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As an international student, you may want to gain some work experience while you are in the U.S. or earn some income while you are in school. In this section, you will find information on the rules and regulations of on-campus employment, including about social security numbers, Optional Practical Training (OPT), and Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Cap-Gap extension and filing your taxes.

On-Campus Employment

On-campus employment must either be performed on the school's premises, (including on-location commercial firms which provide services for students on campus, such as the school bookstore or cafeteria), or at an off-campus location which is educationally affiliated with the school. Employment with on-site commercial firms, such as a construction company building a school building, which do not provide direct student services is not deemed on-campus employment. In the case of off-campus locations, the educational affiliation must be associated with the school's established curriculum or related to contractually funded research projects at the post-graduate level. In any event, the employment must be an integral part of the student's educational program.

  • On-campus employment must not exceed 20 hours a week while school is in session. An F-1 student may, however, work on campus full-time when school is not in session or during official University breaks.
  • You may work full-time (typically 40 hours/week) during authorized school breaks.
    • Official Syracuse University Breaks: 
      • Summer – May 10 – August 25, 2019
      • Thanksgiving – November 24 – December 1, 2019
      • Winter – December 14, 2019 to January 12, 2020
      • Spring – March 15 – 22, 2020
  • A student may not engage in on-campus employment after completing a course of study, unless authorized for F-1 practical training or J-1 academic training.

I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Process

The Immigration Reform and Control Act requires all U.S. employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all new employees, citizens and non-citizens alike. By law, I-9 verification must be completed within the first 3 days of employment.  Accordingly, all employers must keep I-9 files for each of their new employees. Even if you already have a Social Security Number (SSN), you must still complete the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification process.  Additional information regarding the Form I-9 is available on the USCIS website.

    • Step 1: Be enrolled full-time or register full-time at the start of the upcoming semester if the semester has not yet begun. You must be registered for classes in order to work on Syracuse University Campus.
    • Step 2: Receive a job offer. (You may not begin working until you have completed the I-9 process and your information has been entered into the university system. You will receive a notice verifying this and your eligibility to begin working.)      
    • Step 3: If you do not already have a SSN or you have lost your Social Security Card, have your employer complete the Employer Verification Form available online.  See our information on applying for a Social Security Number for more details. 
    • Step 4: Complete the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification process at the Student Employment Office, 210 Steele Hall.
      • You must bring the following documents with you:
        • Original Employer Verification Form completed by employer, printed on dept. letterhead [if you don’t have a SSN or card]
        • Original current and/or stamped I-20 or DS-2019, passport, & a copy of your electronic I-94, [and your Social Security Card if you have one]

If you are an SU Athlete, or J-1 student sponsored by an organization other than SU:

  • SU Athlete: Complete the Student-Athlete Employment Clearance Process at the Manley Field House Compliance Office and obtain a copy of your Student-Athlete Employment Clearance Form.  You must submit a photocopy of your completed Student-Athlete Compliance Form to Student Employment when you complete your I-9.

J-1 Student (not sponsored by SU): Obtain a letter from your J Sponsor (e.g. IIE, AMIDEAST, IREX, Fulbright, LASPAU) approving your on-campus employment. You must submit a copy of this letter to Student Employment when completing your I-9.

Complete the Non-Resident Alien Information Form

  • To obtain access to the form, email Payroll at with your SUID number.
  • The data collected allows SU to determine your tax withholding status.
  • Any questions you may have regarding the form should be directed to Payroll at The Slutzker Center will not be able to answer questions related to this form.

If you do not have a Social Security Number (SSN), you will have to apply for one since U.S. federal law requires all individuals employed in the U.S. to have a SSN. SSN’s are used to identify employees and tax salaries, and are only issued for the purpose of employment. A SSN is not required to begin employment, but must be obtained immediately after being hired.


  • You should not begin on-campus employment until you have completed the I-9 process at the Student Employment Office.
  • If you do not have a Social Security Number (SSN), you will have to apply for one since U.S. federal law requires all individuals employed in the U.S. to have a SSN. SSN’s are used to identify employees and tax salaries, and are only issued for the purpose of employment. A SSN is not required to begin employment, but must be obtained immediately after being hired.
  • Your I-9 will remain valid until the end date that is indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019 form. If you extend your I-20 or DS-2019, take your new I-20 or DS-2019 to the Student Employment Office, 201 Steele Hall, to update your I-9.
  • If your employment changes from one SU department to another, it’s not necessary to complete an additional I-9 as long as Syracuse University remains your employer.

Off-Campus Employment

If you receive authorization for off-campus work (e.g. OPT Authorization with an EAD Card, CPT Work Authorization or Academic Training Authorization), an I-9 must be completed with your employer within three days of the start of your new employment. Your employer should provide you with additional instructions and all inquiries about the process should be directed to your employer.

Applying for Employment under Economic Hardship

Economic Hardship is an immigration term that refers to a specific definition for the need to work. For the F-1 and J-1 student the meaning of this term includes such criteria as: "a severe and unforeseen circumstance" which results in a demonstrated need for employment.

