Optional Practical Training

You must report changes through the SEVP Portal within 10 days if any of the following changes occur:

  1. Legal Name
  2. Residential address (post office box not acceptable)
  3. New employer name and address
  4. Ending OPT early due to change of status (H-1B) or leaving the U.S.

Be sure to provide a clear description of how your employment relates to your field of study whenever you report changes in employment. See sample explanations of a direct relationship below:

list Bachelor’s in EE and Master’s in Music examples from the guidance below (pages 4-5)

OPT Directly Related Guidance

Make sure to keep your pay stubs. Keep job offer letter.

Bring the following documents with you when traveling outside the U.S. on OPT

  • Valid passport
  • Valid U.S. F-1 visa to re-enter the U.S.*
  • OPT I-20 with a travel signature by an OISS advisor within the last 6 months
  • EAD and letter of employment**

*A valid U.S. F-1 visa is not required to re-enter the U.S. if you travel to Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands for 30 days or less (excluding Cuba).  Citizens of Syria, Sudan and Iran must always have a valid visa.  Canadian citizens do not require a visa.

**If you leave the U.S. before you receive your EAD card, you can request OISS to mail this to you while abroad or scan/email you a copy. 

Counting days of unemployment while traveling

Unemployed:  Time spent traveling abroad while unemployed counts towards the 90 days of unemployment. 

Employed:  Traveling outside the U.S. while employed (either during a period of leave authorized by an employer or as part of your employment) does not count as unemployment.

Taking courses while on OPT

You can take courses while on OPT as long as you are part-time and are not seeking a degree.  If you are seeking a new degree, you will need to cancel your OPT and receive a new I-20 to pursue full-time study in the new degree program.  

Starting a New Degree

In order to start a new degree, you will need to receive admission and contact OISS to transfer out your SEVIS record if the degree is at a new school.  On the transfer release date (new school) or the date a new I-20 is created (St. Thomas only), your OPT will end regardless if your EAD is valid into the future.  Students on OPT who intend to continue in F-1 status must be admitted to a new academic program and obtain an I-20 before the 60th day following the end of your OPT. Please note that if you transfer to a new school, you are allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to 5 months between the time your OPT ends and the new program of studies is to begin as long as you have already received your new I-20; if the time period is greater than 5 months, you will be required to leave the U.S. and can only re-enter within 30 days of the start of your new program of study.

Cancelling OPT 

Before approval:  You can cancel/withdraw your OPT application after it’s mailed and before it’s approved.  This will allow you to save any OPT time for a later date if you’re unable to graduate or change your mind.  Note:  You will lose your OPT filing fee of $410 if the application is already mailed.  Please contact OISS for assistance. 

After approval:  Once your OPT application has been approved, cancelling your OPT will make you lose the entire approved period.

Changing Dates

You may only request to change your dates before your OPT application has been approved.  Please contact OISS for assistance with this.  There is no guarantee that USCIS will approve OPT based on the new dates requested.