The University of San Francisco: International Student and Scholar Services

Optional Practical Training: After Mailing Your Application

After you have mailed your OPT application to USCIS Your F-1 status is extended until there is a decision made on your application.  However, you are NOT eligible to work until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) and the start date on your card has come.  Within a few weeks after your OPT application is mailed, you will receive a hard copy receipt in the mail.  This receipt has a case number that you can use to track the status of you application online at:

Although you are still in F-1 student immigration status while on OPT, the requirements for maintaining status and travel are a little bit different then those of an F-1 student enrolled in a full-time program of study.  Please be familiar with the following reporting and travel requirements while on OPT.

Employment Reporting: All students on Post-completion OPT are required to report their employment and local address to USF.  On OPT you are only allowed to accrue a total of 90 days of unemployment.  In order to prevent accruing days of unemployment, you must be working in a paid, unpaid, internship or volunteer position for more than 20 hours per week.  It is fine to have multiple positions at one time and throughout your OPT, but all employment must be related to your field of study.  Report your OPT employment through the ISSS website by going to Report Your OPT Employment.

Address Reporting: Just as you had to when you were still a USF student, you need to continue to report changes in your Local Residence address to USF through USFconnect.   Please log-in to USFconnect and update your "Local Residence" address type with the address in the United States where you are currently living.  You also need to keep an updated "Permanent Residence" address type with an address that is outside of the United States.     

Travel Requirements: It is possible to travel while on OPT, but it is important to make sure that you know what documents you will need to return to the United States before you depart.  Until you complete your program of study, you will continue to travel as an enrolled student.  Once you are have graduated the documents that you need will vary depending on the status of your OPT application.  Please refer to the chart below to determine which documents you will need.


Documents Needed for Travel While on Optional Practical Training

OPT Status

Completed Program but have not mailed OPT application

Mailed OPT application but have not been approved*

Approved for OPT

Documents needed for travel

You cannot travel and re-enter the United States if you have completed your program of study and have not applied for OPT. 

  • Valid F-1 visa
  • I-20 with current OPT and travel signature endorsement on third page
  • Valid Passport
  • OPT application receipt
  • Valid F-1 visa
  • I-20 with current OPT and travel signature endorsement on third page
  • Valid Passport
  • EAD card
  • Letter from employer


*Please note that if you leave the United States while your OPT is pending and it is approved when you are outside of the country, you will need your EAD card and letter from employer to return.

Letter From an Employer:

  When traveling on OPT it is required to have a letter from your employer to show that you are utilizing your OPT benefit and are not accruing excess days of unemployment.  You can also get a letter from your supervisor when you are taking part in an unpaid internship or volunteer position to keep for your records.  If questioned about your employment at a visa interview or another situation, you will have this letter to show you were maintaining your status, even though you do not have a history of payment for the employment.  This letter will differ depending on your work situation, but it should include as much of the following as possible:  

  • Be on company letter head with company name and address
  • Contain a brief description of job duties (related to field of study)
  • State the dates of employment or at least a start date
  • Verify the number of hours you are working
  • If you are traveling, the letter should confirm that you will continue your employment when you return
  • Letter should be signed by supervisor

If you have further questions about traveling, employment, or reporting requirements while on OPT, you should call or email ISSS.