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International Student and Scholar Services


Optional Practical Training

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. These trainings are the best way to receive the most up to date information on USCIS processing times and changes in application processes. 


To learn about Optional Practical Training (OPT), watch this two-part series. It is important to watch both OPT presentations in order to learn how OPT works. These presentations cover OPT from the application period through the reporting period.

Optional Practical Training Presentation: Part 1

Optional Practical Training Presentation: Part 2

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 for at least one academic year
  • 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 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 per level.

Application Process

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 (see above) 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.

If you move while USICS is processing your I-765 application, you must update your mailing address with USCIS online or by calling the National Customer Service Center 800-375-5283. USCIS has also provided tips on how to track delivery of the EAD.

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.

Allowable Employment Activities while on OPT 

Limits on Periods of Unemployment

Students on standard post-completion OPT are entitled to ninety days of employment. USCIS counts any time that you DO NOT report to the SEVP portal, so make sure you update your SEVP portal as soon as you find a job.

Students with more than 90 days of unemployment may be considered out-of-status by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ineligible for future F-1 benefits such as transfer of SEVIS record or 24-month STEM extension of OPT


All U.S. employers are required to verify that each new employee irregardless of their citizenship has valid work authorization using Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification). Employers must complete this form within 3 business days of the employee's first day of employment.

As part of the process, the employee must present original documents which confirm their identity and their employment eligibility. The list of acceptable documents is found on Page 4 of Form I-9. An employer cannot specify which document(s) that you must present. NOTE: Due to COVID-19, DHS has given some flexibility to allow documentation to be presented remotely.

For an F-1 student on OPT, one option is to present the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) which is from List A. if the employer is unclear on how to complete their part of Form I-9, they can refer to the USCIS online Handbook for Employers.

UPDATE 08/19/2020: Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency which has caused delays in the production of EADs, employees may present Form I-797 Notice of Action (dated December 1, 2019 through August 20, 2020) which indicates approval of the EAD as a valid document for I-9 verification purposes (List C). This temporary provision still requires the employee to reverify employment eligibility by December 1, 2020 by presenting the original EAD or other documents. Details

EMPLOYMENT Reporting Requirements

Immigration regulations require F-1 students to report OPT employment within 10 days of starting or stopping work. Failure to report OPT employer details could result in the termination of F-1 status by USCIS.

Students can now report their OPT employer details through the SEVP Portal.

The portal account is linked to the student's DU.EDU email address which will remain active while on OPT. To access DU email, go to

SEVP Portal Troubleshooting Tips

 For details on how to report different types of employment, please refer to OPT Reporting Requirements.

Please note that students do NOT need to inform ISSS of OPT employment changes that have been reported through SEVP Portal.

Reporting Employment Through ISSS

If a student is unable to report OPT employment through the SEVP Portal, ISSS can submit the information to SEVIS. When reporting OPT employer information, please email with the following details and DU student ID so that we can properly update SEVIS.

  • Name of company
  • Company address
  • Start date of employment
  • Indicate if position is part-time (20 or less hours/week) or full-time (more than 20 hours/week)
  • 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
  • Last date of employment with previous OPT employer (if applicable)
  • Current residential address


While in F-1 status on OPT, it is still necessary to report certain changes within 10 days of their occurrence:

  • Change of residential address including phone number or personal email address
    • Log into PioneerWeb  Select the myWeb tab. Then click Personal Information, and then Update Addresses and Phones. 
      • Update the MAILING address to your current U.S. residential address. [Do not enter a non-US address even if you are temporarily outside the US.]
      • Update the HOME address only if your permanent international address has changed. [Do not enter an address inside the U.S.]
  • Report the following changes to ISSS (
    • Change of legal name - provide copy of new passport biographical page
    • Change of immigration status - include evidence of new status such as I-797 Approval Notice
    • Permanent departure from the United States