For example, such circumstance could be a devaluation of your home county currency (usually more than 25%) against the U.S. dollar. As a result you would have to show that your family or government was sponsoring you and that an insufficient amount of funding was being sent to you. In addition, there are certain time related issues for eligibility.

Appointment Only: Since the process for F-1 and J-1 obtaining employment under Economic Hardship is treated differently, you will need to make an appointment with a Slutzker Center advisor. This personal advising session will enable the advisor to fully discuss your needs and eligibility for this type of employment.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) - F-1

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) cannot be in a minor or previous major. CPT can be part-time (20 hours a week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours a week).  If you are authorized for part-time CPT, any on-campus employment and your CPT together cannot amount to over 20 hours of work a week, while school is in session (this includes assistantships and CASE Center employment). If you are authorized for full-time CPT, you should not have any additional on-campus employment, while school is in session.  CPT is designed to provide work experience directly related and integral to a student's degree of study. It is not intended for general, ongoing work authorization. Traditional volunteer work (e.g. at a soup-kitchen, homeless shelter) does not require CPT. However any internship, even if it is unpaid, requires CPT authorization.

CPT Eligibility:

  1. A student must be in valid F-1-status and have been a full-time student for one academic year (Fall and Spring semesters) before participating in CPT
  2. A student must have a written job offer on company letterhead before applying for CPT. The job offer must indicate the position, the exact dates of employment, the number of hours per week and the company’s address.
  3. A student must continue to maintain full-time student status for the duration of the CPT. This means 12 credits per semester for an undergraduate student and 9 credits per semester or securing a Certificate of Full-Time Status for a graduate student.
  4. A student must continue to make normal degree progress, as defined by their department and the Graduate School, while participating in CPT. This could require course-work during the CPT period. Students should verify that participation in CPT will not interfere with their ability to take courses required for degree completion that may not be taught in subsequent semesters prior to the program end date indicated on their I-20. CPT should not delay degree completion beyond the program end date listed on the Form I-20
  5. Approval from the department is required for CPT.  Individual departments may have their own academic requirements for, or limitations on, participation in CPT. Examples include a minimum GPA, a pre-requisite course and/or a number of credits taken in the department's curriculum.

Types of CPT

  • Required for the Degree - An internship is a required part of a structured degree program; everyone in the program must do an internship or they will not be able to complete their program. In this case, a student does not need to register for credit for the CPT experience. 
  • Integral to the Curriculum - An internship is not a required part of the program's curriculum, but the internship is considered integral to the academic experience. In this case, a student must register for at least one credit per semester of CPT experience.
  • Dissertation Research - A doctoral student must engage in off-campus work to complete research necessary for a Ph.D. Dissertation. In this case, a student must register for GRD 998 and/or a department-specific dissertation credit and file a Certificate of Full Time Status.  The academic department’s recommendation letter must specifically indicate that this CPT experience is for dissertation research.

Duration of CPT

  • CPT is authorized by semester (Fall, Spring, Summer).  Therefore, students must submit a new CPT request, including all the necessary documents, for each semester, including summer session(s).
  • Participation in CPT may begin on or after the first day of the semester. CPT must end before the first day of the following semester. For example, CPT can be extended through the winter break, but must be complete before the first day of spring semester. Spring semester CPT must end before the first day of summer session, and so on.
  • A student may participate in CPT as much as their program will allow and their academic department will authorize. However, a student will be ineligible for OPT if he/she participates in greater than 364 days of full time CPT.

How to Apply for CPT :

  1. Attend a Curricular Practical Training Seminar on the first and third Wednesday and second Friday of each month at 3 p.m
  2. Receive a job offer related to your major area of study. Make a copy of the official offer letter and submit it with CPT application materials.
  3. Obtain a Recommendation Letter from your department which indicates that this CPT internship experience is an integral part of your degree program. (Please include all information indicated in the sample.)SU students should obtain recommendation letter from academic advisor or departmental chairperson.
  4. Complete the Training Data Sheet & Student Responsibility Checklist. This form is fillable; please type responses directly into it. This will reduce the likelihood that your handwriting will be misunderstood. Read, check, and sign the Student Responsibilities Checklist in the appropriate section.
  5. Come to the Slutzker Center during PT2 processing times (Mondays from 3-5 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. - 12p.m.). Bring the above listed documents along with proof that you have registered your CPT experience for credit in the semester(s) it will occur. (e.g., registration form, MySlice registration screen), your original passport, visa, I-94 card, all of your original I-20s since entering the US, and proof of health insurance. Health insurance should include Medical Evacuation and Repatriation coverage; if your plan does not include this, you may purchase a supplemental Medical Evacuation and Repatriation policy. In general, students are expected to show coverage for one full academic year and renew their policy each year thereafter. A minimum of 6 months of coverage should be presented when applying for CPT.

Impact of I-20 Extensions

A student must have an extenuating academic or medical reason for an extension of program end date of their I-20 Form.

