This information is for students applying for Post-Completion OPT. Students authorized for OPT are required to report changes to their personal information and employment to ISSS within 10 days of any change. Please use the Post Completion OPT Employment Reporting EForm to report any changes and keep your information in MyUAlbany current (phone number, email, and address).
Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows students in F-1 status to gain practical experience and training in a field directly related to their major area of study. Students are allowed a maximum of 12 months of full-time OPT which may be completed all at once or at several different intervals (ex: three months every summer). Students majoring in certain fields may be eligible to extend their OPT for an additional 24 months, for a total of 36 months. Eligible fields of study are referred to as STEM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.
Students are eligible to do one year of OPT for every higher degree level of study they complete in the U.S. For example, a student may be eligible for one year for a bachelor’s degree, one year for a master’s degree, and one year for a doctorate degree. Students who are granted OPT work authorization by USCIS will be issued an “Employment Authorization Document,” or EAD card. This card will display the student's photo, the type of employment authorization, and the specific dates that the student is eligible for employment.
The application process for OPT is a two-step process:
The student requests a new I-20 from ISSS recommending OPT
The student then applies with DHS-USCIS for OPT authorization and the EAD card. USCIS may take up to 90 days or longer for processing and may take longer, so students should allow approximately 4 months (or longer) for the entire application process.
To be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) the student:
Must be in active F-1 status and maintaining status at the time of application.
Must have been enrolled as a full-time student for at least one academic year (a fall and spring semester
Must only intend to engage in practical training directly relate to the major field of study for the degree program you are applying for the OPT authorization based on
Types of OPT
Post-Completion OPT (Most Common)
This is the most common type of OPT. Students planning to use OPT after completion of their academic program may apply to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) up to 90 days before completion of program but no later than 60 days after the program end date (the program end date may be different than the student's current I-20 program end date based on actual date of program completion). Due to new/updated USCIS policies it is imperative that students plan to file once all eligible and all eligibility requirements may be confirmed. Once OPT is recommended in SEVIS by an ISSS advisor the student must file a Form I-765 with USCIS. USCIS must receive the I-765 application within 30 days of when ISSS issued the I-20 recommending OPT to the student. Post-completion OPT is always classified as full-time (20 or more hours per week) with the expectation that the student will engage in full-time employment.
Pre-completion OPT is only recommended in specific situations while a student is still enrolled in a degree program. In most cases a different form of work authorization, such as CPT, is usually preferred. Students may only work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session if pre-completion OPT is authorized. There is no specified limit to the number of hours students may work during vacation periods. Part-time OPT is defined as 20 hours or less per week and counts ½ the time of full-time OPT (i.e., 4 months of part-time OPT = 2 months of full-time OPT). Full-time OPT is defined as more than 20 hours per week. Remember that students are eligible for up to 12 months of full-time Optional Practical Training per degree level; any pre-completion OPT time used will deduct from the OPT time a student can use post-completion. Doctorate students who have advanced to candidacy may use full-time OPT during their dissertation research period while continuing full time registration. Students must confirm advancement to candidacy before applying for full time pre-completion OPT. Students who choose to break up their OPT into more than one period of pre-completion work authorization, or who choose to split their OPT period between pre- and post-completion OPT, must file separate applications for each period of OPT.
STEM OPT Extension
Students majoring in certain STEM ((Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields may be eligible to extend their OPT for an additional 24 months (for a total of 36 months between the post-completion OPT and STEM OPT extension). Students eligible for the 24 month STEM OPT extension will apply for the initial post-completion OPT first and then apply again for the STEM OPT extension after that post-completion OPT is approved (but no earlier than 90 days before the post-completion OPT EAD expires). For additional information please visit the STEM OPT Request EForm page.
Program End Date & Requested Start Date
Please select the titles for a dropdown with more details.
Determining Program End Date for Post Completion OPT
Your program end date is the date your academic program is considered completed for immigration purposes. It is not necessarily the end date on your current I-20. Please consult your academic advisor to determine the expected date of completion of coursework and program requirements.
