Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How quickly do I need to come back to OIS to pick up my OPT I-20? Can someone else pick it up for me?
  2. I’m not sure what address to choose to have my EAD card mailed to.
  3. I’m confused by the 60 day, 90 day timeframes. Can you please explain again?
  4. What is my visa status after I file for OPT and am waiting for the card to arrive?
  5. I worked for three full-time months under curricular practical training last summer. Do I only have nine months left of optional practical training available to me after I graduate?
  6. Do I need to have a job to apply for optional practical training and can I change jobs?
  7. Can I work as a volunteer or in an internship during OPT?
  8. Why did my I-20 expire even though I am doing OPT?
  9. What if I end up not graduating? What are my options?
  10. What if I want to travel outside the United States during practical training?
  11. Can a person keep two jobs while on F-1 practical training, considering both jobs are in the same field of study? Can I work more than 40 hours a week?
  12. Can OIS help me with H1B and permanent residency question if I am planning to pursue these options after finishing OPT?
  13. Do I need to have health insurance while on OPT and do I have to pay taxes on income earned?

  1. How quickly do I need to come back to OIS to pick up my OPT I-20? Can someone else pick it up for me? back to top
    You are able to return to OIS to pick-up your OPT I-20 within 7 business days. Please note that USCIS must receive your completed application WITHIN 30 DAYS of the generation date of the OPT I-20 (page 1 of I-20 item #10) in order to process your application. If someone is picking it up for you, please provide them with a letter or email authorization.
  2. I’m not sure what address to choose to have my EAD card mailed to. back to top
    We recommend you choose a California address that will be good for AT LEAST 4 months from the date you turn-in your OPT application. It is very difficult to change the EAD card mailing address once your application is submitted to USCIS and can cause potential obstacles to your receiving the card on-time. It does not need to be your address but can be someone else such as a family member or friend.
  3. I’m confused by the 60 day, 90 day timeframes. Can you please explain again? back to top
    After your date of graduation you have a 60 day window of days where you can choose ANY day within that 60 day window to start OPT. That date will show on your EAD card as your start date (Ex. Graduate on May 12, OPT start date can be between May 12 – July 11). DURING the 12 months of OPT you cannot have more than 90 days, aggregate total, of unemployment. Please click here for more details on the 90 day unemployment rule. AFTER your EAD card expires, OPT ends, you have a 60-day “grace period” to remain in the US, transfer to another school or change to the new visa category.
  4. What is my visa status after I file for OPT and am waiting for the card to arrive? back to top
    Up until graduation, you are an F-1 student and will travel as you normally do. Filing for OPT has no affect on this. After your graduation date, you are viewed as an F-1 who will be doing or is doing OPT. There is NO GAP IN F-1 STATUS no matter how long it takes for the card to arrive. However, once graduated, you will need the EAD and an offer or employment letter for re-entering along with the normal documents you traveled with as a student.
  5. I worked for three full-time months under curricular practical training last summer. Do I only have nine months left of optional practical training available to me after I graduate? back to top
    The only way that CPT affects OPT is when a student has completed a total of 12 months, full-time CPT. Part-time periods of CPT have no affect. Anything less than 12 months of full-time has no affect, as well. So if you did three months full-time CPT, you would still have the entire 12 months of OPT available for use.
  6. Do I need to have a job to apply for optional practical training and can I change jobs? back to top
    You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT and you can change jobs at your discretion while on OPT. The EAD card is proof of your authorization to work by the U.S. government.
  7. Can I work as a volunteer or in an internship during OPT? back to top
    Yes, your employment can be paid or unpaid as long as it is an average of 20 hours a week and meets the criteria of appropriate to degree focus and level earned. An internship can be paid or unpaid and could count as OPT employment. For detailed employment criteria, please go to Slide 3 in this presentation.
  8. Why did my I-20 expire even though I am doing OPT? back to top
    The purpose of the I-20 is to show the authorized time frame for a program of study. All student I-20’s “end” on their graduation date. It is the filing for and dates authorized for OPT that give a student additional status to remain in the United States.
  9. What if I end up not graduating? What are my options? back to top
    If you applied for OPT but are not able to graduate please see an OIS advisor to talk about your options. It is almost impossible to cancel OPT once the application is submitted thus this may not be an option however, an OIS advisor can look at your personal situation and assist you accordingly.
  10. What if I want to travel outside the United States during practical training? back to top
    The best general advice is that an F-1 student on OPT who has received the EAD card, and has to travel abroad should make sure that there is documentation from his or her employer confirming the employment or the job offer. Otherwise the student assumes a risk that he/she may not be allowed to re-enter the United States. For those students who have not received the EAD card yet, we recommend you wait to leave the U.S. until you have the card in-hand to take with you.
  11. Can a person keep two jobs while on F-1 practical training, considering both jobs are in the same field of study? Can I work more than 40 hours a week? back to top
    You are able to work more than one job while on OPT, however, any job must be related to your major field of study and appropriate to your degree level. More than 40 hours a week, combined total, is not has not been ruled on by USCIS thus allowing overtime but it should not be viewed as more than one “full-time” job.
  12. Can OIS help me with H1B and permanent residency question if I am planning to pursue these options after finishing OPT? back to top
    OIS is not legally authorized to advise USC students regarding H-1B filing and procedures. Please consult with either an immigration lawyer or the company who is intending to hire you.
  13. Do I need to have health insurance while on OPT and do I have to pay taxes on income earned? back to top
    Having health insurance is not required by the U.S. government, however, it is never recommended to go without insurance since medical costs are so high in the U.S. system. You can inquire about USC Student Health insurance at uscins@usc.edu regarding how long your USC student Health Insurance can continue after graduation. Regarding taxes, you are liable to pay applicable federal, state or local taxes on any income earned in the United States. Please consult the OIS webpage regarding tax liability for further information.