Failure to complete required course-work or sufficient credit hours to graduate because of CPT is not a compelling acadmic or medical reason for an extension

Immigration regulations do not allow I-20 extensions due to delay caused by participation in CPT

Participation in PCT is not valid enough reason for an extension of program.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) - F-1

In order to be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Be an F-1 student visa holder who has been enrolled full-time for at least one full academic year prior to submitting an OPT application (Year enrollment may be fulfilled at Syracuse University, a previous University, or between multiple universities.)
  • Be maintaining lawful F-1 status.
  • Intend to obtain employment in a position directly related to your major field of study.
  • Have not completed more than 364 days of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
  • Have not utilized an equivalent of 12 months of OPT work authorization in current degree level
  • Have not already completed a degree at this level (e.g., second bachelor's degree) or at a higher level.
  • Are not in an English language training program.

When OPT Can Occur

Prior to Degree Completion:

  • Part-time or Full-time: During your annual vacation if eligible and if you intend to register for the next term or session. (Pre-completion OPT)
  • Part-time: While school is in session provided that OPT does not exceed 20 hours per week and you maintain your full-time student status. (Pre-completion OPT)
  • Full-time: If you are in a master's or doctoral degree program, after completion of all course requirements for the degree, excluding thesis, dissertation or equivalent. (Can be either pre-completion or post-completion OPT. Please talk with an SCIS advisor about which might be most appropriate for your case.)

After Degree Completion (Post-completion OPT):

  • Full-time: After completion of your degree.
    • Any OPT utilized prior to degree completion will be deducted from the initial 12 month allowable benefit.

Comparison of Pre- and Post-Completion OPT benefits when one’s course work is complete and only dissertation or thesis is remaining.

Pre-Completion OPT

  • Part-time employment while school is in session; full-time during approved school breaks.
  • Unemployment is not counted.
  • May extend program end date if eligibilty requirements are not met.
  • Cannot apply for STEM extension.
  • Not eligible for cap-gap etension.

Post-Completion OPT

  • Full-time or part-time employment.
  • Unemployment is counted; maximum unemployent 90 days from OPT start date.
  • Cannot extend program end date; must complete dissertation/thesis by end of OPT authorization.
  • Eligible to apply for STEM extension if you meet all requirements.
  • Eligible for cap-gap extension.

Duration of OPT

Initial OPT applications have a maximum duration eligibility of 12 months for each higher degree level (Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral Degree) you complete.

  • If you have used part of your OPT employment benefit during your degree program, you are only entitled to the remaining benefit, not a new 12 months. You will not receive additional OPT time if you complete another degree at the same level (e.g., two master's degrees) or a lower level (e.g., complete a master's degree and then go back to school to complete a second bachelor's degree).

Also, please note that if you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) after the work authorization start date you requested, you are not eligible to recover the time that passed while you were waiting to receive your EAD card in the mail. You must still stop working on the end date indicated on the EAD card unless you are eligible for a 24 month STEM extension and applied in a timely manner.

When to Apply for OPT

Work authorization for OPT must be obtained from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) so please plan ahead to ensure a timely receipt of your application. If your application is received by USCIS more than 60 days after your *program completion date, you will not be eligible for OPT.

Prior to Degree Completion OPT:

  • If you are completing your first academic year of study, you may submit your OPT application 90 days prior to the date you will complete your first year of study provided that the employment will not begin until after an entire year of study has been completed.
  • If you have completed one full year of study, you may submit your OPT application as early as 90 days prior to the work authorization start date you requested.
  • If you are applying for OPT based on completion of your coursework requirements, you may submit your application as early as 90 days prior to the work authorization start date you requested.

After Program Completion OPT:

  • If you are applying for OPT based on completion of your degree, you may submit your application for OPT as early as 90 days prior to your program end date (e.g. if your graduation date is May 15 you may apply for your OPT as early as February 15).  Please be aware that your application must be received by USCIS by no later than 60 days after the day you complete your program or the program end date indicated on your I-20, whichever occurs first.

*A Note About Completion Dates:
The date of the completion of your program is not necessarily the date you participate in graduation ceremonies at the end of the year. Graduate students may complete the requirements for a degree any day of year. Your completion date will be specified by your academic department on the Recommendation Letter that they will provide to you as part of the OPT application process.

OPT Application Process

Submitting Your OPT Application

OPT must be recommended by the Slutzker Center for International Services before you can submit an application for OPT to the USCIS.

Step 1:

  • Read all of the OPT information included on the Slutzker Center website.

Attend a Slutzker Center Optional Practical Training Seminar on the first and third Wednesday and second Friday of each month at 3:45 p.m.

Step 2:

Obtain and complete the following documents:

  • Students should obtain the recommendation letter from an academic advisor or departmental chairperson.
  • Form G-1145 - this form is optional.  You should print and complete the form if you would like to receive an email and/or text message notification that USCIS has received your application.
  • Form I-765 (sign the application in BLUE ink)

