Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled for one full academic year and have applied for graduation in one of the Associate Degree programs or two semester Certificate programs at Houston Community College. Post-completion OPT allows students to work up to 12 months after graduation anywhere in the U.S. in a field related to the student’s major. Initial proof of employment is not required to apply for OPT with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Students in the Intensive English Program are not eligible to apply for OPT.   source: 8C.F.R. 214.2 (f) (10) (ii)(A)

Steps to Apply for OPT

Step 1: OPT Tutorial

The tutorial is currently under review due to recent changes from USCIS. You can find detailed instructions about the OPT process, electronic filing, and employment reporting listed in the steps below.

All your questions will be addressed during the workshop.



Step 2: Register for an Optional Practical Training (OPT) Virtual Workshop

The workshop covers all aspects of the OPT process. Eligible students should prepare all documents listed in Step 3. The documents will be reviewed by the Designated School Officials (DSO) during the workshop. At the end of the virtual workshop students will have understanding on how to assemble the complete set of documents for mailing to USCIS.  Eligible students who attended the workshop will be assigned a OPT checklist to upload documents listed on the OPT Application checklist. SEVIS Form I-20 with OPT recommendation will be processed within 5 business days after the submission of the documents.

Before starting the registration:

  1. Verify your preferred email as listed in your HCC students account.  You will receive confirmation and instructions about the workshop on this email.
  2. Apply for graduation
  3. Check your passport’s expiration date. Your passport should be valid at least 6 months from the filing date or you have to provide  evidence for requested extension or renewal.


How to Schedule & Register via WebEx

  1. Click on  Optional Practical Training (OPT) Workshop Request. Go to the "Click here to display sessions" button, click and choose a date.
  2. You will receive an email with a WebEx Registration link. Register for the virtual workshop following the email instructions.
  3. Once you register, you will receive an email from Webex confirming your registration. 15 minutes prior to the event (not earlier), you will be able to join the workshop online to check the status of your audio/video settings.




Step 3: Attend the Virtual OPT Workshop. Required Documents for Issuance of Form I-20 with OPT authorization.

During the workshop you will receive guidance how to prepare the documents required by your DSO for the issuance of the Form I-20 with OPT authorization. The items below should be prepared and saved as .PDF  documents. We will review the paper and electronic applications I-765 and expect draft copies of the listed documents be uploaded onto your OPT checklist that will be assigned 2 business days after you attend the workshop:

  • OPT Commitment Letter   (electronic signature is acceptable)*
  • Completion Verification Form (CVF) **
  • Draft Form I-765 DO NOT submit the form to USCIS at this time! You need to wait for the I-20 with OPT authorization before you submit the application (see Steps 5 & 6).                                                                         For electronic I-765 application, refer to tutorial for OPT Online Filing; download "View draft snapshot" as shown on page 27. Do not pay the fee at this time! You can pay the fee after you receive the OPT I-20 (see Steps 5)
  • Copy of passport biometric page (at least 6 months from the filing date, or include a receipt for extension or renewal) 
  • Printout of I-94  https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home > click on Get most recent I-94 or I-797A Notice of Action for change of status to F-1
  • Copies of all previous employment authorization documents (EADs) if any 

*How to Add Signature to PDF Document

**The CVF form should be submitted to  your assigned academic advisor. Please complete sections 1-3 and contact or meet with your assigned academic advisor. The academic advisor will complete section 4 and will email the form to you.  Please include your HCC ID number in your email.  If you have already applied for graduation or for reduced course load (RCL) for this semester, the form should be part of your file and you won’t need a second one.

Disclaimer: HCC and the International Services & Programs Office are not responsible for any errors or omissions in this instruction page, or for the USCIS results obtained from the use of this information. It is the student’s responsibility to verify the content that they are providing in their application (Form I-765) is accurate. ISP has no influence over USCIS and cannot guarantee the OPT approval.


Step 4: Upload OPT documents to your Checklist

 In two business days after the workshop (the presenter will give you the precise time), do the following:

  1. Log in to your account on the HCC Student System
  2. In Student Homepage, click on Checklists
  3. Click on the F-1 Student Checklist to upload the required documents listed on the previous Step 2 "Required Documents for Issuance of Form I-20 with OPT authorization"

* Monitor your Checklist for additional documents that may be required.

How to Upload OPT Documents on your To Do List


Step 5: Receive Form I-20 with OPT authorization by your assigned DSO via email

After reviewing and approving your documents, your assigned DSO will email your electronically signed I-20 with OPT authorization. 

