Optional Practical Training: After Mailing Your Application

After you have mailed your OPT application to USCIS

Your F-1 status is extended until there is a decision made on your application. However, you are NOT eligible to work until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) and the start date on your card has come. Within a few weeks after your OPT application is mailed, you will receive a hard copy receipt in the mail. This receipt has a case number that you can use to track the status of you application online at: http://www.uscis.gov/.

Although you are still in F-1 student immigration status while on OPT, the requirements for maintaining status and travel are a little bit different then those of an F-1 student enrolled in a full-time program of study. Please be familiar with the following reporting and travel requirements while on OPT.

Report Your OPT Employment

Reporting your OPT employment is required and is how you show the government that you have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment.

How to report your OPT Employment:

All F-1 students who are on an approved period of OPT or STEM OPT will be contacted to report their information. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will email you instructions on creating an account from this email address: do-not-reply.sevp@ice.dhs.gov. The email will come to your USF email address, if you do not see the email, check your spam or junk mail folder. Once you receive the email you can create your account and begin reporting your employment. If your Portal account is locked, you can reset your password from the portal.

Verify that your Job is within your Field of Study in the SEVP Portal:

When you access the SEVP Portal there is a required field for you to indicate how your employment is related to your field of study. You need to complete this field with information that is specific to your job and your degree. Here are examples of acceptable responses provided by SEVP:

Bachelor's degree in Business: I work full time as a Loan Officer at a mortgage company, Happy Homes, where I meet with clients and evaluate, authorize and recommend approval of loan applications. On a daily basis, I use the knowledge I gained in my credit analysis, sales and marketing classes that I took as part of my major program of study.

Master's degree in Kinesiology: I am working 25 hours a week in a health food store as a consultant for Self-Made Inc., designing and teaching exercise classes that are incorporated into a customer's overall nutrition and exercise plan. My designs and customer instruction draw upon my studies and classwork in exercise therapy and physical reconditioning."

Further Instructions on using the SEVP Portal:

If you would like more assistance in using the Portal visit the SEVP website with step-by-step videos and instructions.

Address Reporting

Just as you had to when you were still a USF student, you need to continue to report changes in your Local Residence address to USF through USFconnect. Please log-in to myUSF and update your "Local Residence" address type with the address in the United States where you are currently living. You also need to keep an updated "Permanent Residence" address type with an address that is outside of the United States.

Travel Requirements

It is possible to travel while on OPT, but it is important to make sure that you know what documents you will need to return to the United States before you depart. Until you complete your program of study, you will continue to travel as an enrolled student. Once you are have graduated the documents that you need will vary depending on the status of your OPT application. Please refer to the chart below to determine which documents you will need.

Documents Needed for Travel While on Optional Practical Training

OPT Status Completed program but have not mailed OPT application Mailed OPT application but have not been approved* Approved for OPT
Documents needed for travel You cannot travel and re-enter the United States if you have completed your program of study and have not applied for OPT.
  • Valid F-1 visa
  • I-20 with current OPT and travel signature endorsement on second page
  • Valid passport
  • OPT application receipt
  • Valid F-1 visa
  • I-20 with current OPT and travel signature endorsement on second page
  • Valid passport
  • EAD card
  • Letter from employer

*Please note that if you leave the United States while your OPT is pending and it is approved when you are outside of the country, you will need your EAD card and letter from employer to return.

Letter From an Employer:

When traveling on OPT it is required to have a letter from your employer to show that you are utilizing your OPT benefit and are not accruing excess days of unemployment. You can also get a letter from your supervisor when you are taking part in an unpaid internship or volunteer position to keep for your records. If questioned about your employment at a visa interview or another situation, you will have this letter to show you were maintaining your status, even though you do not have a history of payment for the employment. This letter will differ depending on your work situation, but it should include as much of the following as possible:

  • Be on company letter head with company name and address
  • Contain a brief description of job duties (related to field of study)
  • State the dates of employment or at least a start date
  • Verify the number of hours you are working
  • If you are traveling, the letter should confirm that you will continue your employment when you return
  • Letter should be signed by supervisor

If you have further questions about traveling, employment, or reporting requirements while on OPT, you should call or email ISSS.