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What is Optional Practical Training, (OPT)?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a work authorization for students in the F-1 visa category. It allows an F-1 student to gain work experience related to the field of study listed on their I-20.

OPT can be authorized before (pre) or after (post) completion of studies. Most students save their OPT to use it after they complete their studies. Talk to OIE about your best option.

View the OPT PowerPoint (PowerPoint presentation)

What You Need to Know:

  • This type of work-authorization is granted by USCIS .
  • You must apply for it and pay an application fee of $380.
  • It can take up to 3 months for it to be processed and approved by USCIS.
  • When approved, you will receive a work-authorization card called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • OPT is normally granted for 12 months (Pre and Post combined must equal 12 months).
  • You can not accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment during those 12 months.
  • You can apply for OPT once per each academic level. This means that a student can apply for OPT authorization after completing a BachelorÔ€™s degree, after a MasterÔ€™s degree and after completing a Ph.D.
  • While on OPT, you are still in F-1 visa status. You must continue to report your residential address to OIE. In addition, you must report the name and address of your employer.

Are you eligible for Optional Practical Training?

If you have been a full-time student for at least one academic year, you are eligible for OPT. If you have previously been granted a full 12 months of CPT or OPT at your current academic level, you are not eligible for further authorization. If you were previously granted less than 12 months of CPT or OPT, you may be eligible for the remaining time.

Two Types of Optional Practical Training
  1. Pre-completion: This means your OPT begins before you complete your degree program. When school is not in session, you may request full-time or part-time work authorization. Authorization during winter and/or summer vacation periods require that you both were enrolled full-time during the preceding semester and will enroll full-time for the next semester.

    While school is in session, a full-time student working on course requirements may be eligible for part-time work authorization. Total employment, including any on-campus work and any OPT, cannot exceed 20 hours per week.

  2. Post-completion: This means you plan to begin working on OPT after completion* of all degree requirements (Masters and PhD). Authorization is only available on a full-time basis. Most students choose this option.

    *Completion of studies is defined for immigration purposes as the date when you complete all the requirements for your degree; It is not the date you receive your diploma.

    For undergraduates, it is the final day of examinations of your final semester.

    For graduate students (MasterÔ€™s and Ph.D.), the completion date could be the final day of examinations of your final semester, or the date of defense or the date you submit your final edits to your academic advisor.

    Exception to the rule: Graduate students who have completed all coursework and who have only their final project/thesis or dissertation remaining may apply to begin post- completion OPT prior their degree completion date. Please arrange an appointment with an OIE advisor to discuss this option.

Last modified March 02 2011 05:49 PM

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