  • Completing the Form I-765-this form is used to apply for many different types of employment authorization including OPT; some of the questions will not apply to applicants for OPT.  Please do your best to compete the application and we will review it with you when you come for PT Processing
      • Part 1-Item 5 (Your U.S. Mailing Address):
        • This is the address to which your EAD card (OPT approval) will be sent
        • If you are using another person’s address to have your EAD card sent to, you need to write that person’s name in 5.a., the box marked In care of (c/o) City, State, Zip Code
        • When providing an address, please be aware:
          • If you have moved and did not provide USCIS with your valid address on your application, your EAD card will be returned to USCIS. USCIS mail is NOT forwarded.
          • If your address changes while your application is being processed, please contact the Slutzker Center immediately as this may delay your receipt of the EAD card.
          • If your name (or your acquaintance's if your mail is being sent "in care of") does not appear on the mailbox, it is possible that the U.S. Post Office may return your EAD card to USCIS.
          • USCIS will not mail EAD cards overseas.
      • Be sure to answer Part 1-Item 6, yes or no
      • If you answer no to Part 1-Item 6, you must complete Item 7 with the address at which you live
      • Part 2- Item 12 (Have you previously filed Form I-765?)
        • CPT authorization does not apply to this situation. If you have only applied for CPT previously, you would mark "No."
        • Answer "yes" if you applied for an employment authorization document from USCIS before. (e.g. OPT, Severe Economic Hardship.)
        • Answer "no" if you have never applied for an employment authorization document before.
      • Part 2- Item 27 (Eligibility Category)
        • For Pre-Completion OPT: (c)(3)(A)
        • For Post-Completion OPT: (c)(3)(B)
        • For 24-Month STEM OPT Extension: (c)(3)(C)
      • Part 3- Items 7.a. and 7.b.-Applicant’s Signature
        • Sign the Form I-765 with blue ink
      • Part 4 (Interpreter) and Part 5 (Preparer)-you must include these pages with your application
        • You should write “Not Applicable” or “N/A” in the boxes in these items unless you used an Interpreter or someone else completed the form for you.
      • Part 6-you must include this page with your application
        • Complete your name in Items 1.a.-1.c.
        • Complete Items 3.a. through 3.d., 4.a.-4.d., 5.a.-5d., etc. IF you
          • answered “Yes” to Item 12-previously filed Form I-765 with USCIS
            • indicate Page 2, Part 2, Item 12 and explain:  I previously filed and was approved for OPT  from _____ (date) to ______ (date) based on my ____  (level) degree in ____ (field)  
          • were previously approved for CPT
            • leave the boxes blank but explain:  I was approved for part-time or full-time CPT from _____ (date) to ______ (date) based on my ____  (level) degree in ____ (field)  
          • attended school in the U.S. on another SEVIS Number
            • indicate:  I previously attended school in the U.S. under SEVIS Number N00__________
  • Completing the Training Data Sheet & Student Responsibilities Checklist (read, check, and sign) This form is fillable; Please type responses directly into it.
    • Filling in item 18 (Requested Employment Start Date)
      • Your start date may be anytime up to 60 days after the program completion date indicated on your academic advisor's letter.
      • In general, if you are submitting your OPT application well in advance (3 months early) and already have a job offer, it is advisable to enter a start date that is closer to your/the employer's desired start or your program completion date.
      • In general, if you are submitting your application less than 3 months early and/or do not yet have a job offer, you may want to provide a later anticipated start date (towards the end of the 60 days) since you will not receive additional OPT eligibility if your application is not processed by your anticipated start date/you do not find employment immediately.
      • Please note that your OPT must be completed within 14 months from your program end date regardless of your requested OPT start date and actual EAD start date.
    • Filling in item 19 (Requested Employment End Date):
      • The end date must be no later than 12 months from your anticipated start date and within 14 months from your program completion date.
  • Clear photocopies of the first and second page of your current I-20 and all of your previous I-20's from every school attended.
  • Clear photocopies of your passport, visa, and a printout of your most recent I-94.
  • If you were issued an EAD card previously (e.g. for previous OPT for your undergraduate degree, economic hardship employment), include a clear copy of your previous EAD card (front and back).
  • Two identical color 2x2 inches photographs with your name and I-94 number written lightly on the backs. Photos must meet frontal passport specifications and should be on a white background taken no earlier than 30 days prior to submitting your OPT application.
    • Please follow the following instructions when taking the photos for OPT:
    • Submit two (2) passport-style (2x2 inches) 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 I-94 number on the back of each photo with a pencil.
    •  Steps to Successful Photos
      • Frame subject with full face, front view, eyes open
      • Make sure photo presents full head from top of hair to bottom of chin; height of head should measure 1 inch to 13⁄8 inch (25 mm to 35 mm)
      • Center head within frame (see Figure 2 below)
      • Make sure eye level is between 11⁄8 inch and 13⁄8 inch (28 mm and 35 mm) from bottom of photo
      • Photograph subject against a plain white or off-white background
      • Position subject and lighting so that there are no distracting shadows on the face or background
      • Encourage subject to have a natural expression
  • Check or money order for $410.00 made payable to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security."
  • Clear photocopy of your current health insurance documentation and documentation of health insurance coverage for at least the first 90 days of your requested OPT.
    (You should not have a lapse in health insurance. If you will transition directly from your insurance to the employer's insurance, please submit documentation of your health insurance benefit and information about the plan. If your employer’s plan does not include Medical Evacuation and Repatriation coverage, you will have to purchase a supplemental medical evacuation & repatriation policy for about $30.00 per year.)

