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.