How to Apply for Optional Practical Training
- Complete the OPT Request Form with Instructions.
- Complete the Post-Completion OPT Acknowledgment, if applicable.
- Complete the Application for Employment Authorization I-765.
- Review Important Information about OPT and OPT Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
F-1 OPT EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is off-campus employment authorization that lets F-1 students get work experience their major field of study. The amount of work you are permitted is a maximum of 12 months of FULL-TIME employment for each higher educational level you pursue in the U.S. You can use it during or after your studies. You can work for any employer, anywhere in the country.
Think of it as an OPT bank account! In that account are 12 months of full-time optional practical training for your current program of study. Let’s say you would like to work full-time for three months after your sophomore (second) year in your bachelor’s degree. That is a three-month withdrawal of full-time employment, leaving you 9 months left to spend during bachelor’s degree. During your junior year, you decide to work part-time(less than 20 hours a week) for two semesters or nine months. Since part-time employment counts at half the full-time rate, you’ve made a withdrawal of 4 ½ months of full-time employment. This leaves you with 4 ½ months of full-time employment still in your account to use after you graduate.
If you decide to spend all of your OPT after you complete your degree, you must request all of it at once, that is the full year. You cannot use it in pieces.
If you decide to go on for your Master’s degree or Doctorate degree after completing your OPT for your previous degree level, your bank account will be FULL again with another 12 months available to you!
How can it be used?
Summer vacation and semester break: either part-time or full-time employment
While school is in session: part-time ONLY
After completing all course requirements for a baccalaureate, master’s or doctoral degree, excluding the thesis or equivalent: part or full-time employment
After completing ALL requirements for the course of study: full-time employment ONLY
How can you qualify for it?
You must have been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year.
You must be able to describe how the type of work you are seeking directly relates to your major. You do not have to have a job offer to apply for OPT. If you are applying for pre-completion of studies OPT, however, is wise that you be as sure as possible of a job so that you do not waste any of your OPT “account.”
You cannot already have used 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training.
You may apply for Post-Completion of Studies OPT up to three months before completing your program of study, but no later than 60 days after. If you apply within the 60 day period after completion, you are likely not to receive your full 12-month OPT benefit due to USCIS processing times.
How do you apply?
Download an application for F-1 Optional Practical Training Employment Authorization, fill it out, and return it to the Global Programs Office. When you return it, we will review your application to make sure that you qualify. If we agree that you do, we will issue a new Form I-20 recommending your OPT which you must come in to sign. After you sign it, we will send your application to USCIS for processing.
How long does it take?
After you return your application to the Global Programs Office, plan that it will take about three months for your EAD (Employment Authorization Document) to be returned to us from USCIS. It could take less or more time depending on their workload. If there is an emergency and you need the EAD sooner, you may request Expeditious Handling of your application.
NOTE: It is important to take USCIS processing time into consideration when planning the date you want to start working. You cannot begin to work until you physically have your EAD.
What if you want to travel before starting Post-Completion OPT?
Contact either Ann Robinson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sophia Ng (email@example.com) before making any travel plans if your OPT is still pending USCIS authorization. You are required to have your EAD to return to the U.S. and should also be able to prove that you have a job or job offer.
How can you extend your OPT?
You can extend Pre-Completion OPT by filing another application. You may not continue to work until it has been authorized by USCIS.
Only qualified STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) graduates may qualify for an extension of their Post-Completion OPT. However, you will be entitled to another 12-month period of OPT if you go on to a higher level of study.
Study and Post-Completion OPT
Immigration regulations state that, “Authorization to engage in optional practical training employment is automatically terminated when the student transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level.” Therefore, we suggest that you should not continue your U.S. studies until after your OPT has ended.