Employment that is available for eligible F-1 students in Tseng College programs is:

  • Off-Campus: OPT and CPT
  • On-Campus

Standard Optional Practical Training (OPT) is off-campus employment that must be authorized in SEVIS before beginning work. Both paid and unpaid employment must be authorized prior to beginning a job.

OPT and CPT MUST directly relate to a student’s major area of study.

OPT has two types: Pre-Completion OPT and Post-Completion OPT.

Students must complete one full academic year in F-1 status before being eligible for OPT and CPT.

On-Campus employment is not recorded in, or authorized by, SEVIS. On-campus work does not need to relate to a student’s major.

Students in the SAC (Semester at CSUN) program are eligible for on-campus employment.

Students in language programs, such as the Intensive English Program (IEP) are NOT eligible for any type of employment.

Any unauthorized employment is a SEVIS violation.

 

SEVIS Regulations in Effect During COVID-19

Applying for OPT - The application process is the same as presented on this website. Please note that this is on the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization: “You must file Form I-765 while in the United States.” Department of Homeland (which oversees SEVIS and SEVP) has said they are evaluating the question of students applying for OPT while outside of the U.S. but it is ultimately up to USCIS. No decision has been made.

Normally, students must be active in SEVIS for one academic year to be eligible for OPT and CPT – This is still true except student who are active while studying virtually and/or while living outside of the U.S. can count that time toward the academic year. (Exception at Tseng College has always been the ABA program. ABA students are eligible for CPT during their first semester that they are active in SEVIS.)

Working Remotely – SEVIS/SEVP is allowing students approved for employment to work remotely:

  • On-campus employment. On-campus employment has never required SEVIS authorization and it is not reported in SEVIS. In cases where students were working on campus before COVID-19 struck, they can continue their duties remotely.
  • OPT employment. OK for students to work remotely on OPT IF their employer has an office outside of the U.S. or the employer can assess student engagement using electronic means.
  • If OPT employment has dropped to fewer than 20 hours a week due to COVID-19, the guidelines state “For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, … students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week [will be considered] as engaged in OPT.”
  • CPT employment. “Students may engage in CPT during their time abroad, provided they are: (1) Eligible to be authorized for CPT, or have already been authorized, and (2) The employer either has an office outside of the U.S. or can assess student engagement and attainment of learning objectives electronically.

What is Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

What is Post-Completion OPT?

  • OPT is temporary employment that allows students to get practical training in their field of study.
  • A total of 12 months of standard OPT is available following each level of study.
    • Level of study: Students are eligible for 12 months of Post-Completion OPT after completing an Associate degree, another 12 months after completing a Bachelor’s degree, 12 more after completing a Master’s degree and again after a Ph.D. program.
    • Graduate Certificate (such as GCBA) students: You can use Post-Completion OPT after completing a graduate-level certificate but that makes you ineligible for OPT after completing a master’s degree (such as an MBA) because both are the same level of study.
      Master’s Degrees, graduate-level study, and post-baccalaureate are the same level of study.
  • OPT can be authorized with or without an offer of employment.
  • Employment can be for multiple employers.
  • You must work 20 or more hours per week when on post-completion OPT.
    • By SEVIS standards, working more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time. You must work “full-time” while on post-completion OPT.
  • OPT employment can be paid or unpaid. Unpaid employment may be called volunteer work or an internship. Regardless, you must be authorized for employment before beginning any work.
    • When employment is unpaid, you must be able to show proof of employment.
  • It is the responsibility of the student to keep records of all employment, especially if working in non-traditional employment such as unpaid jobs, musicians working multiple ‘gigs,’ being self-employed, etc.
  • Regardless of job type, keep documentation of each job, name of position held, proof of the duration of each position, contact information for supervisor or manager, and a description of the work in case it is ever necessary to explain how the work related to the degree earned or exactly how many days of employment, or unemployment, occurred during the 12 months of OPT.
  • While on OPT, students still must report any changes of their own name and contact information, especially any change of U.S. addresses to a DSO in ARC.
  • Students MUST maintain international student health/medical insurance.
  • You are expected to apply for OPT while in the U.S.
  • Working in the United States without authorization may result in your removal from the United States or denial of re-entry.
  • When students transfer in SEVIS to another school while on OPT, OPT permanently ends on the release date.

How to Apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) - ONLINE

APPLYING for OPT – TIMING is Important

There are specific times you can APPLY for OPT, and there are specific times you WORK while on OPT. These are different time periods with different deadlines.

Time You Can APPLY for OPT

You can submit an application for OPT:

  • Up to 90 days prior to completing your degree program OR
  • Up to 60 days after completing your degree program

Time You Can REQUEST OPT EMPLOYMENT to begin

You can REQUEST to START WORKING ON:

  • Any day within the 60 days following completion of your program requirements (see ‘What is my Completion Date?’ below).

Time USCIS must RECEIVE the OPT application packet

  • Within 30 days after the OPT recommendation was entered into SEVIS. See page 2 of your printed Form I-20 for the date it was entered.

Steps for applying for Post-Completion OPT

  1. The first step in applying for OPT is determining your START DATE. Request to start employment any day within the 60 days following completion of your program requirements.

    • Students who already have a job lined up usually want their start date to be right after finishing their last requirement. You can ask for OPT to start as early as the day after you complete your program.
    • Conversely, students who will be looking for a job usually want their start date to be late into the 60-day grace period. You can ask for OPT to start up to day 59 of the 60-day grace period.

    Note: If OPT is approved after the 60-day grace period (due to a long processing time), the EAD card will have a later start date. In those cases, the total OPT time is less than 12 months.

    What day is my completion date?

    Post-Completion OPT is employment authorization to work after students complete their program of study.

    “Completing a program” means that you must have completed each and every requirement to receive a degree or certificate.

