Optional Practical Training

Post-Completion Optional Practical Training, or more commonly, “OPT”, is off-campus work authorization in your field of study after you have graduated from MCC with your Associate's Degree. If granted by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) the authorization is for 12 months and 40 hours per week (full time).

Eligibility

If you are looking to apply for OPT you must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Be in status
  • About to complete an academic Associate's degree (non ESL or CCL)
  • Not have any outstanding charges on your account
  • Intend to apply for a job directly related to your field of study.

NOTE: You do not need to have a job offer when you apply for OPT

Recommended dates to apply for OPT

OPT authorization processing time might take up to 3 months. Therefore, we suggest that you start your application on time. The following dates are recommend for you to start your OPT application process.

Recommended deadlines to submit the online application on Terradotta:

April 1 for Spring Semester Graduation (February 1 is recommended)
July 1 for Summer Semester Graduation (April 1 is recommended)
November 1 for Fall Semester Graduation (September 1 is recommended)

How to apply for OPT

OPT documents will be directly submitted to the USCIS by you. However, the International Education Office must review them first. Below are the steps for applying for OPT.

  1. Gather the necessary documents

    Students interested in applying for OPT will need to gather the following documents

    • Photocopy of Petition for Graduation and Degree Check Sheet (original must be submitted to Admissions and Records office before graduation petition deadline)
    • Photocopy of all your I-20(s) issued to you since you arrived in the U.S.
    • Photocopy of current passport – it must be valid at least six months into the future.
    • Current I-94 – if you have more than one I-94, please bring the I-94 issued on your last entry to the U.S. (you may retrieve your I-94 records at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/)
    • Complete I-765 form – it can be downloaded from www.uscis.gov, please fill out but do not sign until OPT I-20 is issued.
    • Two passport photos taken within 60 days before request date.
    • Photocopy of prior work permit card, if any
    • $410 fee payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security, personal check recommended.
  2. Complete the online application

    Once you have gathered the required documentation log into your TerraDotta account. Complete the Optional Practical Training I-20 Request application.

    A couple of things to keep in mind:

    • Please answer all items as accurately as possible, read instructions carefully and submit all the required documentation. Any incorrect information or documentation that is submitted without following the guidelines correctly will result in your application being delayed.
    • Complete all items, if you do not complete all items your request will not be processed. If you have a question regarding an item please email us at ie@mesacc.edu.
  3. Meet with an advisor

    Once you have submitted all the required documents we will review your application and contact you regarding any documents you might have missed and schedule an appointment with you. During the meeting your advisor will review your documentation with you, issue your OPT I-20 and answer any questions you might have regarding the process. Please bring all the required mailing documents with you for the meeting. You will find the required document's list in the online application.

  4. Send your documents to USCIS

    After your meeting be prepared to mail these documents along with a copy of your OPT I-20 and the OPT document checklist. Your academic advisor will assist you in this process.

Application processing times

After the documents have been sent the processing times usually take between 2 to 3 months. If you applied at a later date than the one suggested you might run the risk of receiving your EAD card after your OPT start date. If that happens, the time that you wait for your EAD card to arrive after the start date cannot be recovered.

After USCIS has received your documents, they will send a receipt to the mailing address you have provided. You can use the receipt number to check your OPT application status by going to http://www.uscis.gov/ (click on the Check your Case Status icon).

Your application process should take no more than 90 days. If this happens read your receipt. It contains instructions as to how to contact USCIS so that your case can be expedited.

Once you get your EAD card

Once your OPT has been approved you will need to email the international advisors the following:

  • A photocopy of your EAD card as soon as you receive it. You can e-mail the photocopy to ie@mesacc.edu.
  • Download and submit the OPT Address and Employer Information Form, within 90 days of your OPT start date.
  • If your OPT employer offers medical insurance you must submit an insurance waiver request prior to the start of both fall and spring semesters.

The international advisors’ email address is ie@mesacc.edu

Things to keep in mind

After your OPT has been approved you are allowed to have up to 90 days of unemployment. If you are unemployed for more than 90 days your OPT will automatically end.

Unemployment days accumulate. Meaning that if it took you 30 days from your start date to employment and then in between jobs you were unemployed for 20, those 50 days will add up and count towards your 90 days of unemployment.

You may apply for a legitimate volunteer position. This counts as employment.

Applying for a Social Security Number

You must obtain a job offer and employment authorization before being eligible to apply for a Social Security Number. 

  • Bring your I-20 and passport to the International Education Office.
  • Pick up a sample job offer letter from our office. Contact the supervisor of your employment location to issue a letter according to the sample we provided.
  • Visit the Social Security Administration Office with the following documents:
    • Two forms of photo ID such as your driver’s license and passport
    • The letter from International Education
    • The letter from your employment location
    • Off-Campus Employment Guidelines: Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Traveling

F-1 students can still travel while on OPT but they need to also provide proof of employment. If you are waiting on your OPT authorization or are on OPT but unemployed we recommend that you do not travel.

For more information on traveling while on OPT please visit this page.

Notify the advisors of the following

You must notify the advisors if any of the following occurs:

  • Changes of address
  • Change of employer
  • Change of job
  • Change of status
  • Leaving the country
  • Starting a new academic program/transferring to a new school

Beside this you must also re-verify employment information with the international advisors after a 6-month employment period if you have remained at the same job.