To determine the end date of your program:
For Master’s/Bachelor’s students: the program end date is the last day of final exams during the semester you are graduating. Ask ISSS for the exact date.
For graduate degree thesis/dissertation students: upon consultation with your academic advisor and ISSS your I-20 program end date could be:
The date you defend successfully (as long as all other course work is completed);
the date you submit your thesis or dissertation (as long as all other course work is completed);
the last day of final exams of the semester you are graduating (you must be registered that semester to be eligible for this option).
After the program end date the student cannot work on or off campus (paid or unpaid) until the student: receives an EAD card; reaches the start date approved by USCIS; and is offered employment directly related to the student's major field of study.
F-1 regulations do not allow students to postpone completion of their program for any reason except unfinished academic requirements for the degree. If you do not complete the program as expected due to unforeseen circumstances and you have already applied for post-completion OPT please consult an ISSS advisor immediately as this may jeopardize your F-1 status and OPT eligibility.
What if I don't graduate as planned?
The following information pertains to bachelor’s and master’s students ONLY. If you are a PhD student, please see an ISSS advisor, as we will need to address your situation case-by-case.
It is critical that both you and your academic advisor are confident that you are graduating by the date listed on your post-completion OPT application. If you do not graduate as planned both your F-1 status and OPT authorization are jeopardized. You should not apply for post-completion OPT until you are confident you will be completing your program.
If your OPT is pending and you will not graduate as planned you must notify ISSS prior to your I-20 program end date (for most students, this is the last day of final exams) that you will not be graduating and request an I-20 extension instead. You must also write to USCIS to formally withdraw the OPT application. Failure to request an extension from ISSS before the program end date on the I-20 could result in:
A loss of your F-1 status, requiring the student to apply for reinstatement (in addition to withdrawing your OPT application).
Reinstatement applications takes 6-8 months or longer, which means it may not be approved before you complete your degree, therefore making you ineligible to apply for OPT.
If your OPT has already been approved prior to the I-20 program end date but you do not graduate, you must notify ISSS immediately. Students already approved for post-completion OPT who do not graduate as planned must:
complete their degree at the next available opportunity
are eligible to work no more than 20 hours per week; and
maintain status according to the regulations for post-completion OPT, meaning that if the student is not working exactly 20 hours per week in work related to the degree earned the student is not fully employed and is accumulating unemployment time (against the allowed 90 days cumulative employment while on post-completion OPT).
earn the degree prior to applying for a STEM OPT extension.
If a student applied for post-completion OPT and does not graduate as planned, ISSS can make no guarantees on the outcome as it pertains to the student’s status and/or OPT eligibility. If you are uncertain of whether or not you will meet the degree requirements, you should wait to apply. The filing period for post-completion OPT remains open up to 60 days after the student’s program end date.
Requesting an OPT Start Date
Students may request an OPT start date that falls within 60 days of the program end date. When selecting a start date please keep in mind that:
You cannot begin work until your OPT is approved by USCIS and you have received the EAD card in hand.
USCIS may take up to 90 days or longer to process and approve an OPT application (from the date they receive your application). Processing times vary.
Your authorized employment AND 90 days of allowed unemployment will start counting from the start date on the EAD card (not the program end date).
USCIS officers adjudicating the case ultimately decide upon the start and end dates. If a student chooses a start date and USCIS is unable to process/approve the request by that date USCIS may:
Update your start date to the date approved
Update the start date to the date approved but not change the end date or
not update the start date (therefore unemployment began accruing from the approved start date, even if in the past).
The very last end date an officer can authorize OP is 14 months after the program end date, regardless of when the OPT is approved.
Regulatory/Policy Requirements & Information
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Reporting Requirements while on OPT
While on OPT you are still a F-1 student under the University at Albany’s sponsorship. Therefore you are still required to report changes to your information to UAlbany ISSS.
