Office of International Programs (OIP)

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

To apply for OPT:

Review the OPT online application and information workshop (4.75MB), submit all the application materials including a cover sheet in a blank envelope (at least 9 inches by 11 inches) to the OIP front desk anytime between Monday to Friday, 8AM to 5PM.

An F1 advisor will review your application materials and issue a new I-20 for your OPT application. You will need to pick up your new I-20 and all the application materials at the OIP front desk once we contact you (within 5 business days, excluding weekends and holidays), and then mail them to USCIS.

Important OPT dates for Spring 2014 graduates:

Program completion date: May 23, 2014
First day to apply for OPT: February 24, 2014
Last day to apply OPT: July 11, 2014

First possible day to start OPT: May 24, 2014
Last possible day to start OPT: July 22, 2014

Important OPT dates for Summer 2014 graduates:

For student who are graduating in the R1 session:
Program completion date: July 11, 2014
First day to apply for OPT: April 14, 2014
Last day to apply OPT: August 26, 2014
USCIS application deadline: September 9, 2014        

First possible day to start OPT: July 12, 2014
Last possible day to start OPT: September 9, 2014

For student who are graduating in the R2, R3, R4 session:
Program completion date: August 15, 2014
First day to apply for OPT: May 19, 2014
Last day to apply OPT:  September 30, 2014
USCIS application deadline: October 14, 2014               

First possible day to start OPT: August 16, 2014
Last possible day to start OPT: October 14, 2014


What Is OPT?

What Is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

Optional Practical Training is a 12 month temporary employment authorization that provides an opportunity for F-1 students to apply knowledge acquired from their academic program to a work experience in their major field of study (item #5 of your SF State I-20 form). It is a benefit of maintaining status that is available during an F-1 student's course of study (pre-degree completion), after each degree level completed (post-degree completion), or may be used as a combination of both pre- and post-degree completion as long as one does not exceed the equivalent of 12 full-time months of OPT authorization.

A one-time 17 month post-completion OPT extension might be available to certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) graduates. Please see the "STEM 17-Month OPT Extensions" on the OIP web site for more information.

OPT must be recommended by the SF State Office of International Programs and approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS work authorization is issued in the form of an Employment Authorization Document commonly referred to as an EAD.The EAD is a photo identity card similar to a university ID or driver's license. It indicates the date an authorized F-1 student may begin employment and the date the student must end employment.

Additional Information About OPT:

  • No job offer necessary to apply
  • Job may occur anywhere in the U.S.
  • Job must be appropriate for someone having your level of study
  • You may be paid by your employer and you may receive academic credit. Optional Practical Training (any combination of Vacation, Thesis, While school in session and Post-Completion Practical Training) is limited to a total of 12 months of full-time employment per level of study.
    • Full-time employment = more than 20 hours per week
    • Part-time employment = 20 hours per week or less
    • Part-time employment is deducted from the available Optional Practical Training at 50% of the full-time rate. For example, a student who is granted 4 months' part-time practical training will have 2 months deducted from the 12 month total Optional Practical Training time.
  • Although you may submit an application for OPT up to 90 days before being enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year (two semesters), your period of employment cannot begin until you have already successfully completed an academic year of full-time study.
  • Students enrolled in the American Language Institute (ALI) are not eligible for practical training upon completion of their studies.

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OPT Eligibility Requirements

In order to be eligible for any type of Optional Practical Training, you must:

  • Be enrolled full-time (at least 12 units for Undergraduate students and 8 units for Graduate students)
  • Be in valid F-1 status
  • Be in good academic standing, defined as a minimum G.P.A. of 2.0 (undergraduate students) or 3.0 (graduate students)
  • Have been enrolled full-time for at least one full academic year prior to submitting an OPT application (Year enrollment may be fulfilled at SF State, a previous university, or between multiple universities)
  • Have not completed more than 364 days of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Have not already utilized an equivalent of 12 months of OPT work authorization in current degree level

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Types of OPT

According to USCIS, employment may be authorized under the following conditions:

I. Pre-Completion Practical Training (permission to work while you are completing your degree)

A. Vacation Practical Training (part-time or full-time):
Vacation Practical Training is defined as employment (directly related to your major field of study and appropriate for someone having your level of education) that takes place during your summer or winter vacation. You may apply for either part-time or full-time vacation practical training. At the end of your summer or winter vacation, you will be expected to enroll in a full course of study for the fall or spring semester. Therefore, your vacation semester can never be your final term at the University. While on Vacation Practical Training, you need not be enrolled in classes in order to maintain lawful F-1 status.

