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.

About OPT

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.

As mentioned above, 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 students who are applying for work authorization after graduation. 

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. Having a job offer is not a requirement to apply for OPT, as OPT is not employer specific. 

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.  

ISSS holds information sessions on Optional Practical Training during the fall and spring terms. These events will be communicated to students via email. Attendance at one information session is required, and students are always encouraged to meet with the ISSS staff to discuss the topic further.

Who Needs 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:

  • Any form of payment

  • Travel allowance

  • Food stipend

  • Room and board

Accepting any kind of compensation from an off-campus employer without employment authorization is a violation to a student’s nonimmigrant status and can lead to the loss of visa status. 

Eligibility

  • You must physically present in the United States at the time you apply for OPT. You cannot apply while outside the U.S.
  • 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.
  • You are not eligible to begin your OPT employment until you’ve received an EAD card from USCIS and the start date on the EAD card has been reached.

Pre-Completion OPT

  • Must have been enrolled as an F-1 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

Post-Completion OPT

  • Must have been enrolled as an F-1 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

 

Updated on 1/13/2022

 

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