Post-Completion OPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of the F-1 visa program that allows you to work off-campus in a position that directly relates to your program of study. Students can utilize this benefit once per education level once they have completed at least one year in their academic program. You can apply for OPT during your program of study, which is known as pre-completion OPT, or as you finish your program of study, know as post-completion OPT. This page is dedicated to explaining the process and requirements for post-completion OPT. If you are considering applying for pre-completion OPT, please speak with an International Services Advisor during Zoom advising hours. 

International Services is dedicated to supporting you throughout your career at Clemson University, including your post-graduation employment opportunities. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions or concerns regarding OPT, STEM OPT, or other matters related to your immigration record.

OPT Advising Hours: 

If you have questions after reviewing the OPT guidance below, you are invited to join one of our scheduled OPT Q&A sessions below. 

  • OPT Workshops

    Virtual OPT Workshops

    There is much to know about post-completion OPT. International Services offers OPT workshops virtual advising sessions throughout the year to help students understand the application process, status maintenance requirements, travel expectations, and more.

    It is required that you review the online OPT Tutorial prior to applying for OPT. This tutorial can be found within the Post-Completion OPT Request e-form in the iStart Portal. You are welcome to attend one of the OPT Workshops below if you still have questions after reviewing the online OPT Tutorial. These workshops are supplemental to the online OPT Tutorial and are intended to answer your specific questions regarding OPT. 

    OPT Workshops
    You are invited to join the IS staff as we guide you through the OPT application process, maintaining status while on OPT, and options after OPT. Please join on time as each session will begin at the time listed. Please sign up for the OPT workshops here: 
    Wednesday, February 7 1:00 - 3:00
    Thursday, February 15 1:00 - 3:00
    Tuesday, April 30 1:00 - 3:00


  • Eligibility Requirements

    Post-Completion OPT Eligibility Requirements

    • Students must have been enrolled in an academic program for at least one year and must have completed all degree program requirements 
      • Master's and Ph.D. students who have completed all degree required coursework are eligible to apply for Post-Completion OPT and may begin working full-time while the thesis and dissertation are completed.
    • Students can apply for the OPT benefit up to 90 days prior to their program end date and no later than 60 days after their program end date
      • Students are encouraged to ensure their I-20 program end date aligns with their graduation date
    • Students must first request the recommendation from International Services before mailing in their application to USCIS. Per 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11), failure to request the new I-20 with the OPT recommendation before mailing the OPT application to USCIS will most likely result in the student being denied the OPT benefit by USCIS.
    • Student must be present and inside the U.S. in order to apply for OPT.
    • Students that have participated in 11 months and 28 days or more of full-time CPT are ineligible for OPT.
  • Applying for OPT

    How to Apply for Post-Completion OPT

    After attending an OPT workshop, review the steps below to apply for OPT:

        1. Complete the Post-Completion OPT Request e-form within the iStart Student Portal
        2. IS will review the request and issue new I-20 Form that recommends you for post-completion OPT if you are found eligible. 
        3. Student collects new I-20 Form from International Services and then mails OPT packet request to USCIS within 30 days of the recommendation by IS
          • Review page 3 of the I-20 Form to ensure the OPT recommendation is listed and the requested OPT dates are accurate.
          • Review any notes on the documents you collect and make changes accordingly.
        4. Gather the forms and documents listed below to compile your OPT request packet to mail to USCIS. You are also encouraged to review the I-765 form instructions to determine if any additional documents need to be submitted along with your request.
          • A check or money order for the I-765 filing fee made payable to: U.S. Department of Homeland Security (please review USCIS's website for the fee amount)
          • Completed G-1145 Form
          • Completed and signed I-765 Form (the form cannot be signed electronically or digitally, it must be signed by hand)
          • Copy of I-20 Form recommending you for OPT within 30 days of issuance
            • Important Reminder: Your OPT request packet must be received and receipted by USCIS within 30 days of your I-20 form issuance and recommendation for the OPT. The date listed beside the signature of the Designated School Official (DSO) is considered the date of issuance. There is a precedent at USCIS to deny OPT requests submitted more than 30 days after the I-20’s date of issuance. International Services encourages students or recent graduates 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. If you need to request a new OPT recommendation to comply with the 30 day rule outlined above, you must complete and submit a new “Post-Completion OPT Request” e-form in the iStart portal. Please keep in mind the processing time for a reprint will be the same as the standard OPT request, 5 business days.
          • Form I-94
          • Clear photo copies of passport & U.S. F1 visa
            • If you are a Canadian citizen, you may enclose a copy of your citizenship card or a birth certificate & a government-issued photo ID rather than a copy of the visa
          • Two U.S. passport-style photos (print your name & I-94 # on backs of photos)
          • If applicable, a copy of any previously approved OPT cards (both sides)
          • If applicable, you should also send any I-20s indicating that you have previously participated in OPT or CPT
        5. Now that you have reviewed your I-20 Form and assembled your OPT application packet, you must mail the packet to the USCIS Service Center. Please review USCIS's website to determine where to mail the OPT packet. Please be sure to send to the correct Service Center as the addresses have recently changed. You must use the USCIS Service Center assigned to the mailing address you provided on the I-765 Form. We encourage you to purchase tracking services when mailing your packet so that you can ensure the packet is timely delivered to USCIS.
  • After USCIS Receives OPT Application