B. While School is in Session (part-time only):
Practical Training While School is in Session is defined as employment that takes place during the regular academic year (fall and spring semesters) when you are also required to be enrolled in a full-time course load at San Francisco State University. This work is part-time only (20 hours or less per week).

C. Thesis Practical Training (part-time or full-time):
Thesis Practical Training is defined as employment that takes place after you have completed all of your course requirements except for your thesis. Please note that some degree programs at SF State do not require a thesis in order to graduate. Therefore, if your degree program does not require a thesis, you will not be eligible for Thesis Practical Training.

Special note:

Employment for 20 hours or less per week is considered "part-time" Thesis Practical Training. The OPT recommendation on the 3rd page of your I-20 should specify permission to engage in part time training and you must be careful to limit your work to no more than 20 hours per week.

Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered "full-time" Thesis Practical Training and The OPT recommendationon the 3rd page of your I-20 should specify permission to participate in full time training.

II. Post-Completion Practical Training (permission to work after you finish your degree)

D. Post-Completion Practical Training (full-time only):

PCPT is designed to provide you with an opportunity to gain actual employment experience in your chosen profession for a maximum of one year (12 months). Its purpose is to "round off" or complement your academic work.

The work must be directly related to your major field of study and it must be appropriate for someone having your level of education. The work may be full-time or part-time, and may occur anywhere in the United States.

A one-time 17 month post-completion OPT extension might be available to certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) graduates. More information

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Duration of OPT

One Twelve-Month Period of OPT Is Available For Each Level of Study.
You are allowed to have this type of employment permission for each level of study during your stay in the U.S. in F-1 status.

Example: If you were granted 12 months of OPT after your bachelor's degree then you are still eligible for apply for 12 months of OPT at the master鈥榮 degree level.

You will not receive additional OPT unless your next degree is at a higher educational level. This rule still applies even if there is a break between your status, or you are attending a different school from where you earned your bachelor's degree and/or you have a different major from your bachelor's degree.

If you were granted 4 months of part-time School-in-Session OPT, you will have 10 months of full-time OPT left.

Also, please note that if you receive your EAD after the work authorization start date you requested, you are not eligible to recover the time that passed while you were waiting to receive your EAD in the mail. You must still stop working on the end date indicated on the EAD unless you are eligible for a STEM 17 Month OPT Extension and apply in a timely manner.

Authorization May Not Be Canceled
Once authorization to engage in optional practical training has been granted, it may not be rescinded or canceled. This means that after OPT is authorized by the USCIS, situations such as unexpected delays in completing degree requirements, inability to find an appropriate job or loss of a job may result in loss of otherwise eligible time to work. Once permission to work for 12 months is given it is gone regardless of subsequent occurrences.

Authorization to engage in OPT is automatically terminated when you transfer to another school or when you receive a new I-20 form to begin study at another educational level.

Actual Date Employment May Begin:

You may not begin work until all three of the following requirements are satisfied:

  1. You have obtained an EAD
  2. The date is reached for which the EAD authorizes employment to begin
  3. You have actually completed all requirements for your program of study (if applying for post completion work authorization).

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Types of OPT Employment

What Types Of Employment Are Allowed For Regular Pre-And Post-Completion OPT?

All OPT employment, including post-completion OPT, must be in a job that is related to the student's degree program.

For students who are NOT on a STEM 17-Month OPT Extension, this employment may include:

Types Of Employment Explanation
Paid Employment Students may work part time (at least 20 hours per week when on PCPT) or full time.
Multiple Employers Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student's degree program and for pre-completion OPT cannot exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours.
Short-Term Multiple Employers (Performing Artists) Students, such as musicians and other performing artists may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing a list of all gigs.
Work For Hire This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
Self-Employed Business Owner Students on PCPT may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student's degree program.
Employment Through An Agency Students on PCPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
Unpaid Employment Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for students on PCPT . These students must be able to provide evidence from the employer that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.

Change of Employer After PCPT Has Been Authorized:
You may change employers after you have begun authorized employment provided the new job is directly related to your major field of study and is appropriate for someone with your level of education.

