Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an authorization to work (and be paid for) off-campus employment or internships for F-1 students in their major or field of study. Off-campus work is only allowed under certain circumstances. Please check with the ISSO before engaging in any off-campus employment to make sure you have the proper work authorization in place.
International students are eligible for a total of 12 months of standard OPT for each level of their education, which can be used as:
- Pre-completion practical training
- Post-completion practical training*
OPT can be granted in various increments of time. However, any OPT used prior to graduation will be deducted from the total 12-months allowed for Post-completion Practical Training. This means that if you used pre-completion OPT during the summer, those months will be deducted from the 12-month total.
You may apply for both types of practical training programs up to 90 days before the end of classes (or graduation). You can apply for post-completion OPT up to 60 days after graduation.
Precompletion Practical Training
This is used rarely, but would be during the annual summer vacation, provided you intend to continue your full-time studies the following semester. This is for students in their first year, sophomore and junior class standings. Generally at Smith, we utilize CPT instead, since it's faster and less costly.
Postcompletion Practical Training
This is available after completion of your studies, for an authorization period of up to one year. This is for seniors, AMS students and graduate students who are completing their degree.
No job offer is necessary at the time of application.
Students majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields may apply for an additional 24-month extension of their OPT authorization. To check if your major is eligible for this extension, consult USCIS' STEM-eligible list. Note: Economics is not eligible for a STEM extension at Smith. As of Spring 2016, however, Psychology is eligible!
The STEM extention application process is very similar to applying the first time around, but it does require a few extra documents:
- An official Smith transcript showing your STEM-extension eligible major
- Copies of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from your post-completion OPT
- An updated letter from your employer on letterhead, stating that you will continue in your position
- Form I-983
For more detailed instructions, see the expandable section below.
Instructions for STEM Extension
You may begin your STEM extension application up to 90 days before the end of your Post-Completion OPT, and must be received by USCIS before your current OPT expires. You may continue to work up to 180 days while waiting for your new STEM-approved EAD card.
Collect your application documents. When you have them all assembled, email ISSO a copy of your I-765, your new employment letter, and your I-983. We will review these documents and mail you a new I-20, extending your employment dates. You must then assemble your application and mail it. USCIS must receive this application within 60 days of when we issue the new I-20.
- $380 ($410 after December 23, 2016) check, made out to US Department of Homeland Security
- Two passport size color photos (2x2 inches)
- Form I-765 (PDF)
Tip: LIGHTLY write your name and I-94 number on the back in pencil. Just make sure it doesn't indent the front of your photo!
Check off "Renewal of my permission to accept employment".
Question 11: Check "Yes"; USCIS office: You can determine this based on the 3-letter code at the beginning of your EAD Card # (see below); Dates: Your dates of authorization on your EAD; Results: Hopefully "Granted"!
- Form I-983
- Copy of signed new STEM I-20 (use blue ink)
- Copy of current passport photo page
- Copy of F-1 entry visa page from passport
- Copy of most recent I-94 (can be printed online!)
- Copy of current and all previous EAD cards
- Copy of your Smith transcript showing the STEM major
- Letter from your employer, indicating new dates of employment
- Form G-1145 (optional)
EAC: Vermont Service Center
YSC: Potomac Service Center
WAC: California Service Center
SRC: Texas Service Center
LIN: Nebraska Service Center
Question 16: For STEM extension: (c)(3)(C)
Question 17: Your employer's E-Verify number should come from their Human Resources or Legal office.
Here's a great resource that USCIS has published for filling out this form: Completing the Form I-983.
Pages 6 & 7: These are evaluations that should be completed at the 1-year and 2-year marks of your STEM Extension. You do not need to submit them with your STEM Extension application, but you do need to submit them to ISSO when you pass the halfway mark of your 2-year extension, and again at 2 years or whenever you finish your employment with the company, whichever comes first.
Please be sure to attach all papers and forms by a single paperclip to the I-765, which should be on top. Make copies of all documents you submit for travel purposes. See below for mailing instructions.
You will be notified once your application has been received and again when it's approved (8-10 weeks) by USCIS. They will send an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card directly to your mailing address. Once you have your receipt number from USCIS, you can check the status of your case here.
You have reporting responsibilities once you have received your new STEM card and are working in a STEM field.
Important: You must validate your employment every six months from the start date of STEM OPT and until the end of the 17-month STEM extension. Please report the date you started working, as well as the name and address of current employer and your current and residential address to the International Students & Scholars Office. We are required by SEVIS to update your record; failure to report will terminate your OPT STEM status.
You must also submit Pages 6 & 7 of the I-983 to ISSO when you pass the halfway mark of your 2-year extension, and again at 2 years or whenever you finish your employment with the company, whichever comes first.
- Legal name change
- Residential or mailing address change
- Employer name change
- Employer address change
- Loss of employment
How to Apply - Make an appointment at ISSO & bring:
Complete form I-765 (PDF) - to be sent to USCIS
Check off "Permission to accept employment"
Question 3: If you have a reliable US address that will be consistent after graduation, feel free to use it. If not, feel free to use the ISSO as your US mailing address (abbreviated to fit on the PDF): Intl Ofc, Smith Clg, Wright Hall 125 Northampton, MA 01063
Question 11: Check "No", unless you have had OPT before. If no, then all other parts of this question are blank.
Question 16: For Post-Completion OPT: (c)(3)(B)
Question 17: For post-completion OPT - leave blank.
Question 18: Leave blank.
Sign in BLUE ink, and make sure to stay within the white space!
Complete Smith OPT Request Form - to stay with ISSO
Two passport size color photos (2x2 inches)
Letter of employment (if applicable)
Check or Money Order for $380 ($410 after December 23, 2016), made out to "US Department of Homeland Security" (from a US bank account)
Your most recent I-94 (available online here)
All your past & current I-20s
- (Optional) E-Notification Request: Form G-1145. This will mean that you receive an email notification for any actions taken on your case.
We will then issue a new SEVIS I-20, make copies of your passport and other documents, and give you a completed packet to send to:
Express Mail (any courier service requiring a signature)
USCIS ATTN: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy
121 Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
Regular Mail (United States Postal Service)
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
You cannot begin to work under an OPT program until you receive the EAD card AND you are within your authorization dates. Once you have been approved for postcompletion OPT, you have 90 days from the start date of your OPT to find a job or find a volunteer position in your field, otherwise your OPT will be cancelled. It is your duty to report your new employer and your most current address to USCIS. Please send us the information and we will update your SEVIS record.
We recommend that you do not leave the United States after graduation, unless you have received the EAD card, have found a job and have a letter employment.
Once you have started working, if you wish to travel outside the United States we will endorse your I-20. Please send your most recent Smith I-20 and a copy of the EAD card to our office for endorsement. We will sign and return the I-20 to you for travel. Remember, you are still under Smith College F-1 visa during your OPT.
Updating Employer and Address Information
In order to maintain your F-1 visa status while completing an OPT program, you must report any employer and/or address changes to the Office for International Students & Scholars within 10 days of the change or move by completing the Employer/Address Update Form.