    After USCIS Receives Your OPT Petition

    USCIS will receipt your I-765 application and notify you electronically and via regular mail service utilizing the I-797C receipt notice. You can expect to receive the paper receipt notice within 2-3 weeks of USCIS receiving your OPT request. Review your personal information listed on the receipt notice- your name and mailing address- to ensure accuracy. If you need to update information with USCIS, follow the instructions provided on the receipt notice by USCIS or call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.

    USCIS Timing

    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. If USCIS receives your Post-Completion OPT request and needs additional information, the following may occur:

        • 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 scenario, your OPT packet will not be receipted by USCIS. Please immediately contact International Services to provide a copy of the rejection letter. International Services 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, you may no longer be eligible to apply for the OPT benefit.

  • Maintaining Status While on OPT

    Maintenance of Status after USCIS Issues EAD

    Maintenance of status is the responsibility of the F-1 student visa holder at all times while inside the U.S. The information below provides a reminder of some of the requirements to maintain status, but is not intended to cover every scenario. If you have a question about maintenance of status, it is your responsibility to seek out guidance from International Services or a qualified immigration attorney.

    Per 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(A), F-1 student visa holders may not begin Optional Practical Training (paid, unpaid, or voluntary employment) until the start date indicated on his or her employment authorization document (EAD) and until the EAD has been received by the student. Again, you cannot begin any kind of volunteering, paid employment, or unpaid employment before receiving your OPT EAD card, nor prior to the start date listed on your OPT EAD card. F-1 student visa holders in violation of 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(10)(ii)(A) are in violation of status and subject to termination of the SEVIS record. Additionally, under a new proposed policy effective August 2018, F-1 student holders in violation of status begin to accrue unlawful presence from the date of the violation irrespective of government or sponsor notice. If you begin working before receiving your EAD card or before the start date listed on your EAD card, your F1 SEVIS record will be terminated for unauthorized employment and you will begin accruing unlawful presence. You would then be ineligible to continue working on OPT and you would be expected to depart the U.S. immediately. Unauthorized employment also jeopardizes your eligibility for future employment benefits such as the 24-Month Stem Extension and the H-1B visa.

    Once you have obtained your EAD card and you are in your authorized period of OPT employment, you are expected to work a minimum of 20 hours per week in a position related to your field of study. You have up to 90 days of unemployment starting on the approved OPT start date listed on your EAD card. If you reach the 90-day unemployment limit, you should make plans to either depart the U.S. or seek alternatives if you wish to remain inside the U.S. You are expected to report employment and changes to your information within 10 days of any change. 

    Immigration Reporting Requirements for Maintaining Status

    Post-Completion OPT Employment Update (required)

    While on OPT, part of maintaining your status is to report any changes to your contact and employment information to International Services within 10 days of the change. To report your information, please log into your iStart Student portal and complete the OPT employment update e-form listed under the “F-1 Practical Training” tab.

    *Reminder, students are not eligible to begin work until they have received an Employment Authorization document verifying work eligibility and must wait until the EAD approved start date to begin paid, unpaid, or volunteer work opportunities. Failure to follow this federal regulation is considered a violation of status and will result in termination of your F-1 record.

    SEVP Portal (optional)

    The Department of Homeland Security created a method for students to review and report their contact and employment information through the SEVP Portal. Reporting your information through the SEVP Portal is optional. You will still be required to report any changes to the International Services office even if you are to make updates to your record through the SEVP Portal. If you are locked out of your SEVP portal account, please complete the SEVP Portal Reset Request within your iStart Student Portal account.