Step 3:

  • OPT processing is available on a first-come, first-served basis Mondays from 3 - 5 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. only.
  • Bring ALL of the documents listed above with you when you attend your PT Step 2 appointment.
  • If you will be submitting your application near the end of the 60 days after your program completion grace period, please discuss this with the Slutzker Center Advisor at your PT Step 2 appointment since your application must be received at USCIS by no later than 60 days after your program completion date.
  • It is your responsibility to mail your OPT application documents; the SCIS does not mail applications on behalf of students.

Step 4:

Once you have completed all of the above steps, you may mail your completed OPT application packet to the USCIS Service Centers. You must mail the application within 30 days of the date the I-20 recommending OPT was issued; it must be received by no later than 60 days after the program completion date indicated on your I-20 requesting OPT.

A completed application must include

  • Check or money order for $410 payable to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"  
  • Two 2 x 2 inches passport style photographs taken within the past 30 days with your name and I-94 number written gently on the back of your photos.
  • Completed and signed in blue ink Form I-765 (original).
  • One clear photocopy of your current SEVIS I-20 (with recommended OPT dates - see p. 2 of I-20)
  • Clear photocopies of all of your previous SEVIS I-20's- include page 1 and 2 of all your I-20's
  • One clear photocopy of your visa.
  • One clear photocopy of your passport
  • One clear photocopy of your I-94
  • If you were issued an EAD card previously, include one clear photocopy of the front and back of your EAD.

If you live in:

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minneasota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, or Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

File your application at:

USCIS Phoenix Lockbox:

USPS Deliveries (USPS - Priority Mail or Express Mail):
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

Express Mail/Courier Deliveries (FedEx, DHL):
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S, Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

If you live in:

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, or West Virginia

File your application at:

USCIS Dallas Lockbox:

USPS Deliveries (USPS - Priority Mail or Express Mail):
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

Express Mail/Courier Deliveries (FedEx, DHL):
Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy, 121 Business, Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

Step 5:

USCIS will send an application receipt to you in the mail within 2-3 weeks of receiving your application. It will note the date your application was received and the date the receipt was mailed. In the top right-hand corner, the receipt will also include an "EAC number." This number can be utilized to check the status of your case.

Step 6:

If your application has been approved by USCIS, you should receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card) in the mail within approximately 90-120 days. Please be aware that you may not begin working prior to reaching the start date on your EAD and you must stop working on the end date.

Step 7:

Submit a photocopy of your EAD card to the Slutzker Center for International Services.

Scanned files, email to:


Application Processing Time

  • OPT application processing times vary. It is estimated that a typical application will take 2-3 months to process.

Check Status of Your Application

  1. If you have your application receipt number, you are able to check the status of your OPT application processing case online. To do so, you may click on the link provided here or:
  2. Go to
  3. Locate the "Check Case Status" area (on the bottom of the right-hand corner) under the bolded "Help with:"
  4. Enter your EAC Application Receipt Number in the "Enter case number here" prompt and USCIS will inform you if your application is in process, if they have requested further information, or if it has been approved or mailed.

If, after applying for OPT, you learn you have to take another course

Your OPT is based on your having completed your degree (undergrads) or at least your coursework (grads). If you learn that you must take an additional course in order to graduate, then you must do the following:

  • Make an appointment to talk with a Slutzker Center advisor to discuss the consequences to your OPT application and any actions that you need to take.
  • If USCIS has not yet processed your OPT application, you can ask them to withdraw it so that you can reapply with later OPT dates. It is at USCIS’s discretion as to whether they will approve your request.
  • If USCIS has already approved your OPT, then you cannot withdraw your application, and you may only work 20 hours or less on your OPT until you have completed your required course. The Slutzker Center must extend your program end date and issue a new I-20.
  • Students in STEM fields cannot apply for a STEM extension unless they have earned their degrees.

If Your OPT Application is outside normal processing times

If after checking the normal processing times for I-765 OPT applications here you find that your case is beyond the normal processing times you can submit an inquiry to USCIS about your Form I-765 through their case inquiry form.


You should not submit a case inquiry if in the past 60 days, you:

  • Received a notice from USCIS about your case,
  • Responded to a request for evidence from USCIS, OR
  • Received an online update to your case status from USCIS

Requests to Expedite Applications

You may submit a request to USCIS to expedite your case only if you can document one or more of the following criteria:

•Severe financial loss to company or person;

•Emergency situation; For example, the applicant is gravely ill.

•Humanitarian reasons; For example, outbreak of war in the home country.

•Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States; For example, an organization broadcasting in regional areas to promote democratic interests.

•Department of Defense or national interest situation; The request must come from an official U.S. government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to the government.

•USCIS error; or

•Compelling interest of USCIS.

 To make a request to expedite your application, you should call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.  When calling, you will need to tell the customer representative that your case is outside the normal processing time and explain why you believe your case meets one of the required criteria

USCIS reviews all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and requests are granted at the discretion of the office leadership. The burden is on the applicant or petitioner to demonstrate that one or more of the expedite criteria have been met. Approval of such requests is discretionary and USCIS reserves the right to request documentation supporting the request to expedite an application or petition.

