Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined as temporary employment to gain practical experience in your major field(s) of study. OPT is most frequently undertaken immediately following graduation (which is knows as Post-Completion OPT), but in some circumstances may also be conducted prior to the completion of a degree program (which is called Pre-Completion OPT).
To learn more about OPT and to get started on your application please schedule a meeting with the International Student & Scholar Advisor.
F-1 students are eligible for 12 months of OPT per educational level. STEM majors may also be eligible for a 24 month STEM OPT extension.
You are eligible to apply for Post-Completion OPT if you meet the following criteria:
- You have been in F-1 status for at least two complete semesters
- You are completing a degree program (post-completion)
- Total period of previously authorized OPT within the current educational level is less than 12 months
- You have not been authorized for 12 months or more of FULL-TIME Curricular Practical Training.
Regarding Pre-Completion OPT:
- For part-time work, you may apply for, and participate in OPT at any time after you have completed two semesters in F-1 status.
- For full-time work during the academic year, you may only participate in OPT after you have completed ALL coursework required for your degree program and are in your thesis/dissertation research phase, but have not yet graduated.
Note: You do not need to have a job already lined up at the time you apply for OPT.
Post-Completion OPT Timeline
- At least 4 months prior to graduation: Schedule an initial meeting with the International Student & Scholar Advisor to learn about the OPT application process
- 90 days prior to the program end date listed on your I-20: First date USCIS may receive your application
- 60 days after your program end date: Last date USCIS may receive your application
- 30-150 days: Current reported time it is taking USCIS to adjudicate OPT applications
- 12 months after OPT start date OR 14 months after your program end date (whichever is sooner): OPT work authorization ends (unless you are a STEM major and file for a STEM extension)
You may not apply for Curricular Practical Training once you have applied for OPT.
Termination of OPT. OPT is automatically terminated when a student accumulates 90 days of unemployment, transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level.
Authorization May Not be Rescinded or Cancelled. This means that, after OPT is authorized by the USCIS, unexpected delays in completing degree requirements, inability to find an appropriate job, or loss of a job may result in loss of otherwise eligible time to work. Once permission to work has been given, it is gone regardless of subsequent occurrences.
Change of Employer After OPT Has Been Authorized. You may change employers after you have begun authorized employment provided the new job is (1) directly related to your major field of study and (2) appropriate for someone having your level of education. You must report all changes and breaks in employment to the International Programs Office.