Cal Poly

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Post-completion OPT is 12 months of work authorization after completion of your degree at Cal Poly. OPT is available to eligible F-1 visa students only.

Note: Any student interested in applying for pre-completion OPT must email the  International Center for an appointment with an advisor.

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OPT Eligibility

  • Full-time enrollment for at least one academic year in F-1 or other visa status that allows enrollment
  • Be in valid F-1 status

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OPT Application Process

Follow these steps in order to apply for OPT:

  1. Complete the OPT Application Packet
  2. Schedule an OPT appointment (see packet). Your packet must be completed prior to your appointment. This includes all documents and required photos, check, etc.
  3. A new I-20 with a recommendation for OPT will be issued at your appointment.
  4. Instructions on how to mail your packet and next steps are included in the OPT Application Packet

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Important OPT Dates

  • You can apply for OPT:
    • Up to 90 days prior to the end-date of your final term (last day of finals)
    • Your application must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after the end-date of your final term
    • NOTE: Normal USCIS processing time for OPT applications is 90 days
  • The 12 months of OPT will not be authorized beyond 14 months after the end-date of your final term
  • After your OPT ends, there is a 60-day grace period to depart the U.S. or have your SEVIS record released to another school

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OPT Timeline

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OPT Employment Requirements

  • You must wait to receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card in the mail before beginning work.
  • You are allowed only 90 days of cumulative unemployment during your authorized OPT period
  • You must work in a field related to your major at Cal Poly
  • Volunteer work may be counted as employment, and you may have multiple employers
  • You are required to work a minimum of 20 hours per week

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Travel During Practical Training

  • In order to re-enter the U.S. while on Practical Training, you must have:
    • EAD card
    • Valid passport
    • Valid F-1 student visa (entry permit)
    • Letter from employer
    • OPT I-20 with a valid travel signature (located on page 2)
      • Although Form I-20 indicates a validity period of one year for travel signatures, visa regulations set a shorter validity period of 6 months for travel signatures on I-20s used by students on post-completion OPT
  • Here is a grid showing levels of risk for traveling during different stages of OPT processing and employment

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  • If you move while your OPT application is still pending, notify the Cal Poly International Center office immediately so we can send your new mailing address to the DHS. If the EAD card is mailed to an old address, the post office will not forward it to you. It will be returned to the DHS and you will have to apply again. If you think you will move before you receive your EAD, please talk to Judy Mitchell about this when you fill out the I-765.
  • You may not begin employment until you have received your EAD from the DHS.
  • If you move any time during your stay in the U.S. under F-1 status (this includes time on OPT) while on a Cal Poly I-20, you must notify the International Center within 10 days.
  • You must keep the International Center notified of your employer name and address and dates of employment at all times. See page 3 of the OPT application packet for a list of reporting requirements.
  • Before you are hired, it is advisable to obtain an employment contract from your employer. This should state the terms of employment such as salary, review schedule, length of employment, and job requirements.

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© 2015 California Polytechnic State University Cal Poly International Center
Building 52, Room E32
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
Phone: (805) 756-1477
Fax: (805) 756-5484