Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) FAQ

Any F-1 student who has been continuously enrolled in full-time status for at least one regular full academic year (two consecutive long semesters) may apply. Practical training is not available for students in the Intensive English Program (IEP).
 The earliest you can apply for Post-Completion OPT is 90 days prior to the completion of your degree and the latest you can apply is by the end of your 60 day-grace period.

It depends on your academic situation. One of the following must apply to you:

  • (1) Met degree requirements and are about to graduate
  • (2) Doctorate or Masters Student working on Dissertation or Thesis ONLY and have completed all coursework.
You do not need to have employment secured to apply. However, you are expected to actively seek employment.

 It typically takes USCIS 90 days to process OPT applications therefore it is recommended you apply 90 days prior to when you wish to begin working.

Check the estimated processing time for I-765 applications on the USCIS website here

(Form: I-765, Category: F-1, and Field Office: Potomac Service Center)

An EAD card is an Employment Authorization Document that permits you to work in the U.S.

You can only start working AFTER you have received your EAD card and only within the dates as stated in your EAD card. You should also verify those dates with the ISSS Office to verify the dates are accurate according to your program end date and SEVIS status.

Working BEFORE OR AFTER the dates stated in the EAD card will result in a violation of your F-1 status. 

Any employment you accept must be directly related to your field of study. Employment can be paid or unpaid.
You will need to report employment to the ISSS office within 10 days of receiving a job. You must report employment by submitting the OPT Employment Verification Form (available on our website under All Forms/Requests). Please note that you cannot begin working nor report employment until you have received an EAD card.
You can be unemployed for up to 90 days throughout your Post-Completion OPT period.
No, once OPT has been granted there is no way to “save” time for later use.

You have another 60-day grace period to do one of the following:
(1) change your status
(2) transfer to another school
(3) start another program at SMU
(4) leave the country

You must apply before your 12-month OPT expires. Your employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and you need to have a job directly related to your STEM degree.