    The date that you complete your program for a degree or certificate is based on what requirements your program has. The date considered as your completion date for your degree or certificate is one of the following, depending on your particular circumstance.

    • If passing a Comprehensive Exam (the “comps”) is required to earn your degree, then the (last) day you take the comps counts as the date of your last requirement.
    • If a thesis or a project is required, then the day you complete that requirement is the day you complete your program.
    • If your last semester of regular classes completes the program, then the day you complete the program is the last day of your last class.

    The graduation ceremony does not count as a requirement.

    Note: Throughout the following, “Degree” will be used to mean “Degree or Graduate-Level Certificate.”

  2. Request OPT with a DSO in ARC

    To request OPT in SEVIS, submit an OPT Request Form to a DSO in ARC.

    If eligible for OPT, a DSO in ARC recommends OPT in SEVIS and then your I-20, showing OPT information on page 2, is reprinted. The DSO signs your I-20 with the OPT recommendation. Then you sign and date page 1 of the I-20. This is the I-20 that is submitted to USCIS as part of the application packet.

    Careful!! USCIS must receive your entire OPT application within 30 days from the date of issue printed on your I-20. Look at page 1 of your Form I-20, next to the DSO’s signature. See “Date Issued.”

  3. Gather Documents

    Here is what you should gather before applying:

    • A recent (within the last 6 months) U.S. Passport Photo
    • Form I-20 with the OPT request printed on it
    • Be prepared to pay $410, at pay.gov
    • Copies from your passport (picture page and visa). If passport contains an entry stamp from your most recent as an F-1 student, include a copy of that too.
    • A copy of your most recent I-94 form, Lawful Record of Admission, which shows your last entry into the U.S. Retrieve it at the CBP website “Get Most Recent I-94.”
    • If you have had work authorization before, you’ll need a copy of the I-20(s) and if you were authorized for OPT, a copy of previous EAD card(s).
  4. In order to apply for OPT online, you are required to create a USCIS Online Account first.
  5. Go to https://www.uscis.gov/file-online. Carefully fill out Form I-765.

    See chart below for Tseng College students’ FAQs.

    You can print a PDF version of your application prior to submission. It is a copy for your records only; Do NOT submit the print out.

    Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Online Application for OPT
    What Eligibility Category should I use? (c)(3)(B) Student Post-completion OPT
    Reason for applying Initial permission to accept employment

    Even if you had OPT before, use “Initial Permission” (Whenever you apply for OPT at a different educational level, e.g. Bachelor and then Master, it is considered Initial.

    I used OPT after getting a Bachelor degree. Should I apply for ‘Renewal of permission to accept employment’? NO
    U.S. Mailing Address All mail, including your EAD will go to this address. You can use a P.O. Box (Post Office Box) number or a business address here, but make sure you give your physical address where you live in the other question.
    Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record Number The “Admission (I-94) Record Number” is at the top of your Most Recent I-94, found at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home.
    I did not arrive in the U.S. as an F-1 student (I changed status after arriving here.) Instead of Form I-94, submit a copy of your ‘Change of Status I-797 Approval’
    Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Number. Your SEVIS ID Number is at the top of your I-20. It starts with ’N’ followed by 10 numbers.
    A-Number You probably do not have one.
    Has the Social Security Administration (SSA) ever officially issued a Social Security card to you? Answer Yes. Even if you have never used it, don’t know the number, can’t find the card. If you EVER, in your entire life, received a Social Security number. Answer Yes.
    Do you want the SSA to issue you a Social Security card? Answer yes if you have NEVER, EVER received a Social Security number in your life.
    Answer No if you have received a Social Security number at any time in your life.
    Previously authorized CPT or OPT Previous OPT: Upload a copy of front and back of previous EAD card(s).
    Previous CPT: Upload a copy of I-20(s).
    None: Leave blank if no prior OPT or CPT.
  6. Pay the $410 fee – at pay.gov.

    • You will be redirected to the pay.gov page when it is time to pay the fee.
    • You can use a credit card, debit card, or an electronic transfer from your bank to pay.
    • Once you submit the payment, your OPT application is submitted.
  7. After you submit your request for OPT (Post-Completion Optional Practical Training), upload supporting documents, and complete the payment, you should immediately receive a notice starting with “You successfully submitted…”

At that point, your OPT application is considered ‘received.’ You will also receive a paper receipt notice in the mail.

After Applying

  • Documents tab: Everything about your OPT application can be found there, including Requests from USCIS.
  • Every time an action is taken on your case (your application), a text message is sent. You have to go into your USCIS Case account to see specifics.
  • Unfinished online applications remain for 30 days. If not completed and submitted within 30 days, they disappear.
  • Traveling out of the U.S. before receiving EAD card for Post-Completion OPT is not recommended. USCIS sends EAD cards to U.S. addresses only. If students do not have their EAD card, in their possession, when re-entering the U.S., they can show Customs their I-797 Notice of Action, but it is better to have the EAD to prevent complications.
  • If your mailing address changes after you file your application, you must update your address with USCIS and with the United States Postal Service (USPS) as soon as possible.
  • OPT processing takes about 2 – 5 months.
  • 8 – 12 weeks AFTER APPROVAL, look for an email from SEVP about setting up your SEVP Portal Account.
  • Remember: You cannot start work before you have received the EAD, AND you cannot start work before the start date on the EAD card.
  • See Section “OPT Processing Time and Troubleshooting Problems” for further information.

How to Apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) - PAPER application

APPLYING for OPT – TIMING is Important

There are specific times you can APPLY for OPT, and there are specific times you WORK while on OPT. These are different time periods with different deadlines.

Time You Can APPLY for OPT

You can submit an application for OPT:

  • Up to 90 days prior to completing your degree program OR
  • Up to 60 days after completing your degree program

Time You Can REQUEST OPT EMPLOYMENT to begin

You can REQUEST to START WORKING ON:

  • Any day within the 60 days following completion of your program requirements (see ‘What is my Completion Date?’ below).