When you receive the I-20, we recommend you proofread the following information on the form:

On page 1:


Date of Birth

Major of study

DSO signature

Date of issuance of the I-20! (Remember the OPT endorsement on the I-20 will be valid for applying with USCIS only for 30 days)

Student signature: You need to sign the I-20 by hand in ink (electronic signatures from studentsare not accepted on OPT I-20).

On page 2:

OPT authorization with OPT Start and End dates

After receiving SEVIS Form I-20, print out the I-20 and sign the I-20 in ink as electronic signatures from students are not accepted. You can then scan the signed I-20 in.PDF (for online filing) and now you can proceed to Step 6. 





Step 6: File Online Your OPT Packet to USCIS. Remember the 90-60-30 days rule!

OPT application packet must be received and receipted by the USCIS Service Center within 30 days of issuance of the I- 20 with OPT recommendation. The 30-day count starts on the date DSO signed the I-20 indicated on page 1 of the I-20. OPT applications received later than the 30 days will be denied by USCIS.

Day 1 Day 30  After Day 30

DSO requests OPT in  SEVIS                                    

30-day countdown begins

30-day countdown ends

USCIS must receive the application    

Applications received by USCIS after day 30 will be denied

  • OPT application packet must be received and receipted by USCIS no later than 60 days after your I-20 end date of your program of study.
  • You can apply for OPT 90 days before completion of your program of study (no earlier)

 We encourage students who are concerned that the I-765 will not be receipted within 30 days of the DSO’s signature to request a new recommendation and reprint of the I-20 before shipping materials to USCIS and if students are approaching 60 days after program study completion must reach out to their DSOs for guidance. 

File Online


OPT Online Packet

Create an account: https://myaccount.uscis.gov/

  • Complete Electronic Form I-765       for c (3) (B) Student Post-Completion OPT (Do not pay the fee before your upload all supporting evidences)


Upload evidence:

  • 2x2 color photo
  • Form I-20 with OPT recommendation (on page 2) signed by DSO and student (see 30-60 day rule above)
  • Copy of passport (at least 6 months from the filing date, or include a receipt for extension or renewal)
  • Copy of Form I-94 I-https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home > click on Get most recent I-94 or your I-797A
  • Copies of all previous employment authorization documents (EADs) if any
  • Pre-Completion CPT (copy of SEVIS Employment page provided by DSO in case of CPT authorizations on file)
  • Pay filing fee of  $410 to Pay.gov

    For latest filing fees instructions, go to https://www.uscis.gov/forms/filing-fees.
    When you have paid your fee, your form will be submitted NEVER submit the form without the Form I-20 with OPT recommendation!


After Applying Online

  • You will use your USCIS online account to:
  • Receive status updates about your case;
  • Respond to any correspondence in which we ask you to submit evidence; and
  • Update your contact information if it changes.


 Disclaimer: HCC and the International Services & Programs Office are not responsible for any errors or omissions in this instruction page, or for the USCIS results obtained from the use of this information. It is the student’s responsibility to verify the content that they are providing in their application (Form I-765) is accurate. ISP has no influence over USCIS and cannot guarantee the OPT approval.




Step 7. After USCIS Receives Your OPT application

After USCIS receive your application packet, they will  receipt your I-765 application by assigning a receipt date and a case number and notify you electronically (email/text). If you applied by mail, you will receive by regular mail service the I-797C receipt notice within 2-3 weeks of USCIS receiving your OPT request. Review your name and mailing address listed on the receipt notice to ensure accuracy.

Check the Status of Your Application on USCIS website

The receipt number is printed in the upper left corner of the USCIS Form I-797 “Notice of Action” receipt. If you have your receipt number, you can check the status of your application on the USCIS Case Status web page.


USCIS Timing, Request for Evidence (RFE), Rejections, Most Common Reasons for OPT Denial

USCIS processes most I-765 requests within 90 days of the receipt notice. While most cases are processed within 90 days, there is a chance your application could take longer. Please review USCIS’s case processing times page to find out more about the expected processing times for your application.  If you believe your case is outside normal processing time, you can submit an inquiry to USCIS regarding the status of your application.


USCIS issues request for evidence (RFE)

USCIS may determine that additional information is necessary in order to adjudicate your request. USCIS will stop the processing of your application and issue a letter or RFE explaining what additional documentation is required. USCIS will communicate a deadline for when you must respond with the additional support documentation. If you do not provide the requested evidence by the deadline, USCIS will deny your OPT application. Once USCIS receives the additional information, an officer will resume the processing of your petition and the “processing clock” will resume. 


