Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training allows F-1 students a real work experience directly related to their program of study. OPT may be done pre-completion of the degree or post-completion. Most students opt for post-completion, hoping it may lead to long-term employment. However, it is recommended that you talk to your DSO to find out what would work best for you.

You are eligible to apply if:

  • You have been a full time student in good standing for one full academic year
  • You are currently in F-1 visa status
  • You have not exceeded 365 days of full time CPT
  • You have or have not secured a job at the time of application.

You are eligible for 12 months of OPT, (depending on your application date) and may be eligible for a 17 month extension if you are in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, and math). While approved for OPT, you are required to report events to your DSO, including employer’s name and address, and your personal address. While everyone’s timing and situation is different, it is advised that you apply as close as possible to 90 days prior to completing your degree. You may also apply up to 60 days after graduating, but this will reduce the amount of time you’re able to work.

Keep in mind:

  • There is a $410 filing fee
  • Once your OPT card (EAD – employment authorization document) is issued, there is a 90 day limit for unemployment. Once you’ve exceeded 90 days without work, you must leave the U.S. or obtain other status. (You can count up to 20 hours per week as full time, as well as the same in a volunteer position.)
  • There are other things to consider relative to OPT, such as travel, taxes, health insurance, etc... 

If you would like to apply for OPT, please review the following documents. You will then need to make an appointment with your DSO to complete the application.  Your DSO must submit your application into SEVIS and issue a new I-20 before the application can be mailed to USCIS.

It is important that you follow these guidelines for your photos.  Applications have been returned with photos that are too grainy or poor quality.  Photos should also be no older than 30 days.  Check with the LDC for information about photography options.



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