Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined as “temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student’s major area of study.”

Watch the Spring 2021 OPT Coffee Hour Video Recording!

A student is eligible to apply for a total of 12 months of OPT per higher education level. A student can use a chosen amount of the 12-month allotment of OPT time before graduation (Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training - Pre-OPT) and a chosen amount after graduation (Post-Completion Optional Practical Training - Post OPT), as long as the aggregate does not exceed the 12 months per educational level.

Any time authorized as PRE-OPT is deducted from the 12-month allotment. If a student has used 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) in the same academic level, he/she will lose eligibility for OPT.

Students wishing to apply for Pre or Post-OPT will need to read through the following tabs in their entirety and submit an application to ISSO for an OPT recommended I-20. Then, the student must submit the required documents to USCIS to obtain an Employment Authorization Card (EAC).

The student may only begin working once they have received the EAC and the start date has commenced.

What is an overview of the process of applying for OPT?

  1. Determine if you are eligible for OPT by reading through the OPT information, including the regulatory requirements on OPT
  2. Meet with an ISSO Advisor during advising hours
  3. PART ONE: Apply for an OPT Recommended I-20 from ISSO (Processed in 5-7 business days)
  4. PART TWO: Apply to USCIS for your Employment Authorization Card (EAC)
  5. Once you have received your EAC and the start date on your EAC has commenced, you may begin working.
  6. Fulfill all reporting requirements for the duration of OPT.

IF YOU DO NOT APPLY FOR OPT: You have a 60-day grace period beyond the completion date of your I-20. You may not work during this 60-day grace period. Also, if you depart the U.S. during this period, you will not be able to re-enter in F-1 status. You may, however, use this time to transfer your F-1 program to another school or to apply to USCIS for a change of status to another nonimmigrant classification.

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