Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorizes an F-1 student to engage in practical training for up to one year, generally following the completion of studies. OPT is authorized by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Processing times vary, but you should anticipate at least 3 months upon receipt of the OPT application by USCIS before you receive employment authorization. We strongly recommend applying for OPT 90 days prior to your degree completion.
Every quarter, ISSS offers workshops to explain eligibility and the application process for Optional Practical Training. Please visit the Events page for dates and times.
Eligibility for OPT
In general, you must meet the following criteria in order to be eligible for OPT:
- You are currently in valid F-1 status
- You have been enrolled full-time in F-1 status for at least one academic year
- You have not completed a higher degree level in the U.S.
- You have not previously been approved for 12 months of OPT at the current degree level or higher degree level
- You have not completed more than a year of full-time CPT at the current degree level or higher degree level
- You have or will complete an undergraduate, Master's, doctoral, or professional degree program
You may apply for OPT for each higher degree level that you complete in the U.S. For immigration purposes, the primary degree levels are Undergraduate, Master, and Doctorate. If you complete more than one degree at the same degree level, you may only apply for OPT once for that level.
You may apply for OPT as early as 90 days before your anticipated completion of studies date and as late as the final day of your 60-day grace period following the completion of your program. We strongly recommend applying as early as possible to ensure you receive your employment authorization in a timely fashion.
To apply for OPT, please complete the OPT Application Packet and submit all the documents on the checklist to ISSS.
ISSS will review the documents to look for obvious mistakes which could delay USCIS processing of the OPT application. Once reviewed, ISSS will prepare a new I-20 recommending you for OPT. The documents along with the new I-20 will be returned to you for mailing to USCIS. ISSS typically requires 3-4 business days to review OPT applications.You may not begin working until you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. Employment is only permissible for the dates listed on the EAD. You may not begin working before the EAD start date or after its end date.
Appropriate Forms of Employment
OPT authorizes a student to engage in practical training directly related to your major(s) at the University of Denver. You should speak to your academic advisor or employment supervisor to determine whether the employment is appropriate for your degree program. Neither International Student and Scholar Services nor USCIS directly monitors the appropriateness of your employment. However, immigration officers may review your employment history if you apply for other immigration benefits in the future.
Immigration regulations now specifically state that a student's F-1 status is dependent upon engaging in qualifying practical training while on OPT. In order to qualify as practical training, the employment must be for at least 20 hours per week. Employment may be paid or unpaid. Volunteer work may qualify as practical training, provided it meets the minimum hours per week requirement and is appropriate for your major field of study.
While on OPT, you must continue to meet certain reporting requirements in order to maintain your F-1 status. Failure to report OPT employer details within 10 days could result in the termination of your F-1 status by USCIS.
When reporting OPT employer information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the following details and your DU student ID so that we can properly update SEVIS.
- Name of company
- Company address
- Start date of employment
- Last date of employment with previous employer (if applicable)
- Short explanation of less than 1000 characters including spaces (approximately 150-175 words) describing how your employment is related to your coursework and degree at the University of Denver
- Indicate if this position is part-time (20 or less hours/week) or full-time (more than 20 hours/week)
For details on how to report different types of employment, please refer to OPT Reporting Requirements.
You must also report the following information within 10 days to ISSS:
- Change of residential or mailing address including phone number or email address
- Change of legal name
- Change of immigration status
- Permanent departure from the United States