Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined by the regulations as “temporary employment authorization for practical training directly related to a student’s major field of study.” Standard OPT is available for a cumulative maximum of 12 months of employment authorization per higher degree level completed in the U.S.

  • Pre-Completion OPT: Part-time while school is in session; during annual vacation; once all coursework except for thesis or dissertation remains in academic program.
    • Pre-completion OPT does not automatically convert to post-completion OPT with the completion of one’s degree; a separate OPT application must be submitted to USCIS including the application fee.
    • Most students utilize Curricular Practical Training instead of pre-completion OPT during their degree program in order to preserve their eligibility to apply for 12 months of post-completion OPT. 
    • Any OPT utilized prior to degree completion is deducted from the initial 12 month allowable benefit.
  • Post-Completion OPT: After completion of all degree requirements or after completion of all coursework (excluding thesis or dissertation)

An extension of OPT is available for students with certain STEM degrees and E-Verify employers.

Eligibility Requirements

In order to be eligible to apply for OPT, you must: 

  • Currently be in the U.S. in valid F-1 status;
  • Have a valid passport and I-94 record indicating F-1 and D/S (duration of status);
  • Have been continuously enrolled full-time for at least one full academic year (fall and spring semester) before your requested OPT start date;
  • Be enrolled full-time at CU Boulder (or be authorized for a Reduced Course Load) in the semester in which you apply for OPT;
  • Have not completed a year of full-time CPT at the current degree level;
  • Have not previously completed a higher degree level in the U.S.;
  • Have not previously been approved for 12 months of OPT at the current degree level or a higher degree level;
  • Have not completed more than a year of full-time CPT at the current degree level or a higher degree level; AND
  • Only pursue employment in your major field of study.   

Please note: You must be registered for credits that require on-campus presence in your final semester. Temporarily waived: See ISSS COVID-19 Maintaining Immigration Status.

Process for Requesting an I-20 Recommending OPT (for the I-765 application to USCIS)

Complete the OPT I-20 Request Form and upload all of the documentation required for the request.

  • You will have to enter your academic advisor's name and email address on the form landing page. Once you complete your section of the form, it will automatically be emailed to your advisor based on the information you provided.
  • After your academic advisor completes the second section of the form, it will automatically be emailed to ISSS for processing. You will recieve a copy of the request when ISSS is reviewing it. Typical processing time is 2-5 business days.

ISSS Will Review Application Materials, Issue an I-20 Recommending OPT, and Email the I-20 to You

  • ISSS will review your application materials and email you regarding any issues.
  • ISSS will shorten your I-20 program end date based on your last date of enrollment (if necessary)
  • ISSS will issue an I-20, sign it, and email it to you. You must sign this I-20 and include it in your application to USCIS.
  • Please note that ISSS only REQUESTS that your OPT application be approved; the final decision is made by USCIS.

Compile the USCIS Application Materials and Mail a Complete Application to USCIS

  • OPT Mailing Instructions
  • To request permission to engage in OPT after having completed your course of study, you must apply during your last semester, either before completing your course of study or within 60 days of completing your enrollment for your degree program.
  • You MUST submit your application to USCIS while you are still in the United States. You are not eligible to apply for OPT if you have already graduated and have left the United States.
  • USCIS must receive your complete OPT application within 30 days of the date ISSS enters the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record.

You must have an EAD in your possession before beginning work.

OPT I-20 Request, Application Instructions and PowerPoints 

SEVP Portal

An F-1 student who has been approved for OPT and is in the employment authorization period will receive an email from do-not-reply.SEVP@ice.dhs.gov with information about creating a SEVP Portal account.

  • Please add do-not-reply.SEVP@ice.dhs.gov to your trusted sender list
  • Monitor all of your active email accounts including your junk/spam folder for the SEVP email.
    • The SEVP email will most likely be sent to your colorado.edu email account but may be sent to an alternate account if you provided the email address to ISSS as your primary email account.
  • If you do not receive the SEVP email and are in an approved period of OPT, please contact ISSS.

The SEVP Portal allows F-1 students to monitor their employment authorization and update their address, telephone, and employer information in order to meet regulatory reporting requirements.   

Please review the SEVP Help Hub for additional resources (e.g., user guide, instructional videos).

Reporting Requirements While Authorized for OPT

While on OPT, you are still in F-1 status and responsible for reporting certain changes within 10 days of the change.

  • Reporting Changes of Address, Employment, and Telephone Information:
    • Access the SEVP portal and update your information. (Do not submit a separate OPT Information Update Form to ISSS if you are updating your information in the portal.)
      • Employment Updates: Also complete the I-20 Reprint Request Form in order to obtain an I-20 with updated employer information.
        • Do not delete previous employers you listed unless a duplicate was entered in error.
        • Review Stay Away from Marijuana (Cannabis) Related Activities & Industries
        • Students working for a third-party agency
          For future visas to the U.S. as well as for USCIS petitions/applications you may be asked to present proof of employment for all positions you have had while on OPT. If you have been employed by a recruiting agency and have worked at a client's site, ISSS recommends you document proof of employment from both your employer and site location entity.

    • For alumni purposes, you can update your address in MyCUInfo and with the Alumni Association
  • Reporting Relevancy of OPT Employment to Degree Program to ISSS: Complete the OPT Employment Relevance Statement
  • Reporting Changes of Name, Citizenship, and Email:

If you have questions regarding updating information while you are on OPT, please contact ISSS.