Optional Practical Training
*Attendance at an OPT Workshop (held every Monday at 3:30 p.m. at the International Student Center; prior registration not required) is mandatory before an advisor can meet with you on an individual basis to answer specific questions about your current situation and OPT.
What is Optional Practical Training?
F-1 regulations define OPT as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." If authorized, the employment you obtain must be commensurate with your educational level. This type of practical training can be used prior to the completion of your program of study or upon graduation. The standard OPT allows students to apply for 12 months of employment authorization per progressive educational level.
Am I eligible for OPT?
If you are currently in F-1 status and have, at a minimum, been enrolled as a full-time student for at least one academic year (in either valid F-1 status or another valid nonimmigrant status that permits full-time study), you are eligible for OPT.
What are my options for OPT?
There are two types of standard OPT:
◊ Pre-Completion: OPT can be authorized at the following times:
- During the student's annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session; can request part-time or full-time
- While school is in session, provided that employment does not exceed 20 hours a week while school is in session; part-time
- After completion of all required coursework for the degree while the student is completing a thesis or dissertation; full-time
◊ Post-Completion: OPT can be authorized at the following time:
- After completion of the course of study; only full-time can be requested
- Students in a master's or doctoral degree program, after submission of all degree requirements; only full-time can be requested
How do I apply?
◊ Attend an OPT Workshop.
◊ Submit OPT Application Packet to ISSS.
◊ ISSS will then review documents and recommend OPT in SEVIS.
◊ Retrieve OPT application packet from ISSS; Processing time is 7-10 business days.
◊ Send your OPT application request to the appropriate USCIS Service Center. This must be sent to USCIS within 30 days of the ISSS recommendation. The application process is NOT complete until YOU mail your application to USCIS.
When should I apply for OPT?
If applying for Pre-Completion OPT:
- You can apply 90 days before the requested OPT start date.
If applying for Post-Completion OPT:
- You can apply 90 days prior to the program end-date and up to 60 days after the program end-date. The "program end date" is the last date of the semester OR the final date you submit all required documentation to the Graduate School.
When can I start working under OPT?
You are not authorized to begin work until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS.
How does unemployment effect my OPT and F-1 status?
During the period of OPT, maintaining your status is dependent on employment. During the initial, 12-month period, you may not be unemployed for more than an aggregate of 90 days from the start date on your EAD.
If I participated in Curricular Practical Training (CPT), will I lose my opportunity for OPT after I graduate?
If you have been authorized (in total) for one year or more of Full-Time Curricular Practical Training, you do not have any remaining OPT eligibility. Full-time CPT that has not met (or surpassed) the one year mark does not affect your eligibility for authorization of OPT. Part-time CPT does not affect your OPT eligibility.
How will my employer know I am authorized to work under OPT?
If your OPT application is approved you will receive an Approval Notice from USCIS. This notice will include an authorization card called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
If your employer has questions or concerns about hiring international students, please refer them to "What Employers Should Know About Hiring International Students." (This form was developed by the International Career Opportunities Network (ICON).)
Can I travel outside of the U.S. while on OPT?
It is possible to travel while on OPT, however it depends on what stage your application is at in the approval process. Speak with an ISSS advisor for further detail on documents required to re-enter the U.S.
Do I need to notify the ISSS once my OPT has been approved?
Yes, you must provide a copy of your EAD to ISSS once you receive the approval notice. If you are on post-completion OPT, it is your responsibility to notify ISSS within 10 days of any changes to your name, address, employer, or interruption in employment.
NOTE: Even if no changes have occurred, you must update your record with ISSS 6 months and 12 months from the start date listed on the EAD. To do so, please complete the Optional Practical Training (OPT) Update Form available on the ISSS website. Failure to do so is a violation of your F-1 status.
If you have any additional questions, please speak with an advisor at ISSS or attend an OPT workshop. OPT Workshops are held every Monday from 3:30 pm- 5pm at the International Student Center.
Can I extend my OPT?
YES! There are two types of extensions for OPT:
17-Month Stem Extension:
Who is eligible for the Stem Extension?
- Students who have obtained a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral students in certain STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields.
- For a list of academic programs that qualify within the STEM fields please visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website: http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/stem-list.pdf
- Students who are currently on Post-Completion OPT.Students whose employer is registered with E-Verify.
- E-Verify is a free internet-based system operated in partnership with the Social Security Administration that helps employers to determine the employment eligibility of newly-hired employees. Please check with your employer’s human resources department to see if they participate. More information on E-Verify can be found at http://www.uscis.gov/e-verify
- Students who have not received the 17-month extension previously. There is a one-time limit for the 17-month extension.
How do I apply for the STEM Extension?
To request the STEM Extension you must complete and submit the OPT 17-Month Extension form. You will also need to submit the following for ISSS to process your application:
-Newly completed I-765
-Copy of pages 1 and 3 of your previous I-20 with OPT authorization
-Copy of pages 1 and 3 of your new I-20 with ISSS recommendation and signature on page 3
-Copy of the front & back of your paper I-94 OR print out of your electronic I-94 page (www.cbp.gov/i94)
-Copy of passport identity page, expiration page, visa page, and any previous EADs (including approval notices).
-Provide one (1) of the following: official transcripts, unofficial transcripts or a copy of the diploma showing the level and program of study.
You will then send the application to USCIS. The fee is $380.
When can I apply for the STEM Extension?
Applications can be filed up to 120 days prior to end of the current post-completion OPT. USCIS must receive before the current OPT expires. USCIS recommends filing the application between the 120th and 90th day before OPT expires. If the 17-month extension was filed prior to (before) the end date of the post-completion OPT, the student can continue employment while the application is pending, until a final decision is made or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
What are the Employment Specifics for the STEM Extension?Students can be employed by multiple employers or change employers while on the STEM extension IF ALL employers are enrolled in E-Verify. If you change employers or have multiple employers, you must report the change to ISSS. You are also allowed to volunteer. If a STEM student receives a 17-month extension, they may not be unemployed for more than an aggregate of 120 days, applied to the entire 29-month period of OPT. There is no grace period if you accumulate 120 days of unemployment. On the 121st day, you are considered out of status and need to leave the U.S.
Who is eligible for the Cap-Gap Extension?
The Cap-Gap Extension is available to a student who is on OPT and is a beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting change of status and an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year, the student’s legal status and work authorization will be automatically extended
How do I apply for the Cap-Gap Extension?
To apply for the Cap-Gap extension, you must submit proof that your petition has been filed to ISSS. You will then receive a new I-20 from ISSS indicating your eligibility for the Cap-Gap extension. You should contact ISSS with updated information regarding your petition status. We will then issue the appropriate documentation according to your petition status.
What else should I know about the Cap-Gap Extension?
- If the H-1B petition filed on the student’s behalf is rejected, denied or revocated, these privileges would automatically terminate.
- It is the student’s responsibility to be in contact with your sponsoring employer and ISSS so that you are aware of your petition status and that you have the appropriate documentation to verify your work authorization and status in the U.S.
- Your status continues to be dependent on employment. The 90-day limitation on unemployment continues during the cap-gap extension.
- Do not travel while on the Cap-Gap extension.
*Note: Contact an International Student Advisor at the ISSS for additional information regarding the extension options.