Reporting Changes of Information

  • While on OPT, you remain in F-1 status and employment is required to maintain status. In order to maintain status, you may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment
  • As part of your maintenance of status, you are responsible for reporting changes in personal and employment information within 10 days of the change. You may report this change of information in one of two ways:
    • Directly to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) through the SEVP Portal  After your OPT is approved and your start date of OPT has been reached, you should receive an email from SEVP instructing you on how to create an SEVP Portal Account.  You may use that account to keep the required information up to date in your immigration record.  

    • To the Slutzker Center through OPT Students Info Update form. Upon receipt of such information, we will update your SEVIS record in order for you to maintain compliance with U.S. immigration regulations

You must report the following information within 10 days of any change:

  • any change of address (within the U.S. or your foreign address)
  • any change of name (first, middle, last)
  • any periods of unemployment while authorized for OPT
  • employer information (name and address) upon obtaining a job and changing jobs

To update your information, please access the OPT Students Info Update form.

Termination of OPT

  • OPT authorization is automatically terminated when an F-1 student transfers to another school or begins coursework in a new academic program.

Traveling when OPT is Pending or Approved (Prior to Degree Completion)

  • If you will return to the U.S. (from outside North America) before you complete your degree requirements (before the end date noted in item #5 of your I-20):
  • You may re-enter the U.S. with the following immigration travel documents:
    • Original current, valid I-20 with a travel signature no older than 6 months from the day on which you plan to re-enter the U.S.
    • Valid* U.S. visa
    • I-94 Card
    • Valid passport
    • Transcript
    • Letter of Registration
    • Additional Photo ID (e.g., SU ID)
    • Financial Documentation (e.g., bank statements, assistantship letter)

*If you are returning to the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or an Adjacent Island, you may not need a valid visa to re-enter the U.S. if you:

  • Have a valid travel signature (must be valid 6 months beyond the date you plan to re-enter the U.S.);
  • Carry the necessary immigration travel documents listed above; and
  • Do not meet any of the criteria posted on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.

You will still be required to have the rest of immigration travel documents listed above.

Traveling When OPT Has Been Approved (After Degree Completion)

If you will return to the U.S. after you complete your degree requirements (after the end date noted in item #5 of your I-20), you must have the following documents to re-enter the U.S.:

  • Original new, valid I-20 endorsed for OPT (on p.2) with a travel signature no older than 6 months from the day on which you plan to re-enter the U.S.
  • Your EAD card
  • A letter from an employer indicating a job offer in your major field of study or that you will be returning to resume your employment
  • I-94 Card
  • Valid passport
  • Valid* U.S. visa

*If you are returning to the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or an Adjacent Island, please check above criteria to see if you will require a valid visa to re-enter the United States or consult a Slutzker Center Advisor.

It is not advisable to travel outside of the U.S.:

  • While OPT authorization is pending; or
  • If you have been authorized for OPT but do not have a job to begin/resume

Cap-Gap Extension

A cap-gap extension automatically extends an eligible F-1 student’s status to bridge the gap between the end of OPT (F-1 status) and start of H-1B status (effective October 1), thereby allowing the student to remain in the US and continue working during the “gap.” The cap-gap extension is available to students who, as of April 1st, were either on approved OPT or in their 60-day grace period and have a pending or approved change-of-status to H-1B petition with the USCIS. 

This cap-gap extension will produce one of two outcomes, depending on your individual situation:

  • Extension of your OPT work authorization to September 30th. This happens if your approved OPT end date (on your EAD card) is April 1 or later and your employer filed an H1B petition prior to your OPT end date. 


  • Extension of your F-1 “duration of status.”  If your OPT expired before April 1st and your employer filed an H1B petition during your 60-day grace period, you are allowed to remain in the US if you otherwise maintain your F-1 status, but you are not authorized to work until the H-1B petition is approved and goes into effect October 1.

Who is eligible for the extension?

Students in all fields of study are eligible for the cap-gap extension as long as the student has not violated the terms or conditions of his or her F-1 status.  To qualify for the extension, the student must be the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that:

  1. Is subject to the H1B cap (petitions filed by "cap exempt" employers do not qualify because the cap gap is not required, the H-1B can begin any day of the year so it can begin the day after your OPT expires)
  2. Has been timely filed (within the acceptance period)
  3. Requests an employment start date of October 1
  4. Requests a change of status (rather than consular processing)

How do I obtain a Cap-Gap I-20?

There is no application process for the cap-gap extension.  If your H1B petition has been received or approved your SEVIS record should automatically reflect the cap gap extension and your work authorization or F-1 will be extended to September 30th.  It is our experience that it may take 2-3 weeks after your H-1B is receipted for your SEVIS record to be updated with the cap gap extension.

Please note that your work authorization is automatically extended as long as a viable H1B application is filed for you BEFORE the end date of your current F1 OPT.  Your employer may require a cap gap I-20 to extend the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form.

Therefore, two to three weeks after you or your employer have received the H1B receipt notice or approval notice, you may contact the Slutzker Center by email at to request a cap gap I-20:

Write “CAP GAP extension I-20" in the subject line of your email.

