NOTE: This page offers information regarding the 12-month period of OPT for which most students in F-1 status are eligible. If you are seeking information about the 24-month extension of OPT for students in STEM fields, click here.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of F-1 immigration status that permits up to 12 months of off-campus employment for the purpose of gaining practical experience in the student's chosen field of study (based on your major, or majors). Pre-Completion OPT is for continuing students and Post-Completion OPT is for seniors who are applying for work authorization after graduation. Students must be enrolled in F-1 student status for a full academic year before being eligible to apply for OPT or must have been in a qualifying status prior to their F-1 status. While a student may work for any employer in the U.S., the job duties must be directly related to the student’s major area of study.
Students who provide a service in exchange for a form a remuneration from an off-campus U.S. employer should obtain employment authorization prior to engaging in the activity. This includes any form of pay, a travel allowance, a food stipend, room and board, etc. Accepting any kind of compensation from an off-campus employer without OPT employment authorization is a violation of a student's non-immigrant status, and can have serious consequences on a student's current and future status.
It can take up to 90 days to receive OPT employment authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). So, ideally, students should apply to ISSS at least 3 months before their anticipated start date. (Note: Seniors may apply to USCIS up to 90 days prior to their program end date.) A secured job is NOT a requirement to apply for OPT, as OPT is not employer specific.
Please note that you must be in the United States to apply for OPT. You cannot apply from overseas.
ISSS holds workshops on Optional Practical Training during fall term and early in the spring semester. Please see the events calendar on the main page for announcements on dates and times. (To familiarize yourself with the information, you may review the OPT Presentation featured in the right side bar on this web page.) You may also contact ISSS at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an individual OPT meeting.
OPT applications are available for download on the right hand side of this page. Students must apply to ISSS for an OPT recommendation in SEVIS and then the student submits the required OPT application materials to USCIS.
A complete OPT application for ISSS consists of the three application forms and supporting documents listed in the instructions:
1. OPT Instructions
2. Three OPT application forms
- Middlebury College OPT application
- Governmental application (OPT Form I-765)
- Letter regarding mailing address (contained in the OPT Instructions Document)
For more information, please refer to the OPT Instructions document or to the OPT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).