How much OPT is available for F-1 students?

One year of OPT is available after completing each higher level degree program.

Do I need a job to apply for OPT?

A job offer is not required to apply for OPT. However, once you find a qualifying job, you must notify Berkeley International Office. See Address and Employer Reporting instructions.

Must I stay in California or can I work anywhere?

The employment may occur anywhere in the U.S.

What type of status will I have while working on OPT?

During the OPT period, a student remains in F-1 status.

Can I work on campus while waiting for my EAD?

Once you complete your degree, you cannot work on-campus or off-campus until you have the EAD in your possession and your selected start date has arrived.

What is the average processing time at the USCIS to get my Employment Authorization Document (EAD)?  Is there a way to expedite it?

The average USCIS processing time to issue the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is 90 days. However, please visit the USCIS Processing Times website for the most up to date processing times. There is no way to expedite an application.

How can I check the status of my OPT application after I mail it to the USCIS?

When you receive your USCIS Notice of Action (receipt), visit USCIS Case Status Online and enter your receipt number.

How do I contact the USCIS?

The number on the Notice of Action (1-800-375-5283) is the National Customer Service line. Have the receipt number ready before you call.

Is there any way to change the information on the EAD  application (address, dates, etc.) once I have mailed the application?

After you have mailed your application to USCIS no changes can be made except for address updates. To update your address, visit your Case Status page OR contact the National Customer Service line at (1-800-375-5283). Withdrawing the OPT application is very difficult and the fee is non-refundable. If the OPT has been approved, it is not possible to withdraw. Please discuss this with an advisor at Berkeley International Office.

How long can I stay in the U.S. after the end date of my OPT?

You have 60 days after your OPT ends to leave the U.S., request a transfer of your I-20, or change your status. You cannot work during this time.

Does my spouse or children get a new OPT I-20 too?

Yes, if you did not receive OPT I-20s for your family, contact Berkeley International Office.

90 days have passed since the Notice of Action receipt date. What can I do?

Verify your status at the USCIS Case Status Online. If your EAD application has been approved you will need to wait until the card arrives (2-4 weeks after it is approved). If the application is still pending, see an advisor at Berkeley International Office.

USCIS said that my EAD was approved, but I have not received it yet – can I start working?

No. You must be able to show the employer the EAD when you begin employment.

USCIS said that my application was approved over six weeks ago and I still haven’t received my EAD. Is there a problem?

Maybe. Bring your receipt notice to an advisor at Berkeley International Office for more information.

How do I get an extension of my EAD?

Only students who have completed certain STEM majors and have an eligible employer who is enrolled in E-Verify are eligible for the 24 Month Extension OPT.

I lost my EAD. How can I get it replaced?

The only way to receive a new EAD is by submitting a new I-765 and supporting documents (fee, photos, forms, etc.). It is impossible to replace an EAD if you are outside the U.S.

My EAD says “not valid for re-entry” on it. Does that mean I cannot travel abroad and re-enter on OPT?

It simply means that you must carry other documents to show proof of your eligibility to re-enter the U.S. such as your I-20 and valid F-1 visa stamp. The EAD alone is not enough to re-enter the U.S.

What counts as employment?

Please see the Berkeley International Office website’s Qualifying OPT Employment for more information.

Is there a minimum number of hours I need to work?

To qualify as employment, you are required to work a minimum of 20 hours/week.

I have been unemployed for 80 days. What is going to happen on the 90th day?

If you accumulate 90 days or more of unemployment, you are in violation of status. Please speak to an advisor at BIO.

Do I need a Social Security Number to work in the U.S.?

Yes. Please see How to Apply for a Social Security Number.

Do I need to complete any forms with my employer to begin working?

Yes. Speak with your employer about timelines and specific paperwork.

Can I change employers while on OPT?

Yes, provided the new employment is directly related to your field of study and you work a minimum of 20 hours per week. No special permission is required to change employers.  However, you must update your employer information to Berkeley International Office within 10 days of the change through our online Student SEVIS Update (SSU) form.

Do I pay taxes while working on OPT?

Students in F-1 status are subject to all federal, state and local taxes that may apply.  See more information at Taxes in the U.S.

What if I am not able to complete my degree program by the completion date on the OPT I-20 after submitting my OPT application?

Speak to an advisor at BIO.

What status do I have between my degree completion date and the start of my OPT?

If you have chosen a start date after your degree completion date, you will remain in F-1 status while the OPT is pending.

Can I go to school while on OPT?

Time spent going to school should only be an incidental part of your stay in the U.S. If you decide to go back to school full-time, you must speak to an advisor at BIO about transferring your I-20 to the new institution or updating your I-20 if your degree program is at Berkeley.

Do I need to do anything with Berkeley International Office while on OPT?

Yes, you must report any change in address and employment information to Berkeley International Office within 10 days of the change through our online Student SEVIS Update (SSU) form.

Can I start working without pay while waiting for my EAD?

No. Work that is normally paid requires employment authorization. You must have the card in hand and the start date must have arrived to begin working.

Does my visa need to be valid while on OPT?

While in the U.S., your visa may expire. It only needs to be valid if you wish to re-enter from abroad. Please see Travel and Visa information. Your I-20 remains active while on OPT.