Thomas Jefferson University

OPT Application Process

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion). However, all periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT.

When to Apply

  • You do not need an employment offer to apply for OPT 
  • The average time for USCIS to process EAD cards is 90-160 days. This should be taken into consideration in addition to the timeline below.

Pre-completion OPT- Students are limited to working 20 hours or less while school is in session and are permitted to work full-time during breaks. You may apply 90 days before the end of your first academic year. Speak to OIA to see if this option is right for you. 

Post-completion OPT- Most Jefferson students choose this option. You may submit your OPT application to USCIS as early as 90 days before, and as late as 60 days after your program end date or for JCLS students, your degree conferral date. This should not be confused with your graduation date. USCIS clearly distinguishes the end of your degree requirements and your graduation day.

Choosing Employment Dates

Choose your start date carefully. OIA cannot make any changes to your chosen start date after you have submitted your application to USCIS.

Pre-completion OPT- Your start date must begin after you complete one full academic year. You must also choose an end date before your program ends.

Post-completion OPT- Your start date for employment can begin any time within 60 days after your program completion/degree conferral date. For example, if you complete your program on May 20, you may choose to begin employment any time between May 21 and July 20. 

Remember: You cannot begin working until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS AND you are starting on or after the start date on your card.

Documents Needed to Apply for OPT

I. Documents to Submit to OIA: 

A. For Pre-completion OPT: 

1) Optional Practical Training I-20 Request Form

2) F-1 Pre-completion OPT Responsibilities 

B. For Post-completion OPT:

1) Optional Practical Training I-20 Request Form 

2) F-1 Post-completion OPT Responsibilities

3) Signed letter from advisor or registrar: 

 For all Colleges Except JCLS (template)

 For JCLS (template)                           

 After you submit the appropriate documents to OIA, we will process an I-20 with OPT request and send it to you. You can then complete your OPT application to USCIS. 

II. Application to USCIS:

You can apply online or send a paper application to USCIS. Applying online is the preferred method. Email for more information.

Traveling Abroad During OPT

REMINDER: Individuals on OPT are still required to report their international travel plans prior to travel. Send your travel destination and dates to 

Students who have already completed their programs and have a pending OPT are strongly advised not to travel.

Once your OPT application has been approved and you have received your EAD card, you may travel outside the US as long as you have the following documents:

  • Passport that is valid for at least 6 months into the future.
  • Valid F-1 entry visa (except Canadians). If you do not have a valid F-1 entry visa, you must go to a U.S Embassy or consulate to apply for one. Students without valid F-1 entry visas are strongly advised not to travel.
  • I-20 with OPT Approved- signature for travel should be within 6 months of your travel.
  • Proof that you have a job to return to in the U.S., such as a letter from your supervisor or offer letter from human resources describing your job.