International Student Benefits After Graduation


Post Completion Practical Training: F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is available for F-1 students in SCNM's ND program who are about to graduate/graduated and have secured or are in the process of securing a full-time work opportunity and wish to remain in the U.S. In order to secure optional practical training (OPT) a student must find and secure an employment opportunity, complete a required form and follow an application process. An initial period of 12 months may be awarded by Immigration (USCIS) per degree level. The 12 month OPT post date must start within 60 days of your initial Program Completion date.  OPT requires that you pursue employment in your area of study, but does not require a specific employer at the time of filing.

  • Optional practical training is one type of work permission available for eligible F-1 students. It allows graduates to get real-world work experience related to their field of study.
  • While a Designated School Official (DSO) recommends OPT in SEVIS, it is the student who must apply for the work permit with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If the OPT is approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The student must not begin working before the start date on the EAD.
  • No more than 90 days of unemployment is permitted during the initial 12 months of post-completion OPT. Exceeding the limit of unemployment constitutes a loss of your legal status. Be sure to report your changes in employment and address to your Designated Student Officer (DSO) promptly.


OPT Eligibility

To apply for OPT you must first obtain a new I-20 from an SCNM DSO documenting your eligibility for OPT. You will subsequently submit a paper-based application for employment authorization to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS). You must be in lawful F-1 status at the time of filing, and your period of OPT may commence only immediately following at least two full and continuous quarters of enrollment.


Application Essentials

Applications for post-completion OPT must be filed and reach USCIS:

  • No earlier than 90 days prior to the completion of study which corresponds to the end date of your I-20.
  • No later than during the 60 day grace period after completion of study, presuming you have not departed the U.S. once studies are completed.
  • Within 30 days of the issuance, date on the original OPT-endorsed Form I-20 given to you by the SCNM DSO.

NOTE: If you have not completed all coursework for your degree and are unsure that you will complete your degree on time, you should consult your SCNM DSO before submitting the application for OPT.

Click here for a guide to applying for a STEM Opt


Requesting Start & End Dates of Employment

Students may request OPT to begin on any date from the day after the date of completion of studies up to, but not after, 60 days after the date of completion of study. The Start Date of Employment must fall within that 60 day period. OPT End Date will be 12 months from the OPT Start Date of Employment.  Applications for OPT can take three months or more for the USCIS to adjudicate so it is very important to plan accordingly.


Authorized Period of Employment

Students may not begin working until they have received a valid OPT employment authorization card (EAD) issued by the USCIS and the start date has been reached.


How to Apply for F-1 OPT

Step One: Complete the SCNM Online I-20 OPT Request and Form I-765. Visit the USCIS website for more information. Please complete Form I-765 electronically, save it and print it.

Step Two: Bring printed Form 1-765 along with supporting materials (if available) to an SCNM DSO. Do not submit to our office earlier than the 90 days prior to the end of your I-20.

Step Three: : DSO will review all materials and endorse. Pick up the endorsed Forms I-20 and Form I-765 from the SCNM DSO, and follow the OPT USCIS Filing Instructions. The OPT I-20 and full application must be in the hands of Immigration no later than 30 days after the OPT I-20's issue date. Do not E-File your application.

Step Four (highly recommended): Complete Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, if you wish to receive email and/or text messages when your application has been received. NOTE: USCIS will continue to mail the receipt notices to you.  You should receive notification of receipt of OPT application within two or three weeks. If you do not receive notification of receipt - we recommend you contact USCIS.


Reporting Requirements while on OPT

While on OPT, students will must report address, phone number and employment information to their DSO. Coming soon: Students will be able to report address, phone number and employment information themselves directly through the SEVP Portal.


  • Residential Address
  • Phone & Email Address
  • Employer Information including full address
  • Start Date of Employment and End Date (if known)
  • Job Title
  • Supervisor's Name, Email Address and Phone Number
  • Any period of unemployment. You must inform your employer that they are also required to inform the SCNM DSO of a loss of employment.
  • Date of departure from the U.S.


What employment is permitted under Post-Completion OPT?

Post-completion OPT (OPT that is done after completion of your degree requirements), authorizes you for full-time OPT participation (20 hours or more per week).  Post-completion OPT can be paid or unpaid training related to your major field of study.  You may work for multiple employers (including short-term gigs, self-employment, contract work, or work for hire). In order for your OPT employment to be considered active, you must be working 20 hours per week or more between all OPT jobs combined. If your combined OPT employment is under 20 hours per week in total, this time may count against your unemployment time.

Under post-completion OPT, you may not accrue more than an aggregate of 90 days of unemployment during the entire 12-month OPT period. You must be engaged in at least 20 hours of OPT activity per week to count as active employment; periods with activity of less than 20 hours per week will be counted toward unemployment accrual.

We strongly recommend that you keep thorough and accurate records of your OPT experience/employment in case you are ever required to show proof of your OPT activities.

Post-Completion OPT qualifying work may include:

Paid or unpaid training

You may engage in paid employment that is directly related to your major field of study.

You may also serve as a volunteer, unpaid intern, researcher, community service worker, etc., where this does not violate any labor laws. We would advise that you obtain evidence from your volunteer organization that you performed services at least 20 hours per week.

Multiple employers

You may work for more than one employer. For active OPT, all jobs combined must total 20 hours per week or more. 


Work for hire

You may be engaged in work for hire (commonly referred to as working as a 1099 independent contractor), performing a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, you 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

You may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, you must be able to prove that you have the proper business licenses and that you are actively engaged in a business related to your degree program.

Employment through an agency

If you are employed through an agency, you must be able to provide evidence showing that you are working an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.


Evaluation on Student Progress (Page 5 of Form I-983 – Completed by both Student and Employer)

During the course of the STEM OPT employment, the student is required to submit self-reported evaluations and assessments. Student evaluations are a shared responsibility of both the student and the employer to ensure that the student’s practical training goals are being satisfactorily met. The student is responsible for conducting a self-evaluation based on his or her own training progress. The employer must review and sign the self-evaluation to attest to its accuracy.

These evaluations are required at the following times:

  • First evaluation (top of page 5 of Form I-983) required after completion of 12 months of STEM OPT period
  • Final evaluation (bottom of page 5 of Form I-983) due at conclusion of 24-month STEM OPT period
  • Enter the range of the student evaluation dates: Enter start and end dates for first 12 months of STEM OPT training period.
  • Student Signature: Student must sign, print name, and enter date of signature.
  • Employer Signature: Signature by Principal Investigator (P.I.) or Supervisor upon agreement with the assessment information that the student has entered for the evaluation portion of Form I-983.
  • Upon Completion of the Evaluation: Student will provide page 5 of Form I-983 to their DSO for record purposes. This can be submitted electronically.

Do I have to pay taxes while working on OPT?

Yes, you must pay federal and state income taxes. Taxes are typically due on April 15 (though sometimes they are due a day or two later). Most large cities will have VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) services. Make sure the tax consultant knows if you are a resident or non­resident for tax purposes (this is different from immigration status). NOTE: If you have been in the US for less than 5 years, you may be exempt from Social Security taxes. See the IRS website for more information.

For more information, please contact the PDSO, Melissa Winquist - V.P. of Student Affairs.