Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is work authorization available to international students who have been in valid F-1 status for at least  three consecutive quarters and who plan to seek employment in the U.S. in their field of study. OPT allows F-1 student to work legally for a period of up to one year, full-time. OPT is recommended by an advisor at the International Center, but final approval is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).


  • Valid F-1 status
  • Enrollment in at least three consecutive quarters
  • Pursuing a Bachelors, Masters, or Ph.D. degree
  • Employment must be related directly to the major area of study

Application Instructions

  1. Complete mandatory OPT Online Tutorial; Print receipt for application
  2. Complete Pre/Post Completion OPT Checklist (all copies must be included)
  3. Complete OPT Graduation Confirmation with assistance from your academic department
  4. Submit Application to UCI International Center
    • Submit the application to the International Center during an Employment Hand-In Session (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9am to 11am)
    • Call 949.824.7249 to make an appointment if you cannot make the sessions listed above.

Pick-Up Your OPT Application for Mailing to USCIS

Processing time is 7 business days (day one starts the day after you submit your complete application), and you can pick up your I-20 in these ways:

  1. Come to the International Center on the 7th business day and present a valid form of identification (e.g. UCI Student ID)
  2. Make arrangements with an advisor to have your new I-20 mailed to you
  3. Friend pick-up with authorization form and their photo ID

Mail your application to USCIS (instructions will be provided when you pick up your OPT application from the IC) within 30 days from the date your I-20 was issued.

Include a check or money order to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Please see the fee schedule here.

Employment and Reporting Requirements

Once your OPT has been approved by USCIS, you will receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card). You are responsible for reporting the following changes to the International Center within 10 days: local address, change in employment status, and employer information. These changes are directly reported to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Please complete the form below and email it to internationalcenter@uci.edu.

OPT Employment Update

Cap-Gap Extension

Current regulations allow certain students with pending or approved H-1B petitions to remain in F-1 status during the period of time when an F-1 student’s status and work authorization would otherwise expire through the start date of their approved H-1B employment period. This is referred to as filling the “cap-gap,” meaning the regulations provide a way of filling the “gap” between the end of F-1 status and the beginning of H-1B status that might otherwise occur if F-1 status is not extended for qualifying students.

Petitions that have been filed and receipted: 

If your H-1B petition has been filed by your employer and receipted by USCIS, you are eligible for an automatic cap-gap extension I-20 through September 30th. Please email copies of the following items to internationalcenter@uci.edu to start your request for cap-gap extension:

  • Student Visa Document Request form-- Select: Cap-Gap Extension
  • Your Name and Contact Information (address, phone, email)
  • Copy of EAD Card 
  • Copy of I-797 receipt notice or approval Notice

Petitions that have been filed and NOT receipted:

If your H-1B petition has been filed by your employer but not receipted and your OPT expires before June 1 you are eligible for a preliminary cap-gap extension until June 1st. Please email copies of the following items to internationalcenter@uci.edu to start your request for cap-gap extension. Once your petition is receipted, request an automatic cap-gap extension I-20 by following the steps above. 

  • Student Visa Document Request form-- Select: Cap-Gap Extension
  • Copy of EAD Card 
  • Letter from employer stating timely filing of H-1B application
  • Proof of mailing, i.e. copy of mailing label

These items will be reviewed by a student advisor and a new I-20 will be issued to you if you are eligible. Visit USCIS for more information about USCIS Cap-Gap Extension.

Travel During OPT

Traveling during OPT will require you to have a valid EAD card, a signed I-20 by a DSO from UCI within the last 6 months, and proof that you are returning after your travel outside of the U.S. to resume employment. For more information about travel risks during OPT, please click here.


Travel Signature

Request Process


Tuesday, Wednesday,Thursday
9 - 11 a.m.
International Center

Coffee Hour

Every Friday 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Counseling Center, Student Services I


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