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Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion). However, all periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT.

Types of OPT

All OPT must be directly related to the student’s major area of study. Students may participate in OPT in two different ways:

  • Pre-completion OPT:  F-1 students may apply to participate in pre-completion OPT after they have been enrolled in school for one full academic year. Students authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT must work part-time while school is in session. They may work full time when school is not in session.          
  • Post-completion OPT:  F-1 students may apply to participate in post-completion OPT after completing their studies. Students authorized for post-completion OPT may work part-time (at least 20 hours per week) or full-time.

Please Note: Practical training may be authorized to an F-1 student who has been lawfully enrolled on a full time basis for one full academic year at a college, university, conservatory, or seminary that has been certified by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to enroll F-1 students.  The “one full academic year” requirement may be satisfied while in another nonimmigrant category, not just while in F-1 status.  Students may participate in OPT both before and after completing their studies. However, all periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT.

STEM OPT Extension

Students who have earned degrees in certain science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields may apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT employment authorization if they:

  • Are an F-1 student who received a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree included on the STEM Designated Degree Program List (PDF),
  • Are employed by an employer enrolled in E-Verify, and
  • Received an initial grant of post-completion OPT employment authorization based on their STEM degree.

If you are interested in applying for a STEM OPT extension, please see our Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) page for more information.

Applying for OPT

Generally, if you are an F-1 student who wants to apply for OPT, you must:

  1. Request that your designated school official (DSO) at your academic institution recommend the OPT. Your DSO will make the recommendation by endorsing your Form I-20 and making the appropriate notation in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
  2. Properly file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with USCIS, accompanied by the required fee and the supporting documentation as described in the form instructions.

When to apply

If you are applying based on a…

For…

Then you…

STEM degree

Pre-completion OPT

  • Must apply within 30 days of your DSO entering the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record, and

 

  • May apply up to 90 days before you complete a full academic year, as long as you do not start OPT employment until you complete one full academic year.

 

Initial post-completion OPT

  • Must apply within 30 days of your DSO entering the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record, and

 

  • May apply up to 90 days before you complete your degree, but no later than 60 days after you complete your degree.

 

 

Post-completion STEM OPT extension

  • Must apply within 60 days of your DSO entering the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record, and

 

  • May apply up to 90 days before you complete your degree, but no later than 60 days after you complete your degree.

 

Non-STEM degree

Pre-completion OPT

  • Must apply within 30 days of your DSO entering the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record, and

 

  • May apply up to 90 days before you complete a full academic year, as long as you do not start OPT employment until you complete one full academic year.

 

Post-completion OPT

  • Must apply within 30 days of your DSO entering the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record, and

 

  • May apply up to 90 days before you complete your degree, but no later than 60 days after you complete your degree.

 

You may begin your OPT only after USCIS approves your Form I-765 and you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Cap-gap Extension for F-1 Students with Approved H-1B Petitions

If you are an F-1 student with a timely filed H-1B petition and change of status request, and your F-1 status and employment authorization will expire before the change of status to H-1B occurs (typically October 1), you may be eligible for a cap-gap extension. Go to our Cap-Gap Extension page for more information.

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