Optional Practical Training (OPT)

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

  • OPT is off-campus employment authorization that allows F-1 students to gain work experience in the major/field of study in which they are currently studying.
  • You may use OPT during (pre-completion) or after (post-completion) your studies.
  • The maximum amount of work you are permitted is 12 months of full-time employment for each higher educational level you pursue in the U.S. If you work part-time (less than 20 hours per week) before graduation (pre-completion OPT), your work time accrues at ½ rate (for instance, if you work part-time for six months, you’ve only used three months of your OPT).
  • Certain majors in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields also qualify for a 24-month extension of OPT after completing their post-completion OPT. Please refer to the STEM OPT page for more information.

Pre- and Post-Completion OPT

When and how can it be used?

  • During the summer vacation and semester break, you may apply to do either part-time or full-time OPT employment.
  • While school is in session, you may apply to do part-time OPT employment only.
  • After completion of all course requirements for a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree (excluding the thesis or equivalent), you may apply for part-time or full-time OPT employment.
  • After the completion of ALL requirements for your course of study, you may apply only for full-time OPT employment.

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, but if you are applying for pre-completion of studies OPT, it is wise that you be as sure as possible of a job so that you don’t waste any of your 12 months of OPT time.
  • You may apply for post-completion OPT up to three months before completing your program of study, but not 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.
  • If you have already used 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training, you are not eligible for any OPT.

How do you apply?

  • Please refer to the Optional Practical Training section of the Forms and Documents page for all of the application materials as well as a copy of our OPT presentation.