Special Employment Rules For STEM 17-Month OPT Extensions:
See more information on STEM 17-Month OPT Extensions

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OPT Application Checklist

To apply for OPT, review the OPT online application and information workshop, submit all the application materials in a blank envelope (at least 9 inches by 11 inches) with a cover sheet to the OIP front desk anytime between Monday to Friday, 8AM to 5PM. Your application will not be processed by OIP without a blank envelope.

An F1 advisor will review your application materials and issue a new I-20 for your OPT application. You will need to pick up your new I-20 and all the application materials at the OIP front desk once we contact you (within 5 business days, excluding weekends and holidays), insert a personal check or money order for $380 application fee (made payable to 鈥淯S Department of Homeland Security鈥) and mail them to USCIS.

Application Checklist:

  • OPT Application Cover Sheet
  • Completed and signed Optional Practical Training Authorization Form (2 pages). The Authorization Form can only be downloaded from OPT online application and information workshop,
    If you are a business major: This form must be signed by the advisor in Student Services Center, College of Business (Room 112), not your faculty advisor.
  • Completed & Signed Form I-765 (click 鈥淒ownload I-765 (104KB PDF)鈥 link at the bottom of the page.
  • Original or photocopy of your most current I-20
  • Photocopy of the identification page(s) in your passport (must include name, current expiration date, and photo)
  • I-94 admissions verification printout from (If you entered the U.S. prior to April 30, 2013, provide a front and back copy of the I-94 card stapled to inside of your passport)
  • Two 2" by 2" US Passport Style Photographs. Write your name and I-94 number lightly on the back of each photo
  • For students who have previous OPT authorization at any U.S. schools, including SF State: Photocopies of your previous EAD(s).
  • For students who have previous CPT authorization at SF State: Photocopies of pages 1 and 3 of any I-20 form which shows CPT authorization


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When to Apply for OPT

Pre-Completion OPT:
You may apply for OPT up to 90 days in advance of the requested employment start date.

Post-Completion OPT (PCPT):
You can submit your application to the USCIS up to 90 days before your Program Completion Date or during the 60-day grace period after the Program Completion Date.

Program Completion Date is the date you complete all your program requirements, for example:

  • The last day of final exams (Undergraduate Students)

  • The day you submit the thesis/final project

  • The day you do your oral defense

  • The day you give your final recital

Program Completion Date is NOT the date your graduation application is reviewed/approved, nor the date you receive the diploma.

Your application must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after you complete your program requirements, and they also must receive your completed application for OPT no later than 30 days from the date indicated on the OPT I-20 which you will receive from OIP.

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Determining Your OPT Start & End Dates

Determine your requested Pre-Completion authorization start date:

  • Students are allowed to apply for Pre-Completion OPT anytime during the year, as long as they are eligible for OPT.
  • Pre-Completion OPT must end on or before the Program Completion Date
    Students are advised to apply for Pre-Completion OPT at least 90 days before requested work authorization start date. Plan early!
  • If you apply for a period of Pre-Completion OPT and you then still have part of your 12 month total remaining, you must submit application and filing fee again for Post-Completion Practical Training (PCPT)

Determine your requested Post-Completion authorization start date:

Your PCPT start date may be anytime between your degree program completion date (generally the last day of final exams) up to 60 days after the program completion date indicated on your OPT Authorization Form.

In general, if you are submitting your PCPT application well in advance (3 months early) and already have a job offer, it is advisable to enter a start date that is closer to your/the employer's desired start or your program completion date.

In general, if you are submitting your application close to your expected degree completion date and do not yet have a job offer, you may want to request a later PCPT start date (but no later than 60 days after your expected degree completion date).

Please note that your PCPT must be completed within 14 months from your program end date regardless of your requested OPT start date and actual EAD start date.

Importance of the Actual Date You Complete Your Program of Study:

USCIS regulations refer to the date you complete all requirements for a program of study, not the date you participate in graduation ceremonies and receive a certificate or diploma.

The USCIS ignores your graduation date because it realizes that many students, especially graduate students in thesis or dissertation programs, may complete requirements for a degree any day during the year. This means that the last day of an academic term may not be the date you complete program requirements.

Your lawful F-1 status expires 60 days after the date you complete degree requirements or complete your OPT . You are expected to leave the country within 60 days unless you file a practical training application in a timely fashion or make other arrangements to lawfully remain in the U.S.

