT during your studies at Gettysburg College, most students use their OPT benefit after they graduate.

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.

OPT Guidelines:

  • The maximum amount of time granted to work in F-1 OPT status is 12 months.  If you graduated with a STEM major, you are eligible to extend your OPT for an additional 24 months.
  • You may change jobs during your approved OPT period.
  • 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 the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) before you begin work.

How to Apply:

Submit all of the items below to the ISS office:

  • All original form I-20s you have received while studying in the U.S.
  • Completed and signed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
    • Notes:
      • Mark Item 16 with "(c)(3)(B)" if you are applying for post-graduation OPT.
      • 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.
  • Check or money order made to the "Department of Homeland Security" in the amount of $380 (this is required to process form I-765).
  • 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 printout of your I-94 admission number
  • A photocopy of ID and photo page of your passport
  • A photocopy of your previous EAD (if applicable).

While on OPT:

  • You must report your employer's name, address, supervisor's name, and the date you started working to the ISS office within 10 days of starting your employment.
  • You must keep the ISS office at Gettysburg College updated with your most current contact information.
    • Address
    • Phone numbers (land and cell)
    • Email address
  • 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.  The maximum amount of unemployment allowed during OPT is 90 days.

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 ISS 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 ISS International Student Advisor within the preceding 6 months.
    • Your I-765 receipt
    • Documentation that demonstrates that you will be resuming your search for employment.