Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Frequently Asked Questions

When can I start working?

When your EAD card is in your hand and the start date listed on that card has occurred.

How long can I stay in the U.S. after my OPT end date?

60 days unless you are approved for the STEM Extension, start a new educational degree program or change your visa type (for example, H1B)

If I participate in CPT will I lose my opportunity for OPT?

If you accumulate more than 365 days of full-time CPT, you forfeit your OPT eligibility. However, that situation is very rare. Part-time CPT does not affect your OPT eligibility.

How will my employer know I am authorized to work under OPT?

Page 3 of your I-20 indicates the dates you are authorized to work. You will also receive an Employment Authorization Card (EAD), which is the legal document showing your eligibility for employment.

Do I need a job offer before applying for OPT?

No. An offer of employment is not required for Optional Practical Training. However, once the OPT start-date has occurred, the “clock” begins and you cannot accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during your 12 months of the OPT authorization.

When do I apply for Optional Practical Training?

It is recommended that you apply about 3 months before the date you wish to begin working.

You can submit your application to the USCIS up to 90 days before the degree completion date on your I-20 (item 5 on page 1 of your I-20).

If you have a traditional academic cycle (May graduate), it is recommended that you apply for OPT no later than March 15th.

If you will graduate in December, it is recommended that you apply for OPT no later than the 1st of October.

Processing time for OPT applications can be up to 90 days. Students are encouraged to apply for OPT in advance of the proposed employment date, or the anticipated completion of studies to avoid delays, disappointment and unnecessary stress!