In the body of the email include:

  • Last Name, First Name
  • SU ID number
  • SEVIS ID Number (the N00 number on your I-20): 
  • H1B receipt number
  • Your current address
  • Your employer's name and address
  • The address to which you want your new I-20 sent by regular mail OR
  • Let us know that you have arranged for express mailing and do so here.

If you or your employer have not received a receipt notice for an H-1B from USCIS, then your SEVIS record is not likely to have the cap gap applied to it and we will not be able to produce an I-20 with the cap gap.    

How does my employer update the I-9 with the cap gap extension of OPT?

Your employer should consult page 21 of the I-9 Handbook for Employers.

What happens if my H-1B is denied after receiving the cap-gap extension?

If the student’s H-1B is denied, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice to depart the US. However, if a denial is based on a discovered status violation, no such grace period exists and the student must leave the US immediately.

For additional information on the Cap Gap Extension please see here.

STEM Extension

Some students in science, technology, engineering or math programs may be eligible for a 24 month OPT extension.

  • The 24 month extension is available upon completion of 12 months of OPT.
  • The STEM extension is granted in one 24 month period; it cannot be “split” into 2 periods. The employment start date for a STEM extension is the day immediately after the day on which your initial OPT expires.

For details on this, review the information available at the US government website’s STEM OPT Hub.

Student Requirements:

  1. Completed a degree in qualifying STEM program
    • The STEM designated degree program list includes all STEM fields qualifying an F-1 student for a STEM OPT extension. DHS determined a “STEM field” is a field included in the U.S. Department of Education's Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) taxonomy within the two-digit series containing engineering (CIP code 14), biological sciences (CIP code 26), mathematics (CIP code 27), and physical sciences (CIP code 40), or a related field.
    • The CIP Code assigned to your degree is the number that follows your Major on page 1 of your I-20.
  1. Currently engaging in post-completion OPT (students on pre-completion OPT are not eligible)
  2. Will be employed by an E-Verify employer
  3. The student and the E-verify employer complete a Form I-983 Training Plan
    • F-1 students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Form I-983 because F-1 students may not provide employer attestations on their own behalf. However, STEM OPT applicants can participate in a start-up or small business so long as all regulatory requirements are met. The employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience.
    • Report to the Sluztker Center any changes within 10 days of change through the STEM Extension OPT Students Information Update Form changes to:
      • Legal name
      • Address
      • Employer name and address
    • Validate their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System information every six months with the Slutzker Center including: 
      • Legal name
      • Address
      • Employer name and address
      • Status of current employment/practical training experience
      • For more information on student reporting requirements, the STEM OPT Reporting Requirements.
  1. Maintain valid F-1 status
  2. STEM OPT students must do an annual self-evaluation and must report to the Slutzker Center about the progress of the training experience. Students must sign the self-evaluation prior to submitting it to the DSO, who will include it in the student's record.
  3. Have not accrued more than 90 days of unemployment. 
  4. Submit a timely STEM extension application. 

Employer Requirements

  1. The employer must participate in USCIS's E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.
  2. The employer must report to the Slutzker Center when an F-1 student on a STEM OPT extension terminates or otherwise leaves their employment before the end of the authorized period of OPT. The employer must report this change to the Slutzker Center no later than five business days after the student leaves employment. For more information about employer requirements, please visit our Employer Reporting Requirements page.
  3. Both the student and employer are obligated to report to the student's DSO any material changes to, or material deviations from, the student's formal training plan, Form I-983.
  4. These requirements mandate that the company remains in good standing with E-Verify and has the resources to comply with the proposed training plan.

Requesting STEM Extension Recommendation from the Slutzker Center

  • If you are eligible for a STEM extension, please submit the following to with “Attn: STEM Extension Application” as the subject of your email.
  • Attach PDF copies of the documents listed below:
    • STEM Extension Data Sheet - including mailing address and document shipping preference
    • STEM Student Responsibilities Checklist
    • Form I-765 completed and signed
    • Form G-1145 completed (if you would like E-Notification)
    • Form I-983 Training Plan
    • Diploma or transcript
    • EAD card
    • A copy of the electronic printout of your I-94 or the front and the back of your I-94 card.The Slutzker Center will issue a new I-20 recommending STEM OPT. For shipping options, contact the Slutzker Center.

Please anticipate that processing of your application by the Slutzker Center will take a minimum of two business days from the date it is received and may take longer. We are unable to respond to inquiries concerning pending applications unless they have been pending for more than two days. Please only send your application to the account, not to individual advisors. Duplicate submissions increase processing time for everyone. 


Submitting your STEM Extension Application to USCIS

A complete application should include:

  • Check or money order for $410 made out to the "Department of Homeland Security"
  • Two 2 x 2 passport style photographs taken within the past 30 days with your name and I-94 number written gently on the back of your photos;
  • Completed Form G-1145 (if you would like E-Notification of your application)
  • Completed and signed Form I-765 (original); Note: You should report your program of study (e.g. Computer Science on this form (Item 17), not "Master's" or "Ph.D."
  • Official DEGREE BEARING transcripts OR copy of your diploma;
  • A copy of your EAD card (front & back) and any previously issued EAD cards related to your current status;
  • A copy of pages 1 and 2 of the newly issued I-20 (with recommended OPT Extension dates) signed on the bottom of page one by you;
  • Copies of ALL of your previous I-20's;
  • A copy of the electronic printout of your I-94 or the front and the back of your I-94 card.
  • A copy of your visa;
  • A copy of your passport biodata page.