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Completing the I-765 Form

Filling in item 3: U.S. Address
You should use your current residential address in the US. This address determines which of the 4 USCIS Service Centers should receive your application. The address you put here must be in Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii or Nevada (USCIS California Service Center jurisdiction). If you are moving out of state, talk to an adviser in OIP about how to submit this application outside of California.

This address needs to be valid for at least 3 months, the length of time it may take to process your OPT application. If you think you might move in the months after you mail your application, use a reliable friend or family member's address to receive your EAD. If you provide an acquaintance's address, you should write it as:

Your name
C/O ___ (name of person whose address you provided)
Street address (and apartment number if applicable)
City, State, Zip Code
*C/O means "in care of"

When providing an address, please be aware:

  • If you have moved and did not provide USCIS with your valid address on your application, your EAD will be returned to USCIS. USCIS mail is not forwarded.
  • If your address changes while your application is being processed, please contact OIP immediately as this may delay your receipt of the EAD.
  • If your name (or your friend/relative's if your mail is being sent "in care of") does not appear on the mailbox, it is possible that the U.S. Post Office may return your EAD to USCIS.
  • USCIS will not mail EAD overseas.

Filling in item 9: Social Security Number (SSN)
If you have never worked in the U.S., you may not yet have a SSN. If this is the case, you can put 鈥昇/A (鈥昇ot Applicable). You will be able to apply for an SSN when you get the EAD.

Filling in item 10: I-94 Number
On this item, you will use your current I-94 number. This is an 11-digit number found on the top left corner of your I-94 card. As an F-1, you will not have an Alien Registration Number

Filling in item 11: Previous USCIS Employment Authorization
Check 鈥測es鈥 if you have ever received an EAD. Fill in the next two lines (at the top of the right column鈥攕hown on next page) with the information related to that previous work permit.
A photocopy of that EAD must be included with your application package. (If you have lost it, write 鈥渓ost EAD鈥 in this space).
If you have never had an EAD, check the 鈥渘o鈥 box here. If you have worked on campus or have used CPT, you will still check 鈥渘o鈥 here.

Filling in item 12: Date of Last Entry into the U.S.
This is the date of your most recent entry into the U.S.聽 This entry date can be found on the admission stamp on your passport or on

Filling in item 13: Place of Last Entry into the U.S.
This is the name of the city where you landed in the U.S.聽聽 This information is also can be found on the admission stamp on your passport (usually as a code like “SFR” for San Francisco).聽 If you drove across from Canada or Mexico, write the name and the city where you entered

Filling in item 14: Manner of Last Entry
This is the status you had upon entering the U.S. For example, you may have last entered with a H-4 dependent visa

Filling in item 15: Current Immigration Status
Your current status should be F-1 student. If not, talk to an OIP advisor immediately.

Filling in item 16 (Eligibility Category)

For Pre-Completion OPT : (c)(3)(A)

For Post-Completion OPT : (c)(3)(B)

For 17-Month STEM OPT Extension : (c)(3)(C)

Filling in item 17:17-Month Extension Only
Those individuals who are eligible for the 17-month extension need to complete this section. If you entered (c) (3) (A) or (c) (3) (B) on item #16, you are not required to fill out this item.

Sign your name, fill in your telephone number and the date of your signature at the bottom of the form. Please note that your signature must fit between the lines on the form. If your signature is too big, your application will be returned to you and delay your work permission. Be conservative and use a signature smaller than your normal handwriting.

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Photo Specifications

The photos you are required to use for the OPT application must meet the specifications of U.S.鈥搒tyle passport photos. To see a full description of these specifications, go to the U.S. Department of State web site.
Most places that take passport photos are already familiar with the specifications. However, you may want to print this page, or the pages from the web site above to take with you when you get your photo taken.

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Mail Your Application

  • An OPT I-20 will be issued. The new I-20 will have your new program completion date on the 1st page, and the OPT recommendation on the 3rd page.
  • Pick up your I-765 application, other application materials, and new I-20 at the OIP front desk within 5 business days, (excluding weekends and holidays) after OIP contacts you
  • Be sure to read the cover letter from OIP. The letter contains a list of things you need to mail to USCIS
  • Sign your I-20 photocopy with a blue pen and insert a personal check or money order for $380 application fee (made payable to 鈥淯S Department of Homeland Security鈥)
  • Send your application to the USCIS by 鈥淐ertified mail Return Receipt鈥
  • Form I-797C, Notice of Action from the USCIS should arrive at the address indicated on the I-765 within 2-4 weeks

For your convenience, OIP will provide address label with USCIS address for you. The address on the envelope is for USPS certified mail only.

