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Standard 12-Month OPT

F-1 Student status allows up to 12 months of off-campus employment authorization to gain practical experience related to your major field of study. This year of U.S. work permission is called Optional Practical Training (“OPT”).

OPT Authorization:
  • Allows for paid and unpaid experiences
  • Must be used for training related to your major field and appropriate to your level of education
  • Allows multiple employers and self-employment within authorized dates.

OPT is a benefit granted by USCIS, not in-house by the Immigration & International Support Services. Applications cost $410.00 and can take up to 90 days to process.

You cannot begin work until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (informally known as the “OPT Card”). Working before you receive your EAD is considered a violation of F-1 Status that results in a negative termination of your SEVIS Record which will likely preclude you from obtaining work-based Immigration Status in the future.

The general rule of thumb for applying for OPT is “the sooner, the better.” The sooner you apply for OPT, the more likely you are to receive the dates you request for your work authorization.

Starting a Standard 12-Month OPT Request

  • Pre-Completion OPT: You can submit a Pre-Completion OPT application to USCIS any time after you have completed one academic year of full-time study and no sooner than 90 days prior to the Requested OPT Start Date listed on page 2 of your OPT Recommendation I-20.
If you are eligible and would like to start the application process, you may submit an online Pre-Completion OPT request.
  • Post-Completion: You can submit a Post-Completion OPT application to USCIS as soon as 90 days prior to your graduation date, but no later than 60 days after the Program End Date listed on your graduation date. You should refer to the MCPHS Academic Calendar for the exact graduation date for each semester.
If you are eligible and would like to start the application process, you may submit an online Post-Completion OPT request.
F-1 Students you are eligible for up to 12 months of OPT authorization per academic level.

You may be eligible to apply for Standard OPT if:

- You are maintaining valid F-1 Status;
- You have been lawfully enrolled as a Full-Time college/university student for at least one full academic year (two full semesters)
- You are in good academic standing at MCPHS

You may NOT qualify to apply for Standard 12-Month OPT if:

- All or part of your last academic year was spent in an English-language training program, including MCPHS’ Pathway Program
- You were previously authorized for 12 months of more of Full-Time Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
- You have previously received OPT authorization for the same or higher educational level
- If you are on a leave of absence or suspension from MCPHS
- You have violated or ended your F-1 Status in the past academic year and have regained your F-1 Status by traveling and re-entering with a new Initial Attendance I-20

Keep in mind that the Immigration Services Office will review your academic record and your immigration history to evaluate whether we can recommend you for a period of OPT. The final decision on whether to approve your case is made by USCIS.
As an F-1 Student, you may request up to twelve (12) months of Standard OPT, which can be used either before you graduate (“Pre-Completion OPT”) or after you graduate (“Post-Completion OPT”).

You can apply for Pre-Completion OPT once you have been enrolled for one full academic year and while you are still completing your program of study. It is important to note that any Pre-Completion OPT time you use will be deducted from your Post-Completion OPT eligibility.
When you apply for Standard 12-Month OPT, you must indicate if you are requesting permission for Part-Time Authorization (20 hours per week or fewer) or Full-Time Authorization (more than 20 hours).

Since F-1 Students must carry a full-time course load, you can only apply for “Part-Time” Pre-Completion OPT during required semesters of study (i.e. Fall and Spring). This means that you can only participate in this program for 20 hours per week of fewer, unless you will perform the work during the Summer semester or a during designated school break. Working any more than for what you are authorized is considered a violation of status which will result in a very negative termination of your SEVIS Record.

On a positive note, however, Part-Time Pre-Completion OPT deducts at a half-time rate, so if you are approved for 4 months of Part-Time Pre-Completion OPT, only 2 months will be deducted from your Post-Completion OPT eligibility.

