Optional Practical Training (OPT) Information

What is OPT? 

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a 12-month employment authorization for F-1 students to gain work experience in the academic subject they study. Prior to apply for OPT, students must have full-time F-1 enrollment for at least one academic year. Optional Practical Training is a benefit for F-1 visa students. You remain an F-1 visa student (you DO NOT change your visa) during OPT.

Requirements for students approved for Optional Practical Training

SPECIAL NOTE: MiraCosta College is NOT responsible for your F-1 status when you approved for Optional Practical Training. International students are solely responsible for maintaining all F-1 requirements while on Optional Practical Training, including finding an approved job and maintaining work throughout approved OPT.

Back to Top

When to Apply for OPT

International student can apply for Optional Practical Training in TWO situations:

Back to Top

How to Apply for OPT

Step 1: 

You must attend one of the OPT workshops offered by the IIP and take the OPT Quiz.  You are recommended to attend the workshops provided by the Career Center to prepare for your resume and begin looking for employment.

OPT Quiz

You will need to complete and receive a 100% on the OPT Quiz in order to be eligible to participate in OPT. You may take the quiz as many times as you need to in order to pass. Your results will be sent to the International Office.

Step 2: 

You need to complete the following OPT application requirements:

Step 3:

You are required to make an appointment at the International Office by calling 760-795-6897 to review your application.

Step 4: 

When meeting with the International Student Advisor, please bring the following documents:

Step 5:

After your application is reviewed, you need to mail* the documents by using certify mail with return receipt to the following address:

Step 6:

Bring your OPT receipt notice and OPT/EAD card to the IIP for copy.

Step 7: 

Once the OPT/EAD card is approved, you will be eligible for applying for a Social Security Number.

Back to Top

Reporting Requirements While on OPT

Click here to download OPT Best Practice Guidelines

On April 8, 2008 the Department of Homeland Security published new F-1 OPT regulations that became effective immediately. This is a summary of those obligations required for international students to report the following information to the International Office while on OPT.  

Click here to update your OPT information online

    • Report any change of your name or address of residence
    • Report the name and address of your employer. If you have more than one employer, you must provide each employer's name and address. 
    • Report any change to employment including employment end date and any changes to employer's name or address. Students on OPT must be able to provide evidence from the employer that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment. Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns in your major field of study. 
    • If you decide not to use OPT and depart the U.S. to return home or to another country.

Failure to report any information required for OPT students will result in your F-1 status termination.

Back to Top

Traveling While OPT Pending and After OPT Approval

Can I re-enter if my request for OPT pending?

The information below is based on the website administered by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as of December 4, 2014.

Yes, but traveling during this time should be undertaken with caution. USCIS may send you a request for evidence while you are away, however, so you would want to make sure you have provided a correct U.S. address both to your DSO and on the application and would be able to send in requested documents. Also, if USCIS approves your OPT application, you will be expected to have your EAD in hand to re-enter the United States. Like a request for further information, USCIS can only send the EAD to your U.S. address.

You will need the following documents in order to return to the U.S. after receiving OPT approval

Back to Top

Tax Issues While Employed on OPT

Can I go to school while on OPT?

While on OPT, students must be working. However, a student can enroll for one or two classes with approval from MiraCosta College but CANNOT begin a new program of study.

Do I need to pay income taxes while employed on OPT?

Yes, all F-1 students with employment in the U.S. must file federal and state income taxes each year.  Based on your income level and other factors, you may be subject to paying income taxes.  See instructions on how to file income taxes here.

Do I need to pay Social Security and Medicare Taxes?

Generally speaking, all F-1 students on OPT are exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes. Please refer to the Internal Revenue Services' website for additional information. Here is a useful link from the Social Security Administration with information on taxing income from F-1 students.

Back to Top

Steps After OPT

How long can I stay in the U.S. after my OPT expires?

You can stay in the U.S. up to 60 days. This only applies to students who have completed OPT. Students on post-completion OPT who have accrued more than three months of unemployment are considered "out of status" and are not eligible for a grace period.

Can I return to school after completing OPT?

Yes, if you obtain a new I-20 for the next program of studies within 60 days of your OPT completion. Before receiving the new I-20, you must complete a school transfer request and fax it to the International Office at 760-757-8209 with the admissions letter from the new school. 

Can I change to another status in the U.S. after completing OPT?

You must contact an immigration attorney to figure out your options prior to the expiration of your OPT.

Back to Top

Contact Information


P 1.760.795.6897
F 1.760.757.8209

Campus Map

Oceanside Campus
Building 3400, Rm 3443
(Parking lot 3B)

Find the MiraCosta College Institute for International Perspectives on Facebook

Mailing Address

MiraCosta College
IIP, #12A
1 Barnard Drive
Oceanside, CA 92056

Office Hours

Monday to Friday (8 a.m.-5 p.m.)