Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary permission to work in the United States in order to gain additional knowledge about your field of study. OPT is work authorization available to international students who have been in valid F-1 status for at least two consecutive semesters at Gordon-Conwell and who plan to seek employment in the U.S. in their field of study. Eligible students may apply for "pre-completion OPT" (before completion of program) and/or "post-completion OPT" (after completion of program).

To qualify for OPT, international students must meet the following criteria:

  • One full academic year of full-time study completed
  • Valid F-1 status
  • Good academic standing
  • Employment in your major field of study
  • Have not regained legal status through reentry during the previous academic year

Students who meet the above criteria should keep in mind the following:

How long can I pursue OPT?

  • F-1 students are eligible for a total of twelve months of OPT per educational level. This means at the masters degree level (MDiv, ThM) you have twelve months of OPT.

When should I apply for OPT?

  • The earliest you can apply for OPT is 90 days before the program completion date indicated on your I-20.
  • The latest date the USCIS will accept your application is 60 days after your completion date.
  • In addition, OPT applications must be submitted to USCIS within 30 days of receiving an OPT I-20 from Gordon-Conwell.
  • Once the OPT application is submitted to USCIS, it is very difficult to change or cancel the application.

How do I apply for OPT?

OPT is recommended by Gordon-Conwell and the International Student Advisor, but final approval is granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). International students should do the following to begin their OPT application process:

What do I do after I apply for OPT?

  • Once your packet is mailed, USCIS will send you a Form I-797 Notice of Action indicating that they have received your application and that your case will be decided on within 90 days. DO NOT LOSE THIS FORM!
  • This form will probably come to you in approximately two or three weeks after you submit your application, though you may hear back before that time. It will also have a tracking number for your application, which will look something like “EAC-11-222-3333.”
  • You may check the status of your application online at www.USCIS.gov with this tracking number. Look for the case status online link and enter the EAC# in the appropriate field.

Helpful Information

Questions? Contact the International Student Office at esl@gordonconwell.edu or call 704-527-9909.