Time USCIS must RECEIVE the OPT application packet

  • Within 30 days after the OPT recommendation was entered into SEVIS. See page 2 of your printed Form I-20 for the date it was entered.

Steps for applying for Post-Completion OPT

  1. The first step in applying for OPT is determining your START DATE. Request to start employment any day within the 60 days following completion of your program requirements.

    • Students who already have a job lined up usually want their start date to be right after finishing their last requirement. You can ask for OPT to start as early as the day after you complete your program.
    • Conversely, students who will be looking for a job usually want their start date to be late into the 60-day grace period. You can ask for OPT to start up to day 59 of the 60-day grace period.

    Note: If OPT is approved after the 60-day grace period (due to a long processing time), the EAD card will have a later start date. In those cases, the total OPT time is less than 12 months.

    What day is my completion date?

    Post-Completion OPT is employment authorization to work after students complete their program of study.

    “Completing a program” means that you must have completed each and every requirement to receive a degree or certificate.

    The date that you complete your program for a degree or certificate is based on what requirements your program has. The date considered as your completion date for your degree or certificate is one of the following, depending on your particular circumstance.

    • If passing a Comprehensive Exam (the “comps”) is required to earn your degree, then the (last) day you take the comps counts as the date of your last requirement.
    • If a thesis or a project is required, then the day you complete that requirement is the day you complete your program.
    • If your last semester of regular classes completes the program, then the day you complete the program is the last day of your last class.

    The graduation ceremony does not count as a requirement.

    Note: Throughout the following, “Degree” will be used to mean “Degree or Graduate-Level Certificate.”

  2. Request OPT with a DSO in ARC

    To request OPT in SEVIS, submit an OPT Request Form to a DSO in ARC.

    If eligible for OPT, a DSO in ARC recommends OPT in SEVIS and then your I-20, showing OPT information on page 2, is reprinted. The DSO signs your I-20. Then you sign and date page 1 of the I-20. This is the I-20 that is submitted to USCIS as part of the application packet.

    Careful!! USCIS must receive your entire OPT application within 30 days from the date of issue printed on your I-20. Look at page 1 of your Form I-20, next to the DSO’s signature. See “Date Issued.”

  3. Gather Documents

    Here is what you should gather before applying:

    • A recent (within the last 6 months) U.S. Passport Photo
    • Form I-20 with the OPT request printed on it
    • Be prepared to pay $410
    • Copies from your passport (picture page and visa). If passport contains an entry stamp from your most recent as an F-1 student, include a copy of that too.
    • A copy of your most recent I-94 form, Lawful Record of Admission, which shows your last entry into the U.S. Retrieve it at the CBP website “Get Most Recent I-94.”
    • If you have had work authorization before, you’ll need a copy of the I-20(s) and if you were authorized for OPT, a copy of previous EAD card(s).
  4. Apply for Post-Completion OPT

    Make sure you use the most current edition of Form I-765! Use a form directly from the uscis.gov website.

    Paper application: https://www.uscis.gov/i-765

    • Make sure Form I-765 is filled out as completely as possible. Use black ink.
    • Leaving blanks or writing Not Applicable or None – Use your own discretion. The whole point is to avoid any confusion or questions at USCIS.
      • You can write “none,” or “not applicable” (n/a) as needed.
      • And you could leave blanks, where appropriate. Suggestion: Write a statement to send to USCIS that states, “Items that are not applicable (n/a) or that could be answered “None,” were LEFT BLANK INTENTIONALLY. Print, sign your name and date the statement. Send statement with your I-765.
    • Remember to sign the form! Be careful when signing it. Keep your signature completely within the box! Use black ink only.
    • Send in the original Form I-765.
THE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS FROM TSENG COLLEGE STUDENTS ANSWERS FOR SPECIFIC ITEMS ON PAPER FORM I-765
Form Item Answer
Part 1. Reason for Applying
1.a. Initial permission to accept employment. Even if you had OPT after your bachelor’s degree, use 1.a. when applying for OPT at the graduate level. Whenever you apply for OPT at a different educational level, it is considered Initial.
Part 2. Information About You
Your U.S. Mailing Address
Item 5. All mail, including your EAD will go to this address.You can use a P.O. Box (Post Office Box) number or a business address here, but then you must fill out Item 6.
Item 5.a. If your mail is sent to someone other than yourself, please include an “In Care Of Name” as part of your mailing address. Leave blank if the mail is in your name at this address.
Be aware: USCIS will ONLY send documents and EAD to your U.S. address. Sometimes USCIS will send a request for further information, with a deadline given. You must respond by that deadline or your OPT application will be cancelled.
Other Information
Item 8. OK to leave blank.
Item 9. If you do not have one, leave blank or write “n/a”
13.a. If you have never, not once in your life, never, ever, received a Social Security Number, answer NO
If you have received a Social Security Number at any time, for any reason, answer YES (even if do not know the number answer yes, but try really hard to find it).
Item 14. YES - to apply for a social security number at this time (ONLY IF you do NOT have one)
NO - if you had a social security number issued to you at any time in your life
Information About Your Last Arrival in the United States
Item 21.a. Use the number from your most recent I-94
Information About Your Eligibility Category
Item 27. ( c ) ( 3 ) ( B ) for Post-Completion OPT
Part 6. Additional Information

Use this page to report any previous SEVIS ID numbers or previous CPT or OPT. Since you will attach copies, only give a very brief description of each. Use one box for one description.

  • If you had CPT or OPT before, provide the SEVIS ID and a little description.
  • If none of this applies to you, leave Page 7 (Part 6) blank (or write “not applicable”).

