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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment authorization which allows F-1 students to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience.

General Information

You may be entitled to up to 12 months of optional practical training per educational level. If a student begins a new academic program at a higher level, the student is eligible for another 12 months of OPT. There is a filing fee of $380 to receive authorization for OPT.

Please note that Optional Practical Training requires authorization from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which typically takes 3-6 months to obtain. We recommend that you apply no less than 90 days prior to graduation.

Pre-completion OPT

  • OPT before completion of the course of study.
  • Only 12 total months of OPT is available, and OPT done before a degree is completed will count towards the 12-month total and reduce time available after the degree is awarded.
  • A student who still has coursework remaining to complete his or her educational objective or degree program is limited to 20 hours per week of OPT while school is in session. Such a student can, however, apply for full-time authorization during his or her annual vacation, and during other official school breaks.
  • If a student has completed all coursework but for thesis or dissertation, he or she can apply for either part-time or full-time pre-completion OPT

Post-completion OPT

  • OPT done after completion of the course of study
  • Apply for post-completion OPT up to 90 days before or no later than 60 days after the program end date.
  • Finish OPT within 14 months after the completion of your academic program.

Early application for May grads: Feb 10th, 2015 (no sooner than 90 days before graduation)

Deadline for application for May grads: July 8th, 2015 (no later than 60 days after graduation)

OPT Eligibility and Information

  • Must:
    • Be a full-time student for one academic school year before the OPT is to begin.
    • Obtain employment directly related to the student's major area of study
  • Can engage in OPT for up to a total of 12 months from your requested start date
  • A job offer is not required to be eligible for or to apply for OPT but the student is expected to work or be actively seeking employment after the OPT approval card (EAD) is issued. Students may only accrue 90 days of unemployment during post-completion OPT.
  • Employment does NOT have to be paid employment to be considered "employed" for OPT. Even if the work is unpaid, one must work a minimum of 20 hours/week and obtain proof of employment such as a letter from the employer. Please be aware of US labor laws that require pay for certain types of work.
  • Do not begin work until you have received the employment authorization card in the mail. Any employment outside the dates authorized on the Form I-20 is illegal work, and places you outside of legal status in the United States. Your legal status as an F-1 student is terminated if you work without authorization.
  • Please note that you must stop on campus employment after your program completion date unless you have received your EAD card with a valid start date and the on campus employment is directly related to your course of study.

Travel and OPT

  • Please note that travel while OPT is pending can be more difficult. If you travel outside of the country before your program end date but while OPT is pending, please bring all updated documentation.
  • If you leave the U.S. and wish to return after the program completion date of your program, you must apply for OPT BEFORE leaving the United States. If you leave before applying, you are no longer eligible to apply or re-enter the US with your present F-1 papers.
  • To reenter during the OPT application process, you must show special documentation to return.
    You will need the following:
      • Valid passport
      • Valid F-1 visa stamp
      • I-20 with OPT recommendation and recent travel signature (within the past 6 months)
    • If your OPT is pending (not yet approved), you will also need:
      • OPT Receipt Notice (proof of application) 
    • If your OPT is approved, you will also need:
      • Unexpired EAD card
      • Proof of employment (offer letter or employment confirmation letter from employer)

Responsibilities of the student while on OPT

  1. Inform the DSO within 10 days of any change in name, address or employment (including an interruption of employment)
  2. Connect with the DSO if you plan to travel outside of the country during OPT
  3. Make plans for after post-completion OPT:
    • Prepare to leave the country within 60 days of OPT end date
    • Apply to another academic institution for further study
    • Take steps to otherwise maintain legal immigration status