Optional Practical Training for F-1 students
Optional Practical Training (OPT) offers F-1 students an opportunity for temporary employment directly related to their major area of study. This training is not part of the academic curriculum.
Students become eligible if they have maintained their F-1 status for at least an academic year (two semesters) prior to applying by enrolling full-time and possessing a valid I-20. Approved full-time study abroad may also be counted toward the required two semesters as long as the student completed one semester in the U.S. prior to studying abroad.
Time Permitted on OPT
A maximum of twelve months of full-time optional practical training per degree program level (bachelor’s master’s, doctor’s) may be granted to F-1 students. If part-time OPT is granted (twenty hours per week or less), it is deducted from the remaining OPT at half the full-time rate. Students become eligible for an additional twelve months with each higher degree level. Should a student participate in twelve months of full-time curricular practical training in a program of study, they lose the opportunity to pursue optional practical training in that degree program. All practical training must be completed within fourteen months of the program end date.
Applying for OPT
Eligible students may apply for part-time optional practical training when school is in session and full-time during summer or other vacation periods. It must be full-time if this temporary employment follows the completion of a degree program. F-1 students that have completed all of their course work with the exception of a thesis or dissertation may apply for full-time post completion optional practical training.
Applicants must apply for all practical training prior to completion of their degree program or they will lose the opportunity to participate. For purposes of OPT applications, students should note that U.S. Immigration considers the degree completion date as the date that all requirements for the degree program are met and not the date that a degree is conferred (graduation). Therefore, students completing their degrees during the middle of a semester must have their OPT application materials at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before their degree program end date. Since it may take over ninety days to receive work authorization from USCIS, students should plan accordingly.