Prepare the application packet for mailing. Assemble it in this order:

  1. $410 Filing Fee - Pay by credit card, debit card, check or money order. If writing a check or money, make it payable to “Department of Homeland Security.” Spell it out; do not abbreviate. Write your name and SEVIS number in the Memo section of check or money order. You can check for the most current fee at https://www.uscis.gov/forms/our-fees.
  2. 2 Identical U.S. Passport-Style Photos – In pencil, lightly write your name and SEVIS # along the back edge of the photos.
  3. Completed Form G-1145 - Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
    https://www.uscis.gov/g-1145 (optional)
  4. Original Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
  5. Your recently issued I-20 that shows OPT dates on page 2. It is OK to send a copy of your I-20 and keep the original.
  6. Copies from your Passport:
    Identity pages (with your name, picture, expiration and/or renewal dates, etc.)
    Visa, and
    The most recent entry stamp in your passport, or a copy of your electronic I-94, available at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/
  7. Copies of previous I-20s, especially if have had CPT or OPT authorization.
  8. If applicable, a copy of any previous EAD (Employment Authorization Document) cards.

Mail the OPT application.

Make sure to use the type of service that tracks packages.

All applications for OPT must use one of the following addresses:

If using FedEx, UPS, or DHL, send to:

USCIS
Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

If using the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), send to:

USCIS
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

After Applying

  • See Section “OPT Processing Time and Troubleshooting Problems” for further information.
  • Traveling out of the U.S. before receiving EAD card for Post-Completion OPT is not recommended. USCIS sends EAD cards to U.S. addresses only. If students do not have their EAD card, in their possession, when re-entering the U.S., they can show Customs their I-797 Notice of Action, but it is better to have the EAD to prevent complications.
  • If your mailing address changes after you file your application, you must update your address with USCIS and with the United States Postal Service (USPS) as soon as possible
  • OPT processing takes about 2 – 5 months.
  • 8 – 12 weeks AFTER APPROVAL, look for an email from SEVP about setting up your SEVP Portal Account.
  • Remember: You cannot start work before you have received the EAD, AND you cannot start work before the start date on the EAD card.

OPT Processing Time and Troubleshooting Application Problems

The application process takes an average of 8 - 12 weeks for USCIS, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, to complete.

If your mailing address changes after you file your application, you must update your address with USCIS and with the United States Postal Service (USPS) as soon as possible. If you don’t update your address promptly, your case could be delayed, your document(s) could get lost, and you may need to reapply and pay the fee again.

TIME AFTER USCIS RECEIVES YOUR APPLICATION THIS SHOULD HAPPEN
24 hours If you submitted a Form G-1145 with OPT application packet, you should receive a text message or email within 24 hours upon receipt of application.
3 – 4 weeks You should receive official notification, a Notice Receipt I-797, in regular mail.
After receiving Notice Receipt I-797 Can check Case Status online at https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do.
When OPT is approved (2 – 5 months) Receive email to set up SEVP Portal.
90 days from the date on I-797 EAD should arrive within 90 days, in regular mail, at your U.S. address
Problem What to Do
Did Not Receive Notice Receipt I-797
If you do not receive Notice Receipt (I-797) within 30 days after your application was received by USCIS, Go to https://egov.uscis.gov/e-Request/Intro.do. See “Did not receive notice by mail”.
If you do not receive Notice Receipt (I-797) within 30 days after it was received by USCIS an alternative option is Contact Lockbox Support at lockboxsupport@uscis.dhs.gov
Things are Taking Too Long
If you think your case is taking longer than normal, Go to https://egov.uscis.gov/e-Request/Intro.do. See “Case outside normal processing time”
If you contacted USCIS about a Case Inquiry or a Service request (at egov.uscis.gov/e-Request) more than 30 days ago and you have not received a response, you may email the California Service Center at csc-ncsc-followup@dhs.gov
New Address After Applying for OPT
After filing an application for OPT, you move. Use Receipt Number to change address online. (If you have a Receipt Number then your OPT Application is in progress, or in “Pending” status.) If you change your address online, do not file a paper Form AR-11. To update your address online, go to https://egov.uscis.gov/coa/displayCOAForm.do
After filing an application for OPT, you move. You do not have a Receipt Number. See “Did Not Receive Notice Receipt I-797”  
Do not Receive EAD within 120 days
If you do not receive EAD within 120 days after approval, Go to https://egov.uscis.gov/e-Request/Intro.do. See link, “Did not receive card by mail.”
Sometimes students are required to go to the local USCIS office to pick up their EAD. The closest office is in Chatsworth, CA. Do NOT send anything to this address. 19809 Prairie Street, 1st Floor, Suite 100
Chatsworth, CA 91311

Open 7 am to 3 pm Monday - Friday

Misspelling
If something is misspelled on a document from USCIS, Go to https://egov.uscis.gov/e-Request/Intro.do. See link, “Typographic Error.”
EAD card has Incorrect Information
You made the error, it is not an USCIS error, submit a new Form I-765 and filing fee along with the incorrect EAD card Submit to the same address you used to apply for OPT.
NOT your error, USCIS made the error, submit a letter along with your incorrect EAD card Submit to the Service Center or National Benefit Center that approved your last employment authorization request.
Do not Receive Social Security card
You did not receive a Social Security Card. Remember: You should receive a Social Security card a week after receiving your EAD card ONLY IF:
  1. you never had a social security number before, and
  2. you asked for one on the I-765 application.
Go to the Social Security Administration office.
Last Resort
In very rare cases, you may have a situation that did not get resolved. To make an appointment with USCIS for troublesome cases, Go to Info Pass to make an appointment https://my.uscis.gov/en/appointment/v2.

