Hiram College

Applying for Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment that is directly related to a student's program of study and is commensurate with the level of studies. F-1 students are eligible to apply for up to 12 months of OPT for each higher degree. For example, if a student obtains a Bachelor's degree and utilizes twelve months of OPT for that degree, the student may apply for another twelve months of OPT at the Graduate level. Students who have pursued a STEM field may be eligible for a 24-month extension.

Optional Practical Training for F-1 students falls into three categories:

  • During annual vacation, if the student is eligible and intends to register for the next term or session
  • While school is in session provided that OPT does not exceed 20 hours per week
  • Full-time after the completion of a degree.

To be eligible for Optional Practical Training, the student must have completed one full academic year. For Pre-Completion OPT, students may submit the application no sooner than 90 days before reaching the one full year of study and no sooner than 120 days before the proposed employment start date.

For Post Completion OPT, students may apply no more than 90 days before completion of the program (at Hiram, this is the last day of classes in the final term). For best results, students are encouraged to file a TIMELY application, which means BEFORE completion of the program.

OPT approval may take more than 90 days to process. Please plan appropriately.

Applying for Optional Practical Training

The following is a checklist of application materials needed to request an OPT Recommendation from the Office of International Student Services:

  • F-1 OPT Recommendation Request verifying the intended program completion date for Post-Completion OPT or proof of enrollment for one full academic year for Pre-Completion OPT.  You may obtain this form from the International Student Advisor.
  • Copies of all Form I-20s (Hiram and previous school I-20s)
  • Copies of the passport (unexpired), I-94, and F-1 visa stamp
  • Two recent photos (Passport Style) – Lightly print your name on the back of each photo with a pencil.
  • Prior EADs or denial notices from prior applications (if applicable)
  • Form I-765 – On Form I-765, students are encouraged to use the Office for International Student Services address.   Mailed responses from USCIS will not be forwarded if you change addresses during the period the application is pending.   The eligibility category is (c) (3) (A) for pre-completion OPT, (c) (3) (B) for post-completion OPT, and (c) (3) (C) for a 24-month extension.
  • Official transcripts or copies of your diploma showing your program of study (required for STEM majors applying for the 24-month extension)
  • Check made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” for $550.00 (new fee effective October 2, 2020)

All checklist items should be brought to the Office for International Student Services.  The International Student Advisor will then issue an I-20 with the OPT recommendation on Page 2.  Before returning the Application to the student, the International Student Advisor will make photocopies of all application materials for the student file.  The complete application will be returned with an envelope and appropriate mailing address.  It will then be the student’s responsibility to mail the application.

Within 7-10 days, a receipt notice with a receipt number and date that the application was received should arrive at the address listed on Form I-765.  Once this notice is received, the application status may be found online using the receipt number.

OPT approval is not guaranteed.  Employment may not begin until written approval from USCIS in the form of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) has been received. When an adjudication notice is received, please send a copy of the notice along with the EAD card (front and back) to the Office for International Student Services.

It is also important to remember that once OPT is awarded, it cannot be canceled or saved.

Important Facts for Students on OPT

F-1 students participating in OPT are responsible to inform the International Student Advisor of the following information within 10 days of the change:

  • Address and Employer Information:
    • Employment must be a minimum of 20 hours per week.
    • An aggregate limitation of 90 days unemployment is permitted for a 12 month period of OPT. Volunteer work does count as employment for students on 12 months of OPT.
    • For those participating in the 24-month extension, a 120 day limit of unemployment is permitted.  Volunteer work does not count as employment for individuals on the 24-month STEM extension.
  • The intent to begin a new educational program:  While on OPT, Hiram College maintains the SEVIS record. If beginning a new educational program, contact the International Student Advisor to transfer the SEVIS record to the new school.
  • A change in immigration status (i.e. H-1B, Permanent Residence):  For verification, send a copy of the approval notice.

Notification of information and changes may be completed through the following methods:

Email: gatrellnr@hiram.edu
Mail: Hiram College
International Student Services
PO Box 67
Hiram, OH 44234

It is highly recommended that students keep a personal record of all reports made to the Hiram College Office for International Student Services. Additionally, students should keep a record of any and all OPT activity, including positions held, dates of the position, supervisor name, organization name and location, and description of the activity.  It is the student’s responsibility to produce such information if requested.

There are special conditions for travel outside the U.S. while on OPT. Travel while an OPT application is pending is very risky unless returning to the U.S. before the completion of your degree program. Under certain conditions, students may travel after the OPT has been approved and the EAD has been received.  Readmission to the U.S. is generally granted only for those who are returning to “resume employment”. Therefore, the following documentation is recommended to re-enter the U.S. :

  • Unexpired passport
  • Unexpired F-1 visa *
  • Form I-20 signed on page 2 for travel (signature must be within the past 6 months)
  • Unexpired EAD card
  • An employer letter documenting employment start date and the eligibility to resume employment upon return

* If the F-1 visa has expired, the employer letter must include salary information. This will be important to take to the U.S. Consulate/Embassy when applying to renew the F-1 visa. Please consult with the International Student Advisor prior to traveling in such circumstances. Obtaining a new visa at this stage may be difficult.

Students on OPT remain in F-1 nonimmigrant status until the expiration date on the EAD card.  When the EAD card expires, there is a 60-day grace period to extend status, change status, or depart the U.S.