Make sure that MyUAlbany has the e-mail address you read regularly and that you respond to ISSS emails. ISSS and DHS/SEVIS will contact you by email in the event of regulatory changes and/or if you have not updated your information with our office. While on OPT you must:
Provide ISSS with a photocopy of your Employment Authorization Document (front and back).
You must receive authorization from USCIS and have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) physically in hand before you begin employment.
Update your SEVIS USA address in MyUAlbany to your place of physical residence. Please also keep your email (including an alternate email) and phone number up to date. For information on how to make these updates, please view our Reporting Requirements page.
Students on OPT are required to report any changes to personal/contact information (including but not limited to name changes, email, phone number, and address), employment information (including but not limited to new employment, employer changes, end of employment, employer name, address, supervisor contact information, position, and how the employment relates to the student’s program of study) and changes in status (including changes of status to H1B, permanent residency, departure from US, etc…). To report employment updates, please fill in the OPT Employment Reporting Form.
Students are required to report any of the above changes to ISSS/DHS within 10 days.
Students must complete a Departure Form when they end OPT; start a new degree program; and/or plan to depart the United States.
Limitations on Time Spent Unemployed
In order to maintain status on OPT F-1 students must be "fully employed" in work/training directly related to their major. Paid, unpaid, and other volunteer activities may count as qualifying training under OPT as long as the training/employment meets all requirements, including that the student is working at least 20 hours per week in a position directly related to the student’s major. This “volunteering” should be reported to ISSS as training and stops the "unemployment clock."
In order to maintain F-1 status students may not accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment during the post-completion OPT period. This includes weekends if the student is not currently employed. Unemployment stops accumulating from the date a student starts the training position, not the date the offer is made. The employment/training must be reported to stop unemployment from continuing to accrue.
Students can view an Unemployment Counter in their SEVP Portal account. This Unemployment Counter is used by SEVP to track the number of days of unemployment a student is eligible for and has accrued. Students may be sent emails by SEVP or have their SEVIS record automatically terminated (therefor ending F-1 status and OPT), based on this counter. Please contact the ISSS office if you have questions about the Unemployment Counter.
If you are at risk of exceeding 90 days of unemployment please consult an ISSS advisor. Exceeding unemployment is considered a violation of F-1 status, meaning that a student’s F-1 status may be terminated automatically or by a DHS official at any time; and/or future benefits may be denied to the student if those benefits depend upon maintaining F-1 status.
Students at risk of exceeding unemployment days are advised to do one of the following before exceeding 90 days of unemployment: depart the U.S. before exceeding the unemployment limit; transfer/change level to begin a new full-time course of study in accordance with all transfer eligibility requirements; or change status before the unemployment limit is reached in order to avoid violating status.
International Travel While OPT is Pending
Travel outside of the United States while an application is pending with USCIS is strongly discouraged. Students must show all required documentation needed to re-enter the U.S. For F-1 students on an approved period of OPT that documentation includes the EAD card. Consult an ISSS advisor before making any international travel plans while applying for OPT and/or while the application is pending.
International Travel After OPT is Approved
Students on an approved period of OPT with employment reported may travel. To re-enter the U.S. the student must have a valid I-20 signed for travel within the past 6 months from the date of re-entry, a valid passport, a valid F-1 visa, a valid EAD card, and proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Proof of employment (such as a contract or offer letter) is highly recommended. This employment information must be reported to ISSS. If a student is not currently employed then international travel is strongly discouraged.
A student is considered to be in active F-1 status if they have filed their OPT application in a timely manner and that application is still pending with USCIS. You may remain in the United States while the OPT application is pending. If the application is denied, revoked, or withdrawn and you are more than 60 days past your program end date then you must leave the United States immediately. If your application is denied, revoked, or withdrawn prior to the 60 day mark after your program end date please contact ISSS immediately so we can help you determine if you can refile for OPT with USCIS.