You can read EVERYTHING about OPT at these official sites:

Form I-765 and Instructions for Form I-765 https://www.uscis.gov/i-765
Immigration and Customs Enforcement https://www.ice.gov/sevis/employment
USCIS https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/students-and-exchange-visitors/students-and-employment/optional-practical-training
USCIS, Fees, Filing Online, Check Case States, and more https://www.uscis.gov/
Study in the States https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/sevis-help-hub/student-records/fm-student-employment/f-1-optional-practical-training-opt
https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/sevis-help-hub/student-records/fm-student-employment/f-1-optional-practical-training-opt#general_information

Receiving EAD and Beginning Employment

  • If OPT is authorized, USCIS sends an EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) or Form I-766 to the student via regular mail, to the U.S. address that was on the application (Form I-765).
  • OPT is authorized for 12 months (or less if used pre-completion OPT or if USCIS received application late).
  • You cannot start work before you have received the EAD, AND you cannot start work before the start date on the EAD card.
  • A social security number is required for employment. Students can apply for a social security number at the same time they apply for OPT (on the Form I-765). The social security card should arrive about one week after receiving the EAD card.
  • If you do not apply for a social security card when applying for OPT, you can apply for one at a Social Security Administration Office but you cannot apply for one until you have received your EAD card, and not until the start date on the EAD card.
  • OPT employment can be anywhere in the U.S.
  • OK to travel while on OPT. I-20 requires DSO endorsement (signature) on page 2 for travel, as usual. However, while on OPT, the endorsement is good for 6 months (instead of the usual 12 months).

While on Post-Completion OPT

  • Must work more than 20 hours per week (21+ hours/week = “full time” in SEVIS).
  • Cannot be unemployed for 90 days or more while on OPT. Days of unemployment is counted as an aggregate of all days of unemployment. In other words, the days of unemployment can be 90 consecutive days or a total of 90 days spread out between jobs.
  • A SEVIS transfer to a new school immediately stops OPT.
  • All F-1 students must report any and all employment to a DSO in Admissions, Registration and Client Services (ARC) or self-report employment information via the SEVP Portal (commonly called the SEVIS Portal). See https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/sevp-portal-help for complete information about the SEVP Portal and here is a password tip sheet for it: ‘SEVP Portal Password Tips Sheet’ at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/sevp-portal-password-tips-sheet.
  • Without that employment information entered into SEVIS, you will be considered unemployed. Recently, SEVIS added a new function that counts the number of days of unemployment for each student authorized for OPT. After 90 days, SEVIS automatically terminates the I-20.

Employment Information REQUIRED in SEVIS and the SEVP Portal

It is extremely important to report any and all employment.

When OPT is approved, you will receive an email to create an SEVP Portal account. Update SEVIS employment, yourself, through your SEVP Portal, or report employment information to your DSO.

Your DSO is required to update your employment information in SEVIS within 21 days of receiving the information from you.

Failure to report employer information results in accumulating days of unemployment in SEVIS. 90 days or more of unemployment results in termination of your I-20.

As soon as you obtain – or change – employment, the following must be reported in SEVIS.

  • A brief explanation of how this job relates to your major (A maximum of 1,000 characters)
  • Employer (Company) Name
  • Employer’s Address
  • Employment Start Date (with this employer)
  • Your Job Title

Never delete employer's information when you are changing jobs. If you leave one job to work for another employer, add the new employer to your record then edit the end date of your existing employer.

Personal Data Updates Through the SEVP Portal

You are required to update, or report changes, to your personal contact information within 10 days of the change.

You can update the following in SEVIS, yourself, through the SEVP Portal, or report personal data changes to your DSO.

  • Personal physical home address
  • Personal mailing address
  • Personal telephone number
  • Personal email address

When Post-Completion OPT Ends

  • At the end of OPT, you have a 60-day grace period to do one of these actions: Depart (Leave) the U.S.; begin a new program of study; or change status (get a work visa, a green card, etc.).
  • You can be transferred to a program or to a new school during your 60-day grace period. You must be ADMITTED to a new school, and you must be TRANSFERRED in SEVIS during the 60-day grace period. Then you can remain in status while waiting for the new school to begin. You can travel in and out of the U.S. during this time, but you must use the new school’s I-20 to reenter the U.S.
  • If you transfer in SEVIS any time before the 60-day grace period, OPT ends on the transfer-out day. In other words, if you transfer in SEVIS while you are on active OPT, OPT ends immediately.

PRE-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Pre-completion OPT is for students who still have coursework remaining to complete their degree program.

Pre-Completion OPT Eligibility

  • Must have been enrolled as a full-time student for one academic year before being eligible. (Tseng College students in a cohort program are considered full time when they maintain enrollment in required cohort classes.)
  • Obviously, must be a continuing student and in status, both in SEVIS and in good standing academically.
  • Your Pre-Completion OPT START DATE must be after you have completed an academic year of studies; however, you can submit your application to USCIS up to 90 days prior to requested start date.

Pre-Completion OPT Guidelines

  • Must maintain regularly required enrollment while on OPT, and be making normal progress toward completing degree.
  • Work done while on OPT must be directly related to your major area of study. (See ‘Required Statement for OPT’ below)
  • Authorized to work a maximum of 20 hours a week – while school is in session.
  • During school breaks, you are permitted to continue working if you plan to enroll in the next term.
  • Pre-Completion OPT must end on, or before, your program end date.
  • You must file an entirely new OPT application in order to work on full-time Post-Completion OPT after you complete your program. See "How to Apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) - ONLINE" section for the post-completion OPT application process. You can apply before your pre-completion OPT ends (if the time is right), but there can be no overlap of pre- and post-completion OPT.

Caution - Pre-Completion OPT reduces the amount time of Post-Completion OPT

The total amount of time allowed for post-completion OPT employment is 12 months, and pre-completion practical training takes away time from those 12 months. For every two months of part-time pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT is reduced by one month. (It is a 50% ratio.)

Example 1: Zhang Wei uses 2 months of Pre-Completion OPT before completing his degree. After he earns his degree, he can apply for 11 months of Post-Completion OPT - because 2 months of pre-completion OPT reduces post-completion OPT by 1 month.