    Once your OPT application is processed by USCIS, you will receive an automatic email instructing you how to access your SEVP Portal. For more information about this reporting method, please review our SEVP Portal FAQ page. You can also find more information on the Study in the States website. You may also call the SEVP Response Center at 703-603-3400 if you have any questions about the portal or need assistance.

    Pursuing Another Degree While on OPT

    You cannot be a full-time student while also working on OPT. If you wish to seek a degree full-time at a U.S. institution rather than continue your employment on OPT, you will need to update your immigration record to reflect the new degree program. For more information about transferring your SEVIS record to a new institution during your OPT period, please refer to the section below entitled “Transferring Out Your SEVIS Record.” If you intend to return to Clemson University to pursue your degree, please contact our office for more information. 

    Traveling on OPT

    Prior to traveling internationally while on OPT, our office encourages you to review the “Travel and Visas” guidance listed under the “For Students” section of our website.

    It is important that your current employer information is listed on page 2 of your I-20 when you travel outside of the U.S., please make sure to complete and submit a Post-Completion OPT Employment Update e-form within your iStart Student Portal well in advance of your trip to account for the processing and shipment of the new form.

    After reviewing the travel guidance information, please contact our office with any questions you might have regarding travel prior to departing the U.S. during your OPT period.

  • Employment Requirements

    Employment Requirements 

    Once you have received your EAD card and the OPT start date has passed, your employment while on post-completion OPT should be the following:

        • a job that is directly related to the student’s degree program; if the relationship between the job and a student's field of study is called into question by USCIS in the future, the burden of proof is on the student to demonstrate the relationship.
        • at least 20 hours per week; if work is less than full-time, it would count towards a student's 90 days of unemployment.
        • the employment can be paid or unpaid.

    The types of employment allowed during the initial 12-month period of OPT include (these do not apply to the STEM Extension):

        • Paid employment. Students may work in a part-time (minimum 20 hours per week) or full time in a job related to their field of study.
        • Multiple employers. Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student’s degree program.
        • Short-term multiple employers (performing artists). Students, such as musicians and other performing artists may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing a list of all gigs.
        • Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.
        • Self-employed business owner. Students may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must work full-time (at least 20 hours/week). The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student’s degree program.
        • Employment through an agency. Students must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
        • Unpaid employment. Students on the initial 12-month OPT may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week. These students must be able to provide evidence from the employer that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.
  • After Post-Completion OPT

    After Post-Completion OPT

    24-Month STEM OPT Extension  

    Students that have studied in a STEM eligible field, may be eligible to extend their OPT benefit for 24 months. International Services encourages you to visit our OPT STEM Resources webpage to learn more about eligibility requirements, the application process, reporting requirements, and other related aspects of the extension. Once a student's post-completion OPT end date has passed, the student is no longer eligible to apply for the OPT STEM extension.

    Transferring Out Your Active SEVIS Record

    If you are admitted to a U.S. institution while you are on OPT or during the 60 day grace period after your OPT, it is possible to request the transfer your SEVIS record. Whether your record would be eligible for transfer will depend on important factors such as when you would be starting your studies at the new institution and whether you have been employed or unemployed during your OPT period. To request the transfer of your active SEVIS record, please complete the Transfer Out request within your iStart Student Portal.

    H1B and the Cap Gap Extension

    While on OPT, your employer may choose to file an H1B visa application on your behalf. If your OPT expires prior to the start of the H1B, you may eligible for the Cap Gap Extension. The Cap Gap is a benefit that is automatically applied to students’ immigration records and will be reflected once the H1B petition is receipted by USCIS. We encourage you to visit Study in the States website to review eligibility requirements for the cap-gap. If you believe you are eligible for this benefit, you can request our office to reprint your I-20 form with the Cap Gap reflected by sending us a copy of the H1B receipt notice from USCIS.

    If an H1B application is filed in your name, you are encouraged to contact us to discuss your responsibilities for maintaining your F-1 status during this time and your options depending on whether your application is approved or denied.  

    60-Day Post-OPT Grace Period

    If none of the above options are applicable to you, at the end of your OPT period, the U.S. government provides a 60-day grace period where you are eligible to remain inside the U.S. You must depart the U.S. no later than the 60th day after your OPT End date in order to avoid visa overstay penalties as you will begin to accrue unlawful presence after the 60th day. During the 60-day grace period you are ineligible to travel internationally and re-enter on your current record.