If your OPT by USCIS is approved your 60 day grace period will take place at the end of your OPT period. This does not apply to students who have exceeded 90 days of unemployment or otherwise failed to maintain status/violated status; if a student has violated status no grace period is given.
Health Insurance While on OPT
If you are not working or work for an employer that does not offer health insurance you may purchase insurance through International Insurance at 3 month intervals.
If you are currently enrolled in the international student health insurance you must renew your policy with ISSS no more than 30 days after the completion of your program.
If you are currently enrolled in NYSHIP insurance as a graduate/teaching/research assistant but want to switch to University insurance after the completion of your program you must do so before the program completion date.
If at any point on OPT you need insurance coverage contact [email protected] to find out if you are eligible for insurance through the University. Health insurance through ISSS is only available to students in F-1 status; if you change status this can impact your coverage. Please plan accordingly and email [email protected] for more information.
Based on updated USCIS guidance regarding unlawful presence and NTAs (“Notices to Appear) OPT denials could have potentially serious consequences. If you receive a denial, RFE (request for evidence), or NTA please contact ISSS immediately so that you can be referred out to an immigration attorney as appropriate. Individual circumstances may determine how you should proceed. Generally, if your OPT is denied and you are past your 60 day grace period you should make plans to depart the United States immediately. Unlawful presence may begin accumulating. Unlawful presence can result in bars from entry to the U.S. Individuals who accrue more than 180 days but less than one year of unlawful presence and depart voluntarily may be barred for 3 years. Individuals who accumulate one year or more of unlawful presence may be barred for 10 years (whether they left voluntarily or were removed). USCIS has previously stated that they may issue NTAs for denied applications. An “NTA” is a notice to appear before an immigration judge for deportation proceedings. As of August 2018 that policy has been delayed. With these new/updated policies, it is imperative that you take advantage of your full 90 days advance time period to submit an OPT application.
H-1B Cap-Gap Extension
If a student has a timely filed H-1B petition requesting an employment start date of October 1 for the following fiscal year the student may be eligible for a “cap-gap extension” of the duration of F-1 status and/or work authorization. The extension of duration of status and work authorization will terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student’s behalf. The only proof that students will receive of their cap-gap extension is a new I-20 from ISSS. If you believe you are eligible for a cap-gap extension please contact ISSS to request a new I-20 and include any proof of filing and/or receipt notice(s) from USCIS. Please remember that ISSS cannot advise on H1b applications or a H1b status in any way.
Application Instructions for OPT
Always save a copy of your application for your records.
Part 1 – Applying for a new I-20 from ISSS Recommending OPT (5-7 days processing time):
Before you apply for the I-20 you need to review all above instructions and view or attend the required OPT workshop first. This workshop is critical for guiding students through the application process and it is your first step to understanding how the application process works and what you need to know.
Your current I-94, available online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov. If you have a paper I-94, please upload a scanned copy of the paper version
Photocopy of identity pages in passport, including expiration date
Photocopy of F-1 visa stamp, including most recent entrance stamp
Photocopy of previous EAD cards (if applicable)
If filing to USCIS by mail (i.e. if you are not filing online with USCIS; see step 2 below): please also upload a copy of your paper I-765 form
If you intend to file your I-765 online you will need the I-20 recommending OPT from ISSS before filing with USCIS online, so ISSS will not collect the I-765 from you before issuing the I-20. You may download a copy of the online filed I-765 from your USCIS account after you file with USCIS. You are welcome to share the I-765 copy with ISSS for your student file.
To submit the Post Completion OPT Request EForm to ISSS to request an I-20 recommending OPT, please follow these steps:
Click here to navigate to the AccessISSS online system. If you are logging in from off campus you must be logged in through the University's VPN. Login with your UAlbany NetID (ex: AA123456) and password.
All updates related to your EForm will be communicated over email. Please allow up to 5-7 business days for processing.
