Office of International Programs
Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment for practical training that is directly related to the student's program of study. F-1 students may receive 12 months of OPT per educational level.
- Pre-Completion OPT - Part-time work while continuing as a full-time student.
- Coursework Completion OPT - Part-time or full-time work for students who have completed all course work excluding thesis or dissertation.
- Post-Completion OPT - Full-time work after graduation.
- H-1B Cap Gap Relief - Between OPT and H-1B.
- 24-Month OPT Extension - Second OPT for students in certain STEM degrees.
General Application Process
- Review the requirements and processes for your selected OPT type.
- Complete the appropriate forms.
- Submit required documents to International Student, Scholar and Faculty Services (ISSFS).
- Applicants for pre- and post-completion OPT will meet with the international student advisor at which their OPT application will be assembled.
- Applicants for 24-Month OPT extension will assemble their own OPT application packet.
- All students are responsible for mailing their OPT application packets to USCIS for processing.
- USCIS processing time for OPT applications is approximately 3 months. If approved, USCIS will mail you an Employment Authorization Card.
- Limit unemployment.
- Employment is directly related to program of study.
- Report changes in employment and address.
- STEM OPT students have additional reporting requirements.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) limits the number of days of unemployment permitted during OPT.
- Students in standard OPT Period – Limited to a maximum of 90 days during the Post-Completion OPT period.
- Students with a 24-Month OPT Extension – An additional 60 days is provided, limiting unemployment to a combined total maximum of 150 days during the 24-month OPT period.
Students should report all periods of employment to avoid unnecessary accrual of unemployment days.
Initial OPT - Standard employment, contract employment, self-employment and volunteer
positions. All jobs must be appropriate for most recent field of study.
STEM OPT - Only employers who participate in the federal E-Verify work authorization system. No part-time or volunteer positions.
Students participating in OPT are required to report any change of official name, address, employer name and address, and change of employment status within 10 days of each change. Students participating in 24-Month OPT extension must also submit validation reports six months and 12 months after the start of the extension period. Failure to fulfill all reporting requirements may result in termination of F-1 status.
Use the fillable OPT/STEM OPT Extension Employment Report form to update your international advisor about any employment changes during OPT/STEM OPT.
International Travel During OPT
Students on OPT must have the following documents to re-enter the US:
- Valid, unexpired passport with an expiration date at least six months into the future.
- Valid, unexpired visa.
- OPT Form I-20.
- OPT Employment Authorization Card.
- Proof of employment.
DHS has indicated that a student may leave the US while OPT is pending, but if the OPT is approved the student will need the Employment Authorization card and proof of employment to re-enter.
ISSFS recommends that students do not leave the US while a 24-Month OPT extension application is pending. It is especially risky to attempt a visa renewal during OPT.