In summary, you can apply for periods of OPT authorization as follows:

- Part-Time only during required semesters of study
- Part-Time or Full-Time during designated school breaks
- Part-Time or Full-Time if you are a graduate student who has completed all course work and have moved on to the thesis or dissertation stage of your program
- Full-Time only after graduation
  1. Complete the Online Post-Completion OPT Workshop in the semester in which you will make your request. If you have completed the Workshop in a previous semester, you will need to complete it again. As of March 4, 2022, completion of the OPT Workshop is required and IISS will not issue OPT Recommendation I-20 documents to any student who has not completed the Workshop in the semester in which they make the request.
  1. Complete all components of the Post-Completion OPT request (instructions on how to start the process are included in the Workshop) and click the Submit button.
Upload Documents
  • Completed Form I-765 [Pre-Completion OPT code – (c)(3)(A) – or the Post-Completion OPT code – (c)(3)(B)]
  • Official MCPHS Transcript
  • All I-20’s with employment information listed on page 2
  • Any I-20’s referencing a SEVIS ID different from that which is referenced on your current I-20 (NOTE: this will likely only be the case if you attended a different school in the past, took a Leave of Absence at some point in your academic career at MCPHS, or violated your immigration status and needed to regain status by traveling)
  • Any Employment Authorization Documents previously issued by USCIS
  • Passport Bio Page
  • I-94 Admission Document
  • Most recent entry stamp (which should reflect “F-1 D/S”)
Click the Request Electronic Recommendation link and send the online Confirmation of Program Completion to the appropriate academic advisor. Under “Manual Entry,” enter the following information:
BOSTON – Undergraduate Students (including PharmD):
First Name: CASE
Last Name: OFFICE
BOSTON – Graduate Students:
First Name: Your Program Director’s First Name
Last Name: Your Program Director’s Last Name
Email: Your Program Director’s MCPHS Email Address
MANCHESTER – PA Studies Students:
First Name: Kristy
Last Name: Altongy-Magee
MANCHESTER – PharmD Students:
First Name: Paul
Last Name: Belliveau
WORCESTER – Acupuncture Students:
First Name: Amy
Last Name: Hull
WORCESTER – PharmD Students:
First Name: Paul
Last Name: Belliveau
WORCESTER – Physical Therapy Students:
First Name: Frances
Last Name: Kistner
WORCESTER – Students in Lab Science Programs:
First Name: Your Program Director’s First Name
Last Name: Your Program Director’s Last Name
Email: Your Program Director’s MCPHS Email Address
Learning Content
Please complete the Update Personal Contact Information and Update Secondary Email Address Learning Content.
Please complete the Desired OPT Type and Dates Questionnaire. You must choose a start date within the 60-Day Grace Period following your graduation date. You can refer to the MCPHS Academic Calendar and this online date calculator to help you determine possible OPT start and end dates.
Signature Documents
Please complete the Standard 12-Month Optional Practical Training Acknowledgement.
  1. Retrieve your OPT Recommendation I-20 following the instructions provided too you by your IISS advisor.
  1. Obtain a digital 2x2 inch photograph that meets USCIS/DOS photograph specifications. Your photo must be taken within 30 days of filing your application with USCIS.
  1. Secure a U.S.-based credit card to pay your $410.00 USD filing fee.
  1. If you have any remaining questions, contact your IISS advisor for clarification.
  1. File your application electronically with USCIS. You must file your OPT application within 30 days of receiving your OPT Recommendation I-20.
You can check your Case Status Online on USCIS’s official website by referencing the Case Number reflected on your I-797 Receipt Notice.

It can take up to 90 days for USCIS to adjudicate your OPT Application. If your Case Status has not updated 90 days from the Receipt Date reflected on your I-797 Receipt Notice, you may contact the Immigration Services Office for assistance.

Cancelling an OPT Application

If you have not yet sent your OPT Application to a Lock Box Facility, you may request a cancellation or date change on your OPT Recommendation I-20 from the Immigration Services Office.If your OPT Application is not yet approved and you learn that you will not graduate as expected, contact the Immigration Services Office immediately to determine if the cancellation of your OPT request is still possible.

Approval of Your OPT Application

Once your OPT Application is approved, USCIS will create and send an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to the address you indicated on the Form I-765. Once you receive your EAD, you must provide a copy (either by email or in-person) to the Immigration Services Office so we can update your I-20 if necessary.

Remember: Starting to work or attending employment orientations before receiving the EAD or before the Authorization Start Date listed on the EAD is a serious violation of F-1 Status and will result in a negative termination of your SEVIS Record which will likely preclude you from obtaining work-based Immigration Statuses in the future!