Example 2: Fernanda Gomes uses 6 months of part-time Pre-Completion OPT before completing her degree. After she earns her degree, she can apply for 9 months of Post-Completion OPT - because 6 months of pre, reduces post by 3 months.

Application Process for Pre-Completion OPT

  1. To request OPT in SEVIS, submit a Request PRE-Completion OPT form to a DSO in ARC.

    If eligible for OPT, a DSO in ARC recommends OPT in SEVIS and then your I-20, showing OPT information on page 2, is reprinted. The DSO signs that I-20. Then you sign and date page 1 of the I-20. This is the I-20 that is submitted to USCIS as part of the application packet.

    Careful!! USCIS must receive your entire OPT application within 30 days from the date of issue printed on your I-20. Look at page 1 of your Form I-20, next to the DSO’s signature. See “Date Issued.”

  2. Gather Documents

    Here is what you should gather before applying:

    • A recent (within the last 6 months) U.S. Passport Photo
    • Form I-20 with the OPT request printed on it, signed by you and your DSO.
    • Be prepared to pay $410, at pay.gov
    • Copies from your passport (picture page and visa). If passport contains an entry stamp from your most recent as an F-1 student, include a copy of that too.
    • A copy of your most recent I-94 form, Lawful Record of Admission, which shows your last entry into the U.S. Retrieve it at the CBP website: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home “Get Most Recent I-94.”
    • If you have had work authorization before, you’ll need a copy of the I-20(s) and if you were authorized for OPT, a copy of previous EAD card(s).
  3. In order to apply for OPT online, you are required to create a USCIS Online Account first.

  4. Go to https://www.uscis.gov/file-online. Carefully fill out Form I-765.

    You can print a PDF version of your application prior to submission. It is a copy for your records only; do NOT submit the print out.

  5. See chart below for Tseng College students’ FAQs regarding Pre-Completion OPT application.

    Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Online Application for OPT
    What Eligibility Category should I use? (c)(3)(A) Student Pre-completion OPT
    Reason for applying Initial permission to accept employment

    Even if you had OPT before, use “Initial Permission”

    U.S. Mailing Address All mail, including your EAD will go to this address. You can use a P.O. Box (Post Office Box) number or a business address here, but make sure you give your physical address where you live in the other question.
    Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record Number The “Admission (I-94) Record Number” is at the top of your Most Recent I-94, found at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home.
    I did not arrive in the U.S. as an F-1 student (I changed status after arriving here.) Instead of Form I-94, submit a copy of your ‘Change of Status I-797 Approval’
    Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Number. Your SEVIS ID Number is at the top of your I-20. It starts with ’N’ followed by 10 numbers.
    A-Number You probably do not have one.
    Has the Social Security Administration (SSA) ever officially issued a Social Security card to you? Even if you have never used it, don’t know the number, can’t find the card. If you EVER, in your entire life, received a Social Security number. Answer Yes.
    Do you want the SSA to issue you a Social Security card? Answer Yes if you have NEVER, EVER received a Social Security number in your life.
    Answer No if you have received a Social Security number at any time in your life.
    Previously authorized CPT or OPT Previous OPT: Upload a copy of front and back of previous EAD card(s).
    Previous CPT: Upload a copy of I-20(s).
    None: Leave blank if no prior OPT or CPT.
  6. Pay the $410 fee – at pay.gov.

    • You will be redirected to the pay.gov page when it is time to pay the fee.
    • You can use a credit card, debit card, or an electronic transfer from your bank.
    • Once you submit the payment, your OPT application is submitted.

After you submit your request for OPT (Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training), upload supporting documents, and complete the payment, you should immediately receive a notice starting with “You successfully submitted…”

At that point, your OPT application is considered ‘received.’ You will also receive a paper receipt notice in the mail.

After Applying

  • Documents tab: Everything about your OPT application can be found there, including Requests from USCIS.
  • Every time an action is taken on your case (your application), a text message is sent. You have to go into your USCIS Case account to see specifics.
  • You can respond to a Request for Further Information (RFI) or to a Request for Further Evidence (RFE) online.
  • Unfinished online applications remain for 30 days. If not completed and submitted within 30 days, they disappear.
  • USCIS sends EAD cards to U.S. addresses only. If students do not have their EAD card, in their possession, when re-entering the U.S., after travel, they can show Customs their I-797 Notice of Action, but it is better to have the EAD to prevent complications.
  • If your mailing address changes after you file your application, you must update your address with USCIS and with the United States Postal Service (USPS) as soon as possible.
  • OPT processing takes about 2 – 5 months.
  • 8 – 12 weeks after approval, look for an email from SEVP about setting up your SEVP Portal Account.
  • Remember: You cannot start work before you have received the EAD, AND you cannot start work before the start date on the EAD card.
  • See Section “OPT Processing Time and Troubleshooting Problems” for further information.

Reporting and Recordkeeping While on Post-Completion OPT

  • Unpaid work, or volunteering, must be authorized the same as paid employment. Don’t work before receiving authorization, and keep careful records of any and all employment you have.
  • Unlike POST-Completion OPT, PRE-Completion OPT is not subject to the unemployment restrictions. Days of unemployment while on PRE-Completion OPT do are NOT counted; unemployment does not have a negative impact on your SEVIS record.

