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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Last updated July 8, 2021.

NOTE: This page offers information regarding the 12-month period of standard 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.

Processing times for the I-765 Application for Employment Authorization vary and cannot be guaranteed by ISSS. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may take more than 90 days to adjudicate an application. Their processing times are subject to change without notice. For information regarding eligibility requirements for pre and post-completion OPT, please review the OPT Presentation located in the blue sidebar on this webpage.  

Please note that you must be in the United States in valid F-1 status to apply for OPT. You cannot apply from overseas.

Recent graduates cannot apply for OPT if they depart the U.S. after their program completion date, as they will no longer be maintaining their F-1 status once they leave the country.

ISSS holds information sessions on Optional Practical Training during the fall and spring terms. These events will be communicated to students via email. Students should attend to hear the most current information regarding OPT and are always encouraged to meet with the ISSS staff to discuss the topic further.

OPT application materials are available for download in the blue sidebar on this webpage. Students must apply to ISSS for an OPT recommendation in SEVIS before submitting a completed application to USCIS.

For more information, please refer to the OPT Instructions document or to the OPT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).


International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS)

Service Building - Second Floor
14 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753
Phone: 802 443-5858