F-1 Optional Practical Training
F-1 students who plan to work in the U.S. can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), a temporary employment authorization that provides an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off-campus. Most students are eligible to apply for a total of 12 months of OPT at each higher degree level (e.g. OPT after a Bachelor’s degree and then OPT after a Master’s degree or PhD). Students with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) may be eligible for a 24-month extension to their 12 month post-completion OPT. You do not need to have a job offer before applying for OPT.
To be eligible OPT, the student must be enrolled full-time for at least one full academic year, be physically present in the United States, be maintaining valid F-1 status at the time of application, and intend to work or volunteer in a professional development opportunity directly related to the major field of study.
Overview of OPT Application Process
Do not apply using the online USCIS process. Applying for OPT involves the following steps:
- Determine when you can apply.
- Complete the online workshop, which will inform you about OPT and prepare three required application forms.
- Print and sign the OPT application forms.
- Obtain the signature of your academic adviser or Dean for the OPT Request Form
- Meet with an OISS adviser to hand in your OPT application.
- An OISS adviser will review your materials and issue a new form I-20 recommending OPT.
- Come back to OISS to pick up your new I-20 and the complete OPT application package.
- Mail your OPT application to USCIS.
- OPT application processing with USCIS can take 90 days.
- Once you receive your OPT card (EAD) and have reached your start date as noted on the EAD, you are eligible to begin working. If you are on post-completion OPT, this is the time when you will report your employment by submitting an OPT update.