Send your completed application to the appropriate USCIS Service Center based on the address you provided on Form I-765 (see page 11). USCIS must receive your STEM Extension application no more than 90 days before your OPT expires and no later than the date your OPT expires.  


Maintenance of F-1 status while on STEM Extension

  • Cannot accrue more than 150 days of unemployment over the 36 month OPT period (OPT + STEM OPT).
  • Can change employers but ALL employment during STEM Extension must be with an E-Verify employer
  • STEM extension reporting requirements - During the STEM extension period, you must report the following via the STEM Extension OPT Student Information Update Form within 10 days of any change to:
    • your legal name
    • your residential or mailing address
    • your email address, or
    • your E-Verify employer's name or address.
    • Status of current employment/practical training experience.
    • your I-983 Training Plan
    • You must also confirm this information on this website every 6 months, even if there are no changes.

Students who file a timely application for the STEM extension can continue working for their E-Verify employer (while the application is pending) until either (1) receipt of the STEM EAD card or (2) 180 days, whichever comes first.

Submit a copy of new EAD card to; please title email “STEM EAD card copy”.

J-1 Academic Training

Academic Training (AT) is a form of employment authorization for students in J-1 status to obtain practical experience in their field of study as listed on the DS-2019.   The Academic Training may be:

  • with or without wages
  • during the course of studies or
  • after completion of the course of study

Undergraduate and masters degree students are eligible for up to 18 months of Academic Training but may never be approved for Academic Training for longer than the length of the academic program.  In other words, if a program of study is for longer than 18 months, Academic Training is available for 18 months.  If a program of study is 9 months (less than 18 months), Academic Training is for 9 months (the length of the program).  There is no distinction between full-time and part-time Academic Training.  Whether a student works part-time or full-time a day of authorized Academic Training is counted as a day of Academic Training.  

Ph.D. degree students are eligible for up to 36 months (3 years) of Academic Training but may never be approved for Academic Training for longer than the length of the academic program  In other words, if the Ph.D. was completed in 2 years, Academic Training is limited to 2 years.  There is no distinction between full-time and part-time Academic Training.  Whether a student works part-time or full-time a day of authorized Academic Training is counted as a day of Academic Training.  

J-1 students whose DS-2019s were issued by other than Syracuse University (Fulbright, IIE, USAID, etc.) must contact their J-1 Program Sponsor for instructions on eligibility and procedures for Academic Training. 

To apply for J-1 Academic Training, J-1 students whose DS-2019s were issued by Syracuse University will need the following documents:

  1. Completed Academic Training Data Sheet
  2. Department recommendation letter (sample)

Must include:

  • Date of completion of the degree
  • Goals and objectives for the training program
  • Description of the training program including its location, name and address of the training supervisor, number of hours of work per week, dates of the training;
  • how the training relates to the student's major field of study; and
  • why it is an integral part of the student's academic program.
  1. Letter from Academic Training employer/organization confirming the opportunity, dates and salary/wage, if paid
  2. Financial documentation of ability to support yourself and J-2 dependents if the Academic Training is unpaid
  3. Proof of health insurance
  4. Copies of previous DS-2019s, passport, visa, and printout of electronic I-94

An application for Academic Training must

  • be filed before the end date of the academic program of study (which may be earlier than the end date on the DS-2019)  
  • must be approved in advance of the training start date which must be within 30 days of the end date of the academic program of study.
  • If your application for Academic Training is approved, you will be given a new DS-2019 noting the Academic Training (from beginning to end date and site of activity).  If necessary your J-1 status will be extended for the period of approved Academic Training.   

J-2 Dependent Employment Authorization

J-2 dependents are eligible to apply to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for employment authorization, so long as the employment is not for the purpose of supporting the J-1. Financial need is not a criterion for employment authorization of a J-2 dependent.

“Income from the spouse’s or dependent’s employment may be used to support the family’s customary recreational and cultural activities and related travel, among other things. Employment will not be authorized if this income is needed to support the J-1 principal alien.” 8 C.F.R. S 214.2(j)(1)(v)(A)

Application Procedure - Applications for employment authorization are made to the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over the J-2’s place of residence. Processing generally takes 3 months.

J-2 Dependents who wish to apply for Employment Authorization should submit the following to USCIS:

  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
  • I-765 filing fee: Check or money order for $410.00 payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"
  • 2 passport style photos (Available through many pharmacies e.g. CVS, Walgreens)
  • Copies of the current DS-2019 of both the J-1 and J-2
  • Copy of passport information page, visa page, and I-94 (back and front) for both J-1 and J-2
  • Letter from J-2 stating why the employment is desired, indicating the source and amount of financial support for the J-1, and specifically stating that the income that the J-2 will derive from employment will not be used for the support of the J-1 exchange visitor.