Required Statement for OPT

Once employed, and for every employer, you must submit a brief statement to your DSO in ARC. The statement should include your job title, employer name, major area of study, the average hours worked per week, and a brief explanation of how the job is directly related to your major area of study. Per SEVIS compliance, it must be kept on file in Tseng College. However, the statement is not as daunting as it sounds, here are some sample statements you can use as a guide:

  1. Master's degree in Kinesiology: I am working no more than 20 hours a week in a health food store as a consultant for Self-Made Inc., designing and teaching exercise classes that are incorporated into a customer's overall nutrition and exercise plan. My designs and customer instruction draw upon my studies and classwork in exercise therapy and physical conditioning.
  2. Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering: I work part time as an Electrical Engineer Assistant at ABC Corp., a government contractor. In my job, I analyze client requirements for electrical systems and provide them with cost estimates of such systems. My work requires understanding of electrical circuit theory, which I studied in-depth at the California State University, Utopia.
  3. Bachelor's degree in Business: I work 15 – 20 hours a week as a Loan Officer at a mortgage company, Happy Homes, where I meet with clients and evaluate, authorize and recommend approval of loan applications. On a daily basis, I use the knowledge I gained in my credit analysis, sales and marketing classes that I took as part of my major program of study.
  4. Master's degree in Music: I am working at a hospital playing the harp in patient rooms. I also conduct hands-on harp beginner workshops for long-term patients. On average, I work at the hospital 15 hours a week. My duties directly utilize the skills and knowledge I acquired from my coursework and degree in music therapy.

CPT (Curricular Practical Training)

Due to changes in SEVIS regulations, the Tseng College can NOT authorize CPT for any program except ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis).

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Students Only

CPT (Curricular Practical Training)

ABA students are eligible to begin CPT in their first term, or first year, of the cohort without waiting one academic year.

CPT is work authorization that allows students to engage in temporary employment to gain practical experience that is an integral part of the curriculum and is DIRECTLY related to their field of study.

CPT is work authorization for students while they are still enrolled in school. It is only for continuing students. Student must expect to be enrolled in their current program in the upcoming session or semester. It is not available after finishing a program (after graduating).

Regardless of what is called, internship, cooperative education, training, and whether it is paid or unpaid, if you work off-campus, you are employed. You must be authorized to work off campus, and working in the United States without authorization may result in your removal from the U.S. or denial of re-entry.

CPT Authorization in SEVIS

  • CPT is authorized for a specific employer for a specific amount of time. CPT can be authorized a maximum of one semester at a time. Therefore, CPT must be updated every semester if student continues working in the same position in subsequent semesters.
  • Anytime a change in employment occurs, such as a change in position title, new supervisor, etc., contact your DSO within 10 days of change. SEVIS must be updated.
  • If student receives a job offer from a new employer, and wants to be authorized to work for the new employer, CPT authorization must take place, again. Follow the process below if changing jobs.

Be Careful How Many Hours a Week You Work, and How Many Days You Work

  • CPT is considered part-time or full-time based on 20 hours per week of employment. Fewer than 20 hours a week is part time and more than 20 hours a week is full time.
  • If a student works one full year (365 days) on full-time CPT, he or she is no longer eligible for post-completion OPT.
  • Fewer than 365 days of full-time CPT does not affect eligibility for OPT.
  • Long-term, part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility.

Process to Request CPT – for ABA Students Only

  • First, you must obtain a letter from your prospective employer. The letter should be on company letterhead and must contain the following information:
    • Expected start and end date of employment; name and location of worksite; name and contact information of supervisor; and will student be working more than or less than 20 hours per week?
  • Submit that letter along with the CPT Request form to ARC.
  • If approved, a new I-20 with CPT authorization will be issued.
  • When students already have a social security number (SSN), they can begin working on the expected start date on the letter.
  • Students who need a SSN must request a letter from ARC to use at their appointment at the Social Security Administration office. See Social Security Numbers section below.

On-Campus Employment

On-Campus Employment – General Information

  • On-campus employment is work that takes place on campus or at an off-campus location that is part of the university.
  • On-campus employment is often Student Assistant positions in an office in one of the colleges or administrative departments or working at any of the businesses located on the CSUN campus.
  • It is not necessary for the employment to be related to a student’s field of study.
  • On-campus employment allows students to work on-campus, part-time, which is 20 or fewer hours per week when school is in session. During school breaks, if eligible and intend to register for the next semester, students may work for more than 20 hours per week. 40 hours per week is the maximum. 21 to 40 hours a week is defined as full-time employment.
  • On-campus employment is not recorded in SEVIS.

Student Eligibility for On-Campus Employment

  • F-1 students who enter the United States on an "Initial" I-20 may not begin on-campus employment more than 30 days prior to the actual start of classes.
  • Transfer in students:
    • Once the I-20 is transferred in SEVIS students cannot work at their old school.
    • Once the I-20 is transferred in SEVIS, students can begin working at their new school up to 30 days prior to the start date of the session.
  • All international students seeking on-campus work authorization must be in correct F-1 status and graduate students must maintain a GPA of 3.0.
  • On-campus work permits have expiration dates and must be renewed prior to expiration.
  • Students must stop working when they complete their last class in their program.
  • Working during the 60-day grace period after completion of studies is not allowed.
  • Students who fall out of SEVIS status are not eligible to work on campus. They must immediately stop working so that they do not accrue unauthorized employment time.

Process to Work On Campus

  • Must have an offer of employment first.
  • The department that is hiring you issues an “Intent to Hire” letter.
  • Human Resources, (located in Valera Hall 165) gives you the “Verification of International Student Status” form. (HR documents and HR personnel often refer to IESC. IESC is the International and Exchange Student Center, in the USU, and that office does handle a large number of international students and their employment. However, Tseng College students work with ARC, not IESC.)
  • Go to ARC, Admissions, Registration and Client Services, in EU 200 to:
    1. Have your “Verification of International Student Status” form* signed, and
    2. Request an “On-Campus Employment Verification” letter.
       
      The letter needs to include the start date of the job, where it is located, and the job title, so give that information along with the letter request.
       