Address for USPS Certified mail/Return Receipt:

PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

Address for private courier (non USPS) deliveries:
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

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Application Deadline

The USCIS must receive your application no later than 30 days after your OPT I-20 has been issued. The issue date is located next to the Adviser's signature on Page 1 of the OPT I-20. Please account for mailing time.

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After You Apply For OPT

Application Processing Times

The USCIS California Service is estimating a 60-90 day (2-3 months) processing time for this type of work authorization. Your permission to begin OPT is not finalized until you have received an "Employment Authorization Document" (EAD) from the USCIS. The EAD will have your photograph and will also indicate the exact dates of your authorized employment. You cannot begin your employment until you have received your EAD from USCIS and the EAD is valid.

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Checking the Status of Your Application and Request for Evidence (RFE)

If you have your application receipt number, you can check the status of your OPT application processing case online.

If there is a problem with your application, USCIS will send you a notice by mail called the 鈥淩equest for Evidence (RFE).鈥 In most cases, the USCIS will not call you at the telephone number you put on the I-765.

We strongly advise you to see an adviser at OIP if you receive an RFE. An RFE does not mean that your application has been rejected. It simply means that you need to send in additional documents before your EAD can be issued. Please note the deadline to respond to the RFE. If you fail to meet this deadline, your application will be automatically canceled.

Getting an RFE will delay the processing of your application for OPT usually by about one month. For this reason, it is important to make sure that you have completed the I-765 correctly and sent the proper documents to the USCIS.

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Mandatory Reporting Requirements While on PCPT

While on PCPT, you remain in F-1 status and employment is required to maintain status. As part of your maintenance of status, you are responsible for reporting changes in personal and employment information to OIP within 10 days of the change. Upon receipt of such information, we will update your SEVIS record in order for you to maintain compliance to U.S. immigration regulations.

You must report the following information to OIP within 10 days:

  • Report any change of address (within the U.S. or your foreign address) via SF State Gateway
  • E-mail for any change of name (first, middle, last)
  • Report employment information to OIP at :
    • Name, address of my employer (company), and the start date upon obtaining or changing jobs
    • When your employment changes or terminates (The last day of employment)
    • Upload an image or a scanned copy of your EAD

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What Does OIP Need from Me While I Am on PCPT?

Once you finish your studies and are on an approved period of PCPT, you can still get assistance with immigration related questions from OIP.

However, you are only required to contact us (emailing is fine) to report your current employer name, employer mailing address and start date, to report any periods of unemployment, to report any changes of your US address, to give us a copy of your EAD, and to let us know if you are transferring to another US school, or leaving F-1 status (i.e., going home, changing to another immigration status).

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Days of Unemployment (PCPT only)

The new regulations on OPT published by the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) on April 8, 2008 have raised many questions, and a particular area of concern is the requirement that students must now count days of unemployment while on PCPT, effective with the start date of their EAD.

Days of Unemployment Are Limited:
The regulations establish a limit on the number of days students in a period of PCPT can be unemployed and still maintain F-1 status. For students on regular PCPT or who are eligible for an automatic extension due to the H-1B cap gap provisions, the limit is 90 days.

Students who are authorized for pre-completion OPT (meaning authorized Optional Practical Training taking place during the time a student is still registered with SF State and prior to the student's program completion date) are not required to count days of unemployment.

Each day during the period when PCPT authorization begins and ends that the student does not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment. There are no exceptions.

How many hours does a student need to work during PCPT to be considered employed?
A student must work at least 20 hours per week in a qualifying position to be considered employed. If a student has a variable schedule in a given month, it should average out to at least 20 hours per week.

What are the acceptable types of employment for PCPT?
See Types of OPT Employment

Exceeding the period of unemployment:
To avoid violating F-1 status, prior to reaching the limit on authorized unemployment, a student must take one of the following actions:

  • Apply to continue his or her education by a change of level or transferring to another SEVP-certified school
  • Depart the United States
  • Take action to otherwise maintain legal status

If one of those actions is not taken, a student who has exceeded the period of unemployment while on post-completion OPT has violated his or her status. There is no 60 day grace period once the student has reached the 90 day unemployment limit.