OPT application is rejected by USCIS 

If your application is rejected by USCIS, USCIS will return your OPT packet along with a letter explaining the reason for the rejection. In this case, your OPT packet will not be receipted by USCIS. Please immediately contact your assigned DSO and provide a copy of the rejection letter.  Your DSO will assist you with understanding the reason for rejection and provide guidance on eligibility for refiling the I-765 request. Please note, if you receive the rejection notice after your filing window for OPT (60-day rule), you may no longer be eligible to apply for the OPT benefit. 


OPT application denied by USCIS

If your application is denied by USCIS, you must immediately contact your assigned DSO and provide a copy of the USCIS denial letter.


Most common OPT denial reasons:

  • Payment problems:

Check or Credit Card payment: Money is not in account at time of processing; credit card is denied r payment is contested

Incorrect fee amount. - Check the current fee at: https://www.uscis.gov/i-765

Check, money order, or credit card form not completed properly – Wrong dates on check, money order (U.S Date style = MONTH/DAY/YEAR = MM/DD/YYYY)

  • Copy of OPT I-20 (pages 1-3) is TOO OLD – New OPT applications: USCIS must receive your complete OPT application no later than 30 days after the ORIGINAL OPT I-20 ISSUE DATE on page 1 of the I-20.
  • I-765 problems:

Resubmission after OPT Rejection or Denial: If your OPT is REJECTED OR DENIED you must NOTIFY your assigned DSO that your OPT has been rejected or denied. You will need to request a NEW OPT I-20 recommendation from your DSO  before you resubmit your OPT application. Again- USCIS must receive your new, complete OPT reapplication no later than 30 days after the OPT I-20 ISSUE DATE on page 1, item#10 of the I-20.

Incomplete or incorrect form fields

Not signed, or not signed in ink by hand

Not filed within 30 days of the date that your DSO enters the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record

Wrong version of the form

  • OPT application was not mailed within 30 days of getting I-20 OPT recommendation
  • Students did not apply before the 60th day after completion of the program of study
  • Students did not use mailing address that is valid for 3 – 5 months



While on Post-Completion OPT

What the student needs to know

  • You are still in F-1 Status (OPT is a benefit of F-1 Status)
  • Do not attend school full-time while you are on OPT; you are limited to part-time attendance as non-degree seeking student only. Check with a DSO prior to enrolling
  • The U.S. Post Office will not forward the EAD, so make sure that you or someone reliable will be at the address you place on your I-765 form to receive the mail. Undeliverable mail will be returned to the Service Center.
  • Always check with a DSO if you have questions about any of the above.
  • There are limits on total days you can remain unemployed without affecting your F-1 Status. You cannot accrue more than 90 days of unemployment status during the 12 months of PostCompletion OPT; any unemployment period exceeding the 90 days may result in violation of your F-1 status.


What the student needs to do: EAD, SEVP Portal, Reporting requirements

  • Submit a copy of your EAD to your assigned DSO* 
  • Actively search for employment
  • Any time your personal information changes, report it within 10 days by emailing your DSO
  • Report any changes to your employment situation (i.e. start a new job, quit current job, laid off from current job)
  • Report changes to your US address and telephone information.
  • All changes must be reported via the online SEVP Portal within 10 days.
  • An email with instructions on how to create an SEVP Portal account will be sent from do-not-reply.SEVP@ice.dhs.gov  on or after the approved OPT start date. Once you have reported your information, you do not need to confirm with OISS that it has been updated. For step-by-step instructions on how to use the SEVP Portal, please visit SEVP Portal Help.

 SEVP Portal - Student Guide

*When the OPT application is approved, you will get an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in the mail at the address you provided on the I-765. The EAD is your proof of employment authorization. For OPT, you may begin work only after you have received your EAD from USCIS and after the start date printed on the EAD.

You cannot work before the start date or after the end date printed on your EAD card. Please check the start and end dates on your EAD card when you receive it, because the USCIS sometimes adjusts your requested dates.


OPT Employment Requirement & Job Description Examples

As a student in F-1 OPT you are responsible to only engage in practical training opportunities that are directly related to your major area of study. Federal regulations require that F-1 students on OPT provide a description of how their employment relates to their major area of study. There must be a logical connection between the duties involved in the practical training opportunity and the student's major area of study. In the written description, the regular duties should be explained and the connection between those duties and the degree should be described (see examples below).