Part 2 – Applying for an EAD card by submitting application to USCIS (may take up to 90 days or longer for USCIS to process your application):
There are two ways to file your request for post-completion OPT with USCIS: online (recommended) or by paper. Regardless of how you file USCIS must receive your request within 30 days of the date the I-20 recommending OPT is issued by ISSS and/or within 60 days of your I-20 program end date (whichever date comes first). USCIS processing time varies and may take up to 90 days or longer. You cannot begin working without the approved EAD card from USCIS.
Filing Online (Recommended)
To file online, you must first create an account on https://www.uscis.gov/. You must electronically submit your I-765 within 30 days of when the I-20 recommending OPT is issued and/or within 60 days of your program end date, whichever date comes first. Watch a recording of how to access and complete the online I-765.
In addition to completing the form fields on the electronic I-765, you will need to upload the following documents. Please be sure to follow the file requirements and be sure that your uploads are clear and easily readable:
Copy of your current I-94 (either the screengrab of the electronic form or a photocopy of both sides of the paper I-94).
Photocopy of a prior EAD card- if applicable
Photocopy of identity pages in passport, including expiration date (required if no EAD card)
Photocopy of F-1 visa stamp (optional if student uploads passport and/or EAD card)
Photocopy of the new Form I-20 issued for OPT— Remember to sign your I-20!
Photocopies of any previous I-20s authorizing CPT or OPT (including CPT/OPT authorizations for prior institutions, degree levels, or SEVIS IDs).
When submitting the EForm online you will be directed to pay.gov to pay the $410 filing fee by credit card, debit card, or through a bank account withdrawal.
Premium Processing: USCIS announced premium processing for F-1 students for form I-765. This option is available starting April 3, 2023 for new I-765 petitions. Students can request and pay for premium processing by filing a form I-907 online. Students should note that:
The premium processing fee is optional. The only required fee is for regular processing, which currently has a fee of $410 (for the I-765 form for OPT/STEM OPT)
The premium processing fee is in addition to the regular $410 filing fee for the I-765. The current premium processing fee for F-1 students filing an I-765 is $1500. This means students opting for premium processing of the I-765 would need to pay $1500 in addition to the baseline fee of $410.
If you file by mail you will receive a receipt notice in the mail approximately 2-4 weeks after your case is received at the lockbox. The receipt notice will have an electronic case ID code that is valid for 90 days. You can use this code to add the case to a USCIS online account and track it through the online system as well.
If you file online you can view electronic communications from USCIS on your online account. Paper versions of these notifications will still be mailed to you. You can also respond to requests for evidence and information through the online account, but please contact ISSS first for guidance.
Save all mail you receive from USCIS for your permanent records.
Your EAD card will be delivered by mail regardless of how you file.
Notify ISSS of any case change
If you receive a request for evidence of request for initial evidence from USCIS; a case denial; or any other unusual communication from USCIS please let ISSS know
Report Changes to Personal Information and/or Employment
While the OPT is pending and once it's approved you must continue to update your demographic information through MyUAlbany (SEVIS USA address; phone number; email; etc...) within 10 days of the change
Once your OPT is approved do not forget to report employment to ISSS, and to continue to report any changes to that employment information over the course of your OPT authorization period, within 10 days.
Supplemental Forms and Instructions
OPT Workshop Recording- Attend an OPT Workshop or view online here before applying:
Watch the recording of the Post Completion OPT Workshop. This workshop was recorded September 12, 2023.
Please pay careful attention to the suggested autofill addresses on the online form; as you will see, it may change the address from what you need. If you are using ISSS as a mailing address, be sure it is formatted as: "1400 Washington Avenue SL G40 Albany NY 12222."
I-765 Form and USCIS Instructions- Review whether you plan to file by mail or online; download the form from this website if filing by mail.
The information contained in this web site/form is provided as a service to international students, faculty and staff at the University at Albany. It does not constitute legal advice. We try to provide useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site or any associated site or form. Neither the University at Albany nor ISSS is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. Nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel; students may wish to consult an immigration attorney on the specifics of their case as needed.