University of Vermont

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a type of employment authorization for F-1 students following their completion of studies. This employment authorization allows F-1 students to gain experience in their field of study. Students must apply to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in order to obtain OPT. Students should plan on their application taking at least three (3) months to process. OPT is granted for 12 months, in some cases in can be extended for an additional 17 months. F-1 students are eligible for 12 months of OPT after completion of each degree-level. While you have OPT you are still an F-1 student.

Optional Practical Training Eligibility

If you have been a full-time student maintaining valid status in the US for at least one academic year, you are eligible to apply for OPT. Student must be in their last semester of study and within 90 days of the end date listed on their I-20 as the “Program End Date.” Graduate students who have completed all required coursework and have only their thesis or dissertation to complete may apply for OPT before their degree completion date. For graduate students the program completion date could be the final day of examinations of your final semester, or the date of your oral defense or the date you submit your final edits to your academic advisor.

Before You Apply

There are many things that you want to consider before applying for OPT.  Because the application process takes so long to process, and you must apply so far in advance of your program completion date you must carefully consider some of the following questions: 

  • How is your job search going?
    • Have you started looking for a job?
    • Is your job search going well?
    • How long does it take someone in your field to get their first job?
  • What are your economic needes?
    • Do you need income immediately after graduation?
    • Can your family support you financially for a little while?
  • What are your personal interests?
    • Do you need or want a vacation before beginning work?
    • Do you plan to move somewhere else in the U.S.?
    • Do you plan on traveling home after graduation?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you choose your OPT start date during the application process. You should apply at least three months in advance of the date you wish to begin working.

Last modified October 02 2015 10:12 AM

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