Frequently Asked Questions about Optional Practice Training (CPT)
How much practical training time am I eligible for?
If you have not been
authorized for any previous practical training, you are eligible for up to twelve months (per higher level of study), once you have completed one academic year of your program of study. Previous curricular practical training will not effect the 12 months unless the curricular training was full time and for more than twelve months.
May I obtain 12 months of practical training after each degree?
Yes. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued new regulations for OPT that took effect on January 1, 2003. A student is now eligible for 12 months of practical training for EACH change to a higher educational level. So a student in F-1 status who enters as a Bachelor's degree student is eligible for up to 12 months practical training upon completion of the Bachelor's and then ANOTHER 12 months upon completion of the next higher degree (Master's)
Can I work at any job with OPT authorization?
No! OPT authorization is only for employment that is DIRECTLY related to your field of study. Working in an unrelated job is a serious violation of your F-1 status. Do not put your legal status at risk.
Do I need a job offer to obtain practical training?
Yes and No
For CPT, it is required. However, for OPT, proof of employment is not required to apply for Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
How is my application processed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services?
To apply for your
Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card, you must mail your completed
application and all required attachments to
Address for USPS Certified mail/Return Receipt:
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
Address for private courier (non USPS) deliveries:
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
May I obtain insurance through CSUB’s International Student Insurance Program if I'm on practical training?
Yes. You may purchase the CSUB International Health insurance at the student rate. This is very helpful if your employer does not provide health insurance coverage, or if there is a several months waiting period before health insurance benefits will commence.
Once I receive my EAD card, is there anything else I should do?
Yes, please bring in your EAD card to ISP so that a photocopy can be made for your file. If you have any specific questions, or if you are applying for practical training prior to graduating, you may want to discuss it with an International Student Advisor at the Office of ISP.
Employment cannot begin until the date authorized for practical training on the EAD and you have your EAD card "in hand"
How long will the application approval process at USCIS take?
Processing time at the USCIS California Service Center is highly variable and difficult to predict. It can take up to 12-16 weeks and sometimes longer. Therefore, you are urged to apply early to allow sufficient time for you to receive your EAD card.
Can't I apply in person at an USCIS District Office?
No. EAD cards for students are not accepted at USCIS District Offices. Cards are only processed by mail at an USCIS processing center.
What if I apply for practical training and end up not using it? Perhaps I won't be able to find a job, or perhaps I decide to go back to school. What happens then?
Applying for practical training is a two-step process. You must first make application to the Office of International students & Programs (ISP), and then mail your application to the USCIS to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. Once USCIS approves your OPT application, it is not possible to cancel the practical training authorization. Therefore, any unused time will be lost.
What if my employer wants to hire me for longer than the authorized period of my practical training?
Your employer may wish to consider filing a petition for H-1B Temporary Worker status for you. The status is good for up to six years and requires the approval of both the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. Department of Labor. The entire application may take two to four months. Therefore, it is recommended that such an application be filed well before your practical training will expire, so that there will be no interruption in your employment.
May I apply for less than 12 months of practical training?
Yes, but… you must be sure that you will not want more than the period that is less than 12 months. It is no longer possible to apply after the completion date deadline has passed.
What if I want to travel outside the United States during practical training?
You must obtain your EAD card prior to departure. Your EAD will say Not Valid for Re-entry on its front. This means that the card, by itself, is not a re-entry document. You must also have a valid passport containing a valid F-1 visa and an unexpired SEVIS I-20 with a recent signature (within 12 months).