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International Student Services

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is off-campus employment authorization that allows F-1 students to gain work experience directly related to their major field of study. Please be aware of the following conditions:

• Your OPT employment must be directly related to your major field of study.
• You are permitted a maximum of 12 months of full-time employment for each higher educational level you pursue in the U.S. (eg. bachelor’s or master’s degree)
• No specific job offer is required to apply for OPT. However, you MUST find employment within 90 days of being approved for OPT to maintain legal F-1 status.
• You cannot begin your employment until you have received your approved EAD card.

Types of OPT

Pre-Completion OPT

• You may participate in pre-completion OPT during your studies after you have been enrolled at Rowan University for one full academic year.
• You must work part-time when school is in session.
• You may work part-time or full-time during vacation periods for students.
• Part-time pre-completion OPT accrues at a rate of 50%. For example, 6 months of part-time pre-completion OPT counts as 3 months of the total of 12 months of OPT you are allowed.
NOTE: All periods of pre-completion OPT are deducted from the available post-completion OPT.

Post-Completion OPT

• You may participate in post-completion OPT upon completion of your degree.
• You may work part-time or full-time after completion of course work requirements, excluding the thesis or dissertation.
• You must work at least 20 hours per week after completion of ALL requirements for your major program of study.
• If you decide to work all of your available 12 months of OPT time on post-completion OPT, you must request all of it at once. You cannot use it in separate periods of time.

When to Apply

• For pre-completion OPT, you may apply up to 90 days before being enrolled full-time at Rowan University for one full academic year as long as the OPT employment will not begin until after you have completed the full academic year. If you have been enrolled full-time at Rowan University for one full academic year, you may apply up to 120 days before your requested OPT employment start date.

• For post-completion OPT, you may apply up to 90 days before the program end date (on your I-20) OR up to 60 days after the program end date.

  • The OPT application must be received and accepted for processing by USCIS no later than 60 days after your program completion date. It is your responsibility to plan accordingly to allow enough time for the International Center to review and submit your application to USCIS.
  • If you leave the U.S. during the 60 day grace period after completing your degree program and did not apply for OPT, your OPT eligibility will end.

How to Apply

1. Submit the following application materials to the International Center:

OPT Request Form

• Complete the I-765 form. Please read the I-765 Instructions.

  • For pre-completion OPT, enter “c 3 A” under item 16.
  • For post-completion OPT, enter “c 3 B” under item 16.

• I-765 application fee: $380 check or money order payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

• Immigration documents and supporting materials:

  • Photocopy of current Form I-94 (front and back)
  • Photocopy of passport (photo page, visa page, renewal page if original has expired, and pages showing amendments such as name changes, corrections, etc.)
  • Photocopies of all previous and current I-20s.
  • Two U.S. passport-style photographs (Photograph instructions are on the Form I-765 instructions under Required Documentation
  • Photocopies of any previously issued employment authorization documents (EAD cards)

Note: We recommend that students make copies of all materials for their own records.

2. The International Center will review your application.

3. If you qualify for OPT, we will issue you an updated I-20 with your OPT recommendation. You must come to the office to sign the updated I-20.

4. The International Center will send your application to USCIS for processing of your work authorization.

NOTE: It may take about three months for your EAD card to be returned to the International Center from USCIS. It is important to take USCIS processing time into consideration when planning the date you request to begin OPT employment. Remember, you cannot begin to work until you have your EAD card!