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.

Important Guideline

  • 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

  1. 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).
  2. 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).
  3. 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

Application Process

Students interested in applying for OPT must pay a $110 service fee to the International Student Services office prior to scheduling an appointment for OPT. The fee is associated with updating and maintaining your SEVIS record during OPT. To access the fee payment site, please visit Parchment Order Site.

Once you have made payment, please contact the international student services office for an OPT appointment. An OPT appointment can be scheduled using the on line appointment system in the "Current Student" section of the International webpage.   Please be aware that you can now apply for OPT using the on line application process at the USCIS website.  However, you need an I-20 with the OPT recommendation on page #2 of the I-20 form before you can apply.  Therefore, you are required to meet with an advisor in the international student services office prior to filing an i-765 application.  At the OPT appointment an advisor will go over the process and provide key information on reporting requirements for a successful OPT experiance.  The following steps and required documents are needed when applying for OPT using the on line system.  

  • Go to
  • Create an account
  • Find the I-765 form and select it
  • Upload the required documents such as passport bio page, I-94 record, I-20 with OPT recommendation, visa and previously issued I-20 forms showing any Curricular Practical Training information (if any).
  • Copy of most recent Form I-94 ( Download I-94
  • Copies of any previous EAD's (Employment Authorization Documents)if any.
  • 2 x 2  passport size photos
  • Please have all documents to be uploaded in PDF format

OPT Frequently Asked Questions

OPT Reporting Requirements