Skip Navigation

International Students


Program Center

Deputy Hall 103
Summer office hours: 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (M-F)
Office hours (during the Academic Year): 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (M-F)
Phone: 218.755.4096
Fax: 218.755.2074

Mailing Address:
1500 Birchmont Dr. NE #13
Bemidji, MN 56601-2907


International Students

Optional Practical Training

  • What is optional practical training?
    OPT is off-campus employment that is related to your major field of study.
  • Who is eligible for OPT?
    A student who has been in F-1 status for at least nine months. Eligible F-1 students may engage in optional practical training:
    • After completion of a course of study.   (Most OPT is considered post-completion OPT.    If you do not complete your degree as you had planned when filing your OPT application, you must notify the DSO as you are not eligible for full time OPT.)  
    • Before completion of studies if engaged in thesis or dissertation research
    • During the summer or over winter break
    • During the regular academic year (on a part-time basis, deducted from the 12-month maximum at aproportional rate)
    • You are not eligible to apply for OPT if you leave the U.S. after graduation and before applying for OPT.
  • When can I apply?
    You can apply up to 90 days before your program end date and up to 60 days beyond your program end date. 
  • Do I need a job offer in order to apply?
  • When can I start to work under OPT?
    When you have the EAD and the beginning date of employment authorization (shown on the EAD) has arrived.
  • Does OPT employment need to be full time?
  • What's the difference between OPT and Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?
    Curricular practical training permits employment during the time one is still taking classes.  CPT requires the offer of a specific job.   You must have departmental approval, and register for internship credits.
  • If I had CPT, can I still have OPT?
    Yes, as long as you did not have full-time CPT for at least one year.
  • Can I change employers if I have OPT?
    Yes. There is no immigration-related procedure required for doing so. As long as the employment is related to your field of study, you can work for any employer.
  • Is OPT a different visa?
    No. A person with OPT authorization is an F-1 student holding an EAD for OPT.
  • How long can I stay in the United States after my OPT expires?
    Sixty days.
  • Can I return to school after completing OPT?
    Yes. You need to obtain an I-20 for the next program of studies, and complete the Immigration procedure for moving to a "new level of studies" (if you resume studies at BSU) or the procedure for school transfer if you go to a different school
  • If I have OPT for a year and return to school for another degree, can I have another year of OPT?
    Yes, if your degree is at a higher level. 

OPT Filing Instructions:

You must meet with the DSO to prepare your OPT application packet.  Call 755-4096 to schedule a time to meet, or e-mail requesting an appointment for OPT, or stop by Deputy Hall, room 103.

Your OPT application must include the following:

  • The original completed and signed I-765.  Download a print from this link:  Immigration Form I-765  (I recommend you keep a copy of this for your own records);
  • I-765 Filing fee – currently $380.00 U.S. funds.  Make your check payable to the USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Services);  Check  and link to ‘forms’ and to “I-765”  to verify the amount;
  • 2 immigration-style photos.  Two passport-style color photos with a white background taken no earlier than 30 days before submission to USCIS. They should be unmounted, glossy and unretouched. The photos should show a full-frontal facial position. Your head should be bare unless you are wearing a headdress as required by a religious order to which you belong. The photo should not be larger than 2 x 2 inches, with the distance from the top of the head to just below the chin about 1 1/4 inches. Lightly print your name and your A#, if known, on the back of each photo with a pencil.
  • A copy of your new I-20 that has the OPT recommendation update on page 3.  Make sure you complete #11 and that LaMae has signed both pages 1 and 3.  (You keep the original, of course, and carry it with the previous copies of your I-20);
  • A copy of your previously-issued I-20;
  • A copy of your I-94 card, front and back; (be sure to re-staple your original card back in your passport!);
  • A copy of the ID pages from your passport, include a copy of your U.S. visa page as well;
  • If you have any previously issued work authorization cards from USCIS (issued for severe economic hardship or any previously authorized OPT, include a photocopy of the previously-issued EAD card, front/back.

Mail the above materials to:
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ  85036

For Express mail and courier service deliveries:
Attn:  AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ  85034

  • Mail with return receipt requested as proof of mailing.  It must be received by USCIS before the end of your 60 grace period.   Please note:  The program end-date on your I-20 must be before your requested OPT start-date.  Make sure this is updated by the DSO before mailing. 
  • Shortly thereafter, you should receive back a receipt from USCIS.  Please make certain that a copy of that receipt is in your file in IPC. 
  • Processing can take a while, so please mail as soon as possible and be patient.  USCIA must receive your application within 30 days of the date our I-2o was updated with the OPT recommendation.
  • Remember, while you are in the U.S. on OPT, you are still in student status. Therefore, you must notify your DSO of all address changes within 10 days of the change. (Physical address, no P.O box addresses)   Your SEVIS record will then be updated by the DSO.  Failure to do this is a status violation.
  • You are also required to keep the DSO informed and up-to-date on your employment status, whether your are seeking employment, have decided to leave the U.S., or have accepted an employment offer. 
  • You must have secured employment within 90 days of your OPT start date. 
  • If you get employment, you must provide the DSO with the name and address of your employer. Any time this changes, you must notify the DSO. Your SEVIS record will be updated  so  you remain in legal student status.
  • If you travel outside the U.S. while on OPT, for re-entry you will need your I-20 that has been endorsed by me within the last 6 months.  You will also need your OPT card, and evidence that you are returning to the U.S. to resume or accept employment.  A letter from your employer would be the best.  It is very risky to travel outside the U.S. after your program completion date  if you have not yet secured employment as it may be considered an abandonment of your OPT authorization.  I also recommend you carry your BSU transcript. 
  • Once your OPT has ended, you have a 60-day grace period in which to exit the U.S.

OPT Extensions for STEM Students:  The 12-month limit onF-1 OPT will be extended by 17 months, for a total of 29 months, for certain STEM degree holders (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). 

Additional requirements for the 17-month extension include:

  • Student must be currently participating in a standard period of OPT, working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study.
  • Student must have successfully completed a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a field on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List, from a SEVIS-certified college or university.
  • Student must have a job offer from an employer registered with the E-Verify employment verification system.
  • The student has not previously received a 17-month OPT extension after earning a STEM degree.
  • The DSO must recommend the 17-month OPT extension in SEVIS, after verifying the student's eligibility, certifying that the student's degree is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, and ensuring that the student is aware of his or her responsibilities for maintaining status while on OPT.
  • Student will have to apply for the 17-month extension on Form I-765 with fee.
  • Students who timely file an application for the 17-month OPT extension will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
  • The employer must agree to report the termination or departure of the student to the DSO or through "any other means or process identified by DHS." An employer must consider a worker to have departed when the employer knows the student has left employment, or if the student has not reported for work for a period of 5 consecutive business days without the employer's consent.

H-1B cap-gap extension of D/S and work authorization until October 1.
Duration of status and work authorization will be extended for a student on OPT, who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. This would apply to all students on OPT, not just STEM students. The extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf.  

Notify the DSO if your employer files a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, requesting an extension.  Provide proof of proper filing.