Job description examples:

  1. Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering:I work full time as an Electrical Engineer at ABC Corp., a government contractor. In my job, I analyze client requirements for electrical systems and provide them with cost estimates of such systems. My work requires understanding of electrical circuit theory, which I studied in-depth at the University of ABC.
  2. 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.
  1. Master's degree in Music:I am working at a hospital playing the harp in patient rooms. I also conduct hands-on harp beginner workshops for long-term patients. On average, I work at the hospital 35 hours a week. My duties directly utilize the skills and knowledge I acquired from my coursework and degree in music therapy.
  2. PhD in Computer Science:I am employed as a Computer and Information Research Scientist at ABC Research Institute. I work as part of a team of scientists and engineers that designs experiments to test the operation of various software systems. My work builds on research in complex algorithms and machine learning, which I studied as part of my dissertation.
  1. 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.


How can I register for a SEVP Portal account?

The SEVP Portal is only accessible to students whose OPT has been approved and is active. Once your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) is issued and the start date on your EAD card arrives (or within 1-2 days after the start date), you will receive an email from SEVP with instructions on creating an SEVP Portal account.  This email will come from do-not-reply.sevp@ice.dhs.gov to the email address associated with your SEVIS record (which will be the email address you have checked as “preferred” in your HCC account). 

Please review the process for creating an SEVP Portal account on this DHS webpage


What should I do if I didn’t receive an email from SEVP with instructions to create a portal account?


  1. SEVP will send you this email only when your OPT is approved and active, meaning that you have been issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) and the start date of you EAD card has arrived (or within 1-2 days after the start date). If you already have your EAD card, but the start date of your EAD card is still in the future, you will not have the SEVP email yet.
  2. The SEVP email will come from do-not-reply.sevp@ice.dhs.gov to the email checked as your preferred email in HCC account. The email that is checked as your preferred email in SEVIS is associated with your SEVIS record and will be used for the SEVP Portal. You can change your preferred email in HCC account, if you need to. If you change your preferred email in HCC account, it will take 2-3 days for the system to transmit the update into SEVIS and the SEVP Portal.
  3. Check your spam/junk mailbox to make sure you didn’t miss the SEVP email.
  4. If you have your EAD card, it has been more than 5 days from the start date, but you still haven’t received an email from SEVP, please submit email to oiss.international@hccs.edu so the DSO can review your request to assist you further.


What should I do if I receive an error message while creating my account?

When there are SEVP system problems affecting many users, SEVP will post an announcement on the login landing page, here. If you see such a notice, please follow the instructions to address the problem. You can also call the SEVP Response Center at 703-603-3400. 


What should I do if I am unable to enter my employment information because it’s been more than 10 days since my start date?

Students are required to add their employer information in the SEVP Portal within 10 days from the start of employment. If you miss the 10-day reporting deadline, employment updates must still be reported although the SEVP Portal will not allow OPT students to report employment that began more than 10 days in the past. As such, you will need to contact your assigned DSO’s assistance to submit the employment information for you. In such cases, please email this information to your assigned DSO and oiss.international@hccs.edu  with request to enter the employment information for you.


How should I report my employment in the SEVP Portal?

  1. Remember to add your employer’s information within 10 days from the start of employment. 
  2. If you have multiple employers at the same time, make sure to add each employer in your SEVP Portal account. 
  3. If the end date of your employment has not been specified, you can leave this field blank. 
  4. When your employment ends, make sure to update your employer information in the SEVP Portal by editing the end date. When you start to work with a new employer, remember to add a new employer record. If your position changed within the same employer, do not add a new employer record, just edit your job title in the record that already exists for this employer. 
  5. In the “Employer Address” field, make sure to put your work site’s address, which can be different from your employer’s main office address. If you continue to work for the same employer but move to another worksite, you will need to edit the employer address field. 

The detailed instructions on updating employer information in the SEVP Portal are available on this DHS webpage


What should I do if my account is locked?

Please send an email to oiss.international@hccs.edu and a DSO will reset your portal account. After that, you should receive an email from do-not-reply.sevp@ice.dhs.gov. Please follow the instructions in that email to unlock your account or create a new one.  


What else do I need to remember for my OPT employment?

  • You should collect and retain all documentation (offer letters, time sheets, paycheck stubs,  etc.) related to your employment while on OPT. You may need it when applying for future benefits or changes of status. 
  • In addition to the employment information, you are responsible for updating your physical home address, mailing address, and telephone numbers. Any address change must be reported within 10 days through HCC account.  


What are my options if I chose to end the OPT before the end of my EAD?

A student on post-  completion OPT can be unemployed for a total of 90 days.

The 90-day “clock” begins on the start date printed on the Employment Authorization Document  (EAD)

If students accrue 90 days of unemployment, it is considered a violation of F-1 status.

