Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training [OPT] is the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in your degree program, to off campus work in your field of study. OPT is authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) but students must first be recommended by the ISSO. The maximum amount of time granted to work on F-1 OPT status is 12 months per degree level, plus a possible 24 month extension for those who qualify in STEM fields.

Students become eligible to apply for OPT after they have completed at least two consecutive, full-time, academic year (Fall/Spring) semesters prior to graduation. Feel free to learn more about OPT eligibility in our OPT FAQs.

When to Apply

Processing time by USCIS varies but usually takes up to 2 months (60 days). Students are strongly encouraged to apply up to 90 days prior to graduation.

Spring 2024 Grads:
  • Spring 2024 graduates may submit their ISSOconnect applications starting February 9th, 2024.
  • The latest that a Spring 2024 graduate can apply for an OPT recommended I-20 from the ISSO is July 7th, 2024.
  • Spring 2024 grads must choose an OPT start date between May 11th-July 9th.
Summer 2024 Grads:
  • Summer 2024 graduates may submit their ISSOconnect applications starting May 9th, 2024.
  • The latest that a Summer 2024 graduate can apply for an OPT recommended I-20 from the ISSO is October 4th, 2024.
  • Summer 2024 grads must choose an OPT start date between August 10th-October 7th.
How to Apply
  1. Attend an OPT Workshop.
  2. Decide your OPT Start Date and apply for an OPT-recommended I-20:
  3. Attend an OPT Review session* and prepare your I-765 application:
    • OPT Review sessions on the online I-765 will be held on Wednesdays from 11am-12pm, and Fridays from 9am-10am.
    • *OPT Review sessions are not held during the summer, or winter breaks. Please reference the online filing guide linked in step four. If you have any questions, please email Vivian aklentos@charlotte.edu.
  4. Finalize and submit your I-765 applicaton to USCIS:
  5. Wait ~60 days for your OPT EAD card to arrive.
  6. Report your first OPT employment to the government.
    • Look out for a SEVP Portal Invitation email 1-14 days after your OPT Start Date per the EAD
    • Create a SEVP Portal Account
    • Report your employment details! Learn more about your reporting responsibilities (see “Student Reporting Requirements While on OPT” section below)
Student Reporting Requirements While On OPT

F-1 students engaging in Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) must report their employment status, including the start of a new job, and any changes to their address or phone number within 10 days of the change through a U.S. government tool called the SEVP Portal:

  • Employment Status: Report your new job or current employer’s information, employment start date and previous employment end date (if applicable).
  • Address and Phone Number Change: Report your current U.S. residential address, email, and local phone number.

Students who do not report their employment within 10 days of starting work may be in violation of their visa status, and should report their employment immediately. Students in this situation must follow the instructions found in the FAQ titled “I didn’t report my employment on time. What now?” on this page.

Students on 12 month OPT should not email the ISSO regarding employment updates, as these updates can be made directly in the SEVP Portal. Students experiencing technical issues with the SEVP Portal should email intlsso@charlotte.edu. Additionally, students do not need to report any information in SSOconnnect post-EAD approval. Uploading a copy of the EAD into ISSOconnect post-approval is 100% optional.

OPT Application Resources

Consult the following resources to help you throughout the process: