Employment / Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training

three students studying and talking

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment authorization for eligible F-1 students who wish to work in a job related to their field of study. OPT can be done during your studies (Pre-Completion OPT), after completion of your studies (Post-Completion OPT) or a combination of both.


An F-1 student is eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) if he or she meets all of the following requirements:

  1. Must have been in valid F-1 status for one academic year (2 semesters)
  2. Must be in good academic standing (GPA minimum undergraduate 2.0; graduate 3.0)
  3. Must be pursuing a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree
  4. Has not had 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training in the current degree program

Attend an OPT Workshop to find out more about OPT and obtain an OPT Application Earliest time to submit OPT application to USCIS is 90 days before graduation date (or requested start date, if applying for pre-completion OPT). Students are responsible for submitting OPT applications to USCIS.

USCIS may take as long as 90 days to process and make decisions on OPT applications. It is strongly recommended that you submit your OPT Applications to ISS Office at least 115 calendar days before your requested OPT start date. Due to high volume of documents received for employment benefits and academic related issues, please expect delays in processing time.

Pre-Completion OPT Off-campus work permit for F1 students interested in working off-campus BEFORE graduation where employment is related to their field of study or major.
Post-Completion OPT Off-campus work permit for F1 students interested in working in the United States AFTER graduation where employment is related to their field of study or major.

24-Month STEM OPT Extension

F-1 students with certain science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees may apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension.

Priority Processing Deadline

If your current post-completion OPT is expiring in June or July 2017 and you would like to apply for the STEM OPT extension, the deadline to submit your application for priority processing is May 25, 2017. When submitting, please be aware that incorrect or incomplete applications will delay processing of your STEM OPT I-20. Make sure you follow instructions carefully.

Eligibility for STEM OPT Extension
  • You must have earned a bachelor's, master's, or doctorate degree in a major that appears on the STEM Designated Program List. Check your I-20 to view if your major's CIP code is eligible. The STEM degree may be either a CSUF degree with which you applied for your current post-completion OPT or a previous STEM degree conferred within the last 10 years from a U.S. institution of higher education that is accredited and SEVP-certified.
  • Your current approved OPT must be current and not expired.
  • You must be currently working for or have a job offer from an employer enrolled in in the E-Verify program and has an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN). There must be a "bona fide employer-employee relationship;" you cannot be self-employed.
  • Your job must be a paid position for a minimum of 20 hours per week.

Application Timeline

You may apply for your STEM OPT extension with USCIS as early as 90 days before your current OPT end date. We recommend you submit your request to the ISS office about 90 days before your OPT expires or as soon as possible to allow ample time for processing. 


Mailing Deadlines

USCIS must receive your complete OPT STEM application no later than 60 days after the STEM OPT I-20 has been issued by ISS AND before the end date of your current post-completion OPT as noted by your EAD. 

When to Submit:

We highly recommend you submit your request to the ISS office about 90 days before your OPT expires to allow ample time for processing. 

What to Submit to ISS:

1. Gather and prepare documents listed below at submit to ISS. 

  • Form I-983 completed by Student & Employer. Refer to Guidelines for Completing Form I-983 while completing the form. 
  • Complete ISS 24-Month STEM OPT Extension Request Form.
  • Attach evidence that your company is an E-verified company. For example, a copy of E-verify enrollment confirmation page.
  • Copy of your post-completion OPT EAD
  • Copy of your post-completion OPT I-20
  • Copy of CSUF Diploma or copy of CSUF Transcript with degree conferred date. 
  • Copy of passport page(s) showing your name, photograph, date of birth, and passport expiration date
  • Copy of your I-94 electronic record.

2. Submit STEM OPT Extension Request Packet to International Student Services (ISS) Office.

3. Allow time for ISS processing. You will receive an email from ISS once your STEM OPT Extension Packet is ready for pick up or has been mailed as requested.

Mailing Instructions:

  • After you receive your STEM OPT I-20 from ISS, use the STEM OPT Extension Application Checklist to assemble all the necessary documents to submit to USCIS. Do not forget to add the Form I-765 and sign in black ink. Refer to the Guidelines for Completing Form I-765 while completing the form. Additionally, prepare two (2) U.S. passport style photos and a check or money order for $410 payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The I-765, passport photos and payment are not required by ISS but must be included in the STEM OPT Extension Packet that you will mail to USCIS. 
  • Make copies of the entire application for your records before mailing.
  • Using the U.S. mailing address you indicated on item #3 of your I-765, determine which lockbox you should send your application to by going to the USCIS’s I-765 addresses website. Click “Foreign Students” and look under “F-1 Optional Practical Training.”
  • Use a trackable mail option to ensure successful delivery of your application to USCIS.


Mailing Deadlines:

USCIS must receive your complete OPT STEM application no later than 60 days after the STEM OPT I-20 has been issued by ISS AND before the end date of your current post-completion OPT as noted by your EAD. Please remember to factor in a few extra days for mailing. 


You can continue working in the U.S. up to 180 days while the STEM OPT Extension application is pending with USCIS, even if your Post-Completion OPT EAD has expired. This benefit only allows you to work with the employer on your STEM request I-20. 


ISS advises students not to travel until STEM Extension application is approved and a new EAD card has been received.

Employment Changes

Employment changes while your STEM OPT packet is being processed is not recommended. This is due to the fact that the paperwork that you submitted to USCIS for the STEM OPT benefit are for a specific employer. When you change employers, the documentation that USCIS holds is no longer accurate (STEM request I-20 that ISS issues and the I-765 with E-Verify employer name and number). For that reason, we strongly discourage changing employers until you receive the STEM OPT EAD card. 

Unemployment Allowance:
  1. Students on post-completion OPT are allowed up to 90 days of unemployment. Students who receive a 24-month OPT extension are given an additional 60 days of unemployment for a total of 150 days over their entire post-completion OPT period.
  2. Travel outside of the United States while unemployed will count as unemployment against the 90/150-day limits.
  3. 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 United States will not count as unemployment.

STEM OPT Reporting Requirements

As a STEM OPT student, you must complete the following reporting requirements to successfully maintain status while on STEM OPT Extension. All of the listed reporting requirements require submission of the STEM OPT Employment Update Form.

You must report:

  1. Any changes to personal information such as legal name, residential or mailing address, phone number, and email address
  2. Any changes to your current employer information
  3. Any changes to your existing form I-983 training plan
  4. Changes in your employer
  5. End of employment

6-Month Validation Reports & 12-Month Evaluations

  • You must provide a validation report every 6 months starting from the date the STEM OPT extension starts and ending when your F-1 status ends or the extension ends, whichever is first.
  • In addition, you must submit a 12-month and final, 24-month Evaluation Report (page 5 of the I-983 Form).

H1B Cap-Gap Extensions

The cap-gap extension is a period in which an eligible F-1 student can request an extension to bridge the gap between the end of F-1 status and the start of H-1B status. This extension can extend the student's OPT work authorization and/or stay in the U.S., depending on when the H-1B petition was filed. The cap-gap extension is reflected on the I-20.

Application for Cap Gap Extensions

To request the Cap-Gap Extension, please fax the following to the ISS office at (657) 278-7292 (subject heading "H1B Cap-Gap I-20 request") with the following information:

1. Cover page including the following information (you can download a Cap-Gap Extension Request Fax Cover Sheet here):

  • Your name
  • CWID
  • Current US residential address
  • Mailing address (even if same as residential address)
  • Phone number
  • Current employer information (company name, employer address, supervisor's name, phone number and email address)

2. Copy of current OPT EAD

3. Copy of Notice Receipt (evidence of H1B petition files)

Please allow 15 business days (minimum) for processing of your request.

ISS Office Hours

Monday through Friday
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

contact us Advising

up arrow