      The DSO writing the letter will include the obvious items such as your name, date of birth, that you are an F-1 student here, etc. In addition, the letter will verify that you 1) have been offered on-campus employment, 2) that you are in status in SEVIS, and 3) for cohort students, will give an explanation that although you appear to be a part-time student in SOLAR, you are in fact, part of a cohort and are considered to be a full-time student by SEVIS and by the Tseng College/CSUN which gives you the same benefits as any other full-time, graduate-level, CSUN student.
  • If you have never received a social security number before, use this same letter when applying for a social security number. You must go in person to the Social Security Administration office when applying for a social security number. Bring original documents, not copies, to your appointment. See below for how to apply for a social security number.

* You must submit signed Verification of International Student Status form to HR within three days of the job start date.

Summary of Employment for F-1 Students

Category Number of Hours Allowed to Work Per Week Paid Employment Allowed? Unpaid Employment Allowed Must be Related to Major? Must Complete 1 Academic Year to be Eligible?
1 – 20 20 – 40
POST-Completion OPT NO MUST YES YES** YES YES
PRE-Completion OPT YES NO* YES YES YES YES
On-Campus YES NO* YES NO*** NO NO
CPT YES YES YES YES YES YES

* Cannot work more than 20 hours per week while school is in session but OK to work 20-40 hours during breaks such as during summer, spring break, between semesters.

** Unpaid employment is allowed during Post-Completion OPT but student must have proof of volunteering or work without pay for more than 20 hours per week.

*** F-1s can only volunteer, have unpaid internships, etc. 1) if not displacing a regular employee, and 2) the experience is for the benefit of the intern/student (not for the benefit of the employer) and it should be similar to training that would be received in an educational environment.

Specific Programs in the Tseng College and Employment Authorization

Language program (IEP) students are never eligible for employment of any kind.

GCBA (Graduate Certificate in Business Administration) students are eligible for Post-Completion OPT after completing the GCBA certificate but that results in being ineligible for OPT after completing an MBA.

The M.S. in Applied Behavior Analysis is currently the only program in the Tseng College that is eligible for CPT in the first semester of the program, and CPT is available throughout the program as well.

Exceptions to Employment Authorization and Tseng College

The following types of employment are for specific purposes and for specific situations that very rarely apply to F-1 Tseng College students. For that reason, they are not discussed in-depth on this site.

  • STEM OPT Extension. Currently, Tseng College degree programs are not on the STEM Designated Degree Program list. This is a list of majors that are eligible for STEM OPT published by the Department of Education.
  • Severe Economic Hardship or the Special Student Relief Program.
  • Internships with specific International Organizations.

If you feel you may be eligible for any of the above, read more about these types of employment. Some official sites are:

If you feel you may be eligible for one of the above exceptions, contact a DSO in ARC.

Social Security Numbers

All students who work in the United States must have a Social Security Number.

Only one Social Security Number is assigned to a person. If you have already received a social security number at any time in the past, do not reapply.

 

Steps for Applying for a Social Security Number – For Every Type of Employment

  1. Cannot apply online but can fill out and print the application form (Form SS-5).
  2. Gather original documents to take to the Social Security Office:
    • The application (Form SS-5)
    • Unexpired passport, with visa
    • Most recent I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, available at Customs and Border Protection website.
    • Form I-20. For OPT and CPT, the employment page (page 2) of your I-20 must show that CPT or OPT has been requested.
    • PLUS – depending on which type of work authorization – also need required letters and /or documents listed below.

Optional Practical Training – In Addition to the Steps Above, OPT requirements are:

If you did not apply for a social security at the same time you were applying for OPT, follow the steps listed:

  1. You cannot apply for a social security number until you receive your EAD card (EAD Form I-766 Employment Authorization) and cannot apply before the start date on the EAD card
  2. Bring original EAD card along with application and documents listed when you go to the Social Security office.
  3. For OPT, your I-20 must have the employment authorization on page 2.

Curricular Practical Training – In Addition to the Steps Above, CPT requirements are:

  • For CPT employment, request a letter from ARC for the Social Security Office. ARC must receive a copy of the employment offer letter in order to write the letter for the Social Security office.
  • For CPT, your I-20 must have the employment authorization on page 2, and it must be signed by your school’s designated official (DSO) on page 1.
  • Do NOT make your social security appointment for more than 30 days before your CPT start date.

On-Campus Employment – In Addition to the Steps Above, On-Campus requirements are:

  • For On-Campus employment, request a letter from ARC that is written and signed by a DSO.
  • The letter will serve as a Verification letter and as a letter for the Social Security Office.
  • The letter must include the following:
    • your current school status,
    • your new employer (company name and location),
    • your supervisor’s name, phone, and email,
    • your position title,
    • the work you will be doing, and
    • the number of hours you will be working.

Location of Closest Social Security Administration (SSA) Office

20439 Nordhoff St.
Chatsworth, CA 91311
(at the cross streets of Nordhoff St. and Mason Ave.)
Open: Monday – Friday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm (Closed on Federal Holidays)

 

Misc. Information from the Social Security Administration Website

  • All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency.
  • Photocopies or notarized copies of documents are not accepted.
  • Keep your Social Security card in a safe place. It is an important document. Do not carry it with you.
  • Assistance with Social Security: 1-800-772-1213

Sources: Employment & Social Security Numbers

EMPLOYMENT
USCIS, SEVP, Information about Employment. See tabs: F-1 On-Campus and F-1 Off-Campus https://www.ice.gov/sevis/employment
USCIS, SEVP, Information about Practical Training http://www.ice.gov/sevis/practical-training/
Study in the States, Working in the United States https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/working-in-the-united-states
Study in the States, Training Opportunities in the United States https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/training-opportunities-in-the-united-states
Self-reporting employment information in the SEVP Portal https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/sevp-portal-help
SEVP Portal Password Tips Sheet https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/sevp-portal-password-tips-sheet”
SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS
Social Security Administration site. Has steps for getting a new or replacement Social Security Card. https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/
At the Social Security Administration site see, “Social Security Numbers for Noncitizens” (pdf) or “International Students And Social Security Numbers” (pdf) https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/