Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit for students in 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.
There are two types of OPT: pre-completion OPT, for continuing students, and post-completion OPT, for students who will be completing their program and are applying for work authorization postgraduation. See below for eligibility details.
While students may work for any employer in the U.S., the job duties must be directly related to the student’s area of study and commensurate with the student’s educational level.
Who Needs OPT?
Any student seeking off-campus employment must obtain OPT. Students must have employment authorization to receive any kind of compensation from an off-campus employer. If you have a paid experience that does not qualify for Curricular Practical Training (CPT), then you will need to apply for OPT. Examples of compensation may include the following:
Room and board
Accepting any kind of compensation from an off-campus employer without OPT employment authorization is a violation to a student's nonimmigrant status and can lead to the loss of visa status.
You must be in the United States to apply for OPT. You cannot apply from overseas.
Must have been enrolled as a student for at least one academic year by the requested start date
Pre-completion OPT counts toward the 12 months of standard work authorization
Part-time pre-completion counts at a half rate against 12 months
Must have been enrolled as a student for at least one academic year prior to degree completion
Must not have used full-time pre-completion OPT for 12 months during program, or full-time CPT for 12 months
OPT Application Timeline
Please review the OPT application checklist, which includes access to the OPT application.
It is required that you attend an OPT workshop prior to applying. Workshops will be held year-round, and information about dates and times will be sent to your Institute email address.
A student should apply at least three months before the anticipated start date, as it can take up to 90 days to receive OPT employment authorization. A secured job is not a requirement to apply for OPT, as OPT is not employer specific.