Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Purpose of OPT
Optional practical training (OPT) is an F-1 student benefit authorized by the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) that allows for temporary employment directly related to the student's major area of study either before (pre-) and/or after (post-) completion of studies. The work done during OPT does not count towards course credit; therefore it is the student’s option to apply for it.
An F-1 student could be authorized to receive up to a total of 12 months of practical training per educational level (one per Bachelor’s, one per Master’s, and one per Doctorate) and become eligible to apply for another 12 months when they change to higher educational level(i.e., Bachelors to Masters; Masters to PhD).
No offer of employment is required to apply for OPT, but the student is expected to work or be seeking employment.
Students should apply at least two months prior to the desired start date of employment. This will allow enough time for the U.S. Custom and Immigration Service (USCIS) to issue the Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
Eligibility criteria for OPT
- Students must be in valid F-1 status at the time of application.
- Students must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis at a USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) approved school for one academic year (fall and spring semesters only) before being eligible for OPT. It is important to know that auditing courses or enrolling in correspondence courses do not fulfill full-time student status requirements.
- Students in English language training programs are not eligible for OPT.
- Students who have one year or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) become ineligible for OPT. Use of part-time CPT does not affect eligibility for OPT.
- Students may engage in OPT for any employer for the duration of OPT authorization; as long as the employment qualifies under OPT standards.
- Students are NOT PERMITTED to begin employment until they receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and until the start date listed on the EAD.
Types of OPT
- Pre-Completion OPT
Pre-Completion OPT is temporary employment that takes place prior to the completion of a student’s course of study (i.e. prior to the program end date on the I-20).
- Post-Completion OPT
Post-Completion OPT is temporary employment that takes places after completion of a student’s course of study (i.e. after the program end date on the I-20).
- STEM Extension OPT
F-1 students who completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or a doctoral degree in a STEM field
(STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and are currently engaged in post-completion OPT may apply for the STEM extension if they have a job or job offer from an E-Verify employer. For a list of STEM designated degrees, please visit U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Students interested in applying for OPT should make an appointment with the International Student Office (ISO).Bring the following items with you to your appointment
- Completed form I-765. Use the International Student Office address on #3 of the application form. The address is: WTAMU Box 60745, Canyon, TX 79016.
- I-20 form, passport, form I-94 and copies of any previous EAD's (work cards).
- Bank draft or money order for $380 (N0 Personal Checks), made payable to: Department of Homeland Security.
- Two passport size photos (full frontal view) in a small envelope. Your name and I-94 admission number must be printed in on the back of the photos. Do not cut photos. For more information on photo standards, please visit Department of State website
- Letter from academic adviser, academic dean or Graduate School (graduate students) to verify expected graduation or completion of course requirements.
- Dates for OPT authorization: The OPT card is approved for specific beginning and end dates. You are required to submit a preferred beginning and end date for your OPT card.
OPT Frequently Asked Questions
OPT Reporting Requirements