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Termination of OPT

OPT authorization is automatically terminated when an F-1 student transfers to another school or begins coursework in a new academic program.

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Overseas Travel While on PCPT

Current U.S. Immigration Service regulations only permit students on PCPT to return to the U.S. in order to "resume employment." This means that you should have a letter from an employer verifying that you are or will be employed by them. Failure to prove that you have already found a job could result in your being denied entry into the U.S.

Re-Entry Into The U.S. Requires That Students On PCPT Present:

  1. Your OPT I-20 endorsed for travel by an OIP international student advisor "within the last 6 months," and
  2. The EAD or a receipt notice if your application is still pending. Students who do not meet both of these requirements may not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. Be sure to consult with an International Student Advisor at OIP when considering travel outside the U.S. and re-entry to continue PCPT.
  3. Valid F-1 student visa (unless a citizen of Canada)
  4. Letter from your employer verifying that you have a job offer (if your PCPT has been approved). See a Sample Employer's Letter Needed to Re-Enter the US While on OPT.
  5. Valid passport

While your PCPT application is pending, you may travel outside of the U.S. without holding documentation of a job offer. However, if the application gets approved while you are gone, you WILL BE HELD to the above mention requirements. Generally speaking, it is not advisable to travel outside of the U.S. while PCPT authorization is pending or if you have been authorized for PCPT but do not have a job to begin/resume.

Be prepared to tell the U.S. immigration officer at the U.S. port of entry your plans for the OPT year. They may want to know:

  • What have you done to find a job?
  • What kind of job do you plan to look for?
  • What will you do after the OPT is expired?
  • How will you support yourself while you are job-seeking?

Travel Outside the United States and Days of Unemployment:
If a student whose approved period of PCPT as indicated on their EAD has started then travels outside the U.S. while unemployed, the time spent outside the United States will count as unemployment against the 90 day limits.

If a student travels while employed either during a period of leave authorized by an employer or as part of their employment, the time spent outside the US will not count as unemployment.

Points to remember:

  • Don't leave the U.S. for long periods of time during the OPT year. A few weeks of vacation is reasonable, but if you are gone for several months, you may encounter difficulty in re-entering. Remember, unemployment is limited to 90 days
  • Be careful about trying to re-enter the U.S. close to the expiration date of your PCPT. You may not be allowed to re-enter as an F-1
  • Students who need to apply for a new visa should consult OIP prior to travel to discuss the visa application process and possible risks
  • Don't attempt to re-enter the U.S. in a status other than F-1 unless you are willing to forfeit your PCPT permanently

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Applying For an F1 Visa While on PCPT

If you are traveling abroad and the F-1 visa in your passport has expired, you must obtain a new one before re-entering the U.S. To apply for a new visa during PCPT, the basic documents you will need are:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid I-20 with travel endorsement from OIP within the past six months
  • EAD
  • A job offer in your field of study
  • Evidence of sufficient funds (e.g. a bank statement, a letter from a sponsor or a job offer letter)

Please check with your local US Embassy for the complete list of required documents.

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Studying While on PCPT

Students who have been authorized by the Immigration Service to participate in PCPT are only permitted to enroll in recreational or avocational courses. You are not permitted to enroll in academic courses that may be used towards the completion of a degree or a certificate program. Doing so may be a violation of your F-1 student status and could result in the loss of your work permit. Although it is not a violation to apply for admission to another U.S. school, your OPT work permit will be cancelled if you receive an I-20 or enroll in classes. New regulations do not allow you to pursue a degree program while participating in PCPT.

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Insurance, Social Security Number and Employment Eligibility Verification


Students on PCPT may purchase their own insurance or the CSU insurance to cover the OPT period.

Employment Eligibility Verification:
When you begin working, your employer must complete a form entitled "Employment Eligibility Verification"(USCIS Form I-9), which the employer retains. The I-9 must be updated each time you receive a renewal of your work permission.

Social Security And Other Taxes:
In general F-1 students who have been in the U.S. less than five years are exempt from Social Security (F.I.C.A) taxes. Your earnings are subject to applicable federal, state and local taxes. Students must file a tax return on or before April 15, each year which will determine if any of the withheld taxes can be refunded.

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