Student  and Exchange Visitor Programs (SEVP) audits SEVIS data for students on OPT and  terminate students’ records  with a reason “Exceeded Unemployment time.”

Students can cancel theit OPT at any time and select one of the following options below.

Students who are unemployed should select one of the following solutions before their 90th day of unemployment:

  • Begin a new degree program at HCC
  • Transfer to another SEVP certified school
  • Change visa status
  • Depart the United States



Frequently Asked Questions: Post-completion OPT

What is OPT?

OPT is an acronym for Optional Practical Training, a specific work authorization granted by the Department of Homeland Security to allow students to obtain training in their field of study. In most cases, this application is filed as post-completion OPT in the graduating term of an Associate Program and, if approved, grants the student a full-time work authorization for up to 12 months in a field related to his/her program of study.


Who is eligible for post-completion OPT?

Students must have completed one academic year (fall and spring semesters) as a full-time student and be in F-1 status at the time of application. Student must have applied for graduation in one of the Associate Degree programs or two-semester certificate programs at Houston Community College.


Who is not eligible for post-completion OPT?

Students in the Intensive English Program are not eligible to apply for OPT. Also, students who have already completed OPT at the community college level or a higher degree level are not eligible to apply for OPT.


Do I get another year of post-completion OPT if I complete a new degree?

Students become eligible for another 12 months of OPT benefits upon completion of another degree at a higher level (e.g. Associate to Bachelor, etc.). Students are only eligible for one OPT period at the associate level. If the student applied for OPT benefits on a certificate level, and uses the same credits to complete an Associate’s Degree in the same program of study, this student is not eligible to apply for OPT benefits on that Associate Level.


When should I apply?

You may apply for post-completion OPT 90 days before the completion of your studies BUT PRIOR TO 60 DAYS AFTER THE COMPLETION OF YOUR STUDIES. Since the application process may take up to 90 days and employment cannot begin until you have received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), we recommend that you apply early. Your application must arrive at the U.S. Texas Service Center and be officially receipted before the 60th day after the completion date of your degree program.


What if I am planning to move to a new address while my application is pending?

The US post office will not forward your EAD. Make sure that the address provided on the application (Form I- 765) is where the student or some other (authorized) reliable person will be to receive the EAD when it arrives 2 to 3 months from the application date.

You must report a change of address within 10 days of moving within the United States or its territories.

If your case is pending and you have the Receipt Number, report your change of address online to USCIS.

You have to also report the change of address in the HCC Student System, where you can update your Mailing and SEVIS addresses.


When will my OPT begin?

Your employment authorization does not necessarily begin when your EAD arrives. The authorized employment period is indicated on the EAD card with a start date and an end date.

You cannot work before the start date or after the end date printed on your EAD card. Please check the start and end dates on your EAD card when you receive it, because the USCIS sometimes adjusts your requested dates. Always email a copy of your EAD card (front and back) to your assigned DSO.


Can I travel while waiting for my OPT approval?

When you are pending to receive your OPT card, we recommend you not to travel outside the U.S. unless you have an emergency. In this scenario, please schedule an appointment with your Designated School Official to discuss the risk and the required documents.


Can I travel while I am on OPT?

If your OPT has been granted, you should be able to travel with the following documents:

  • Valid F-1 visa
  • Passport valid at least 6 months into the future
  • Valid EAD card
  • Employment letter (s) It is best to have an official letter of employment and 2 to 3 recent pay stubs.
  • Proof that you have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment
  • SEVIS Form I-20 with valid travel endorsement (Please be aware that the travel endorsement for OPT is valid only 6 months from the date of signature on Page 2)

Time spend outside the U.S. counts towards your total 90 days of unemployment unless you are employed and take approved vacation or business travel.


Can my F-2 dependents travel when I am on OPT?

It is best to have an official letter of employment and 2 to 3 recent pay stubs. Your dependents must have their own I-20, passport, F-2 visa and copy of the F-1 student’s SEVIS Form I-20, copies of the EAD card and your employment letter in order to travel.


How is OPT different from Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

With OPT, the student receives an EAD from the Department of Homeland Security. With CPT, the authorization is granted by a Designated School Official (DSO) and is indicated on Page 2 of the student’s SEVIS I-20 Form. Participation in CPT does not affect your future OPT benefits as long as you work less than one year full-time under the CPT program. If one year or more of CPT is used, the student is no longer eligible for OPT for that degree level. CPT must be an integral part of the curriculum. OPT does not have to be connected to the curriculum, but it does have to be in the field of the student’s major.


What do I do if I am not going to complete my degree as expected?

You should report immediately to the Office of International Student Services  for further guidance.