OPT Description and Eligibility

What is OPT?

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.

  • OPT is a benefit of your F-1 visa status and not a separate work visa or visa category.
  • You continue to be in F-1 student visa status while you are on OPT and must abide by all F-1 regulations during your period of OPT.
  • Yale remains your visa sponsor. This is the last work authorization that will not need employer sponsorship until you have a Green Card.

Timing Considerations

  • Most students are eligible to apply for a total of 12 months of OPT at each higher degree level.
  • OPT can only be used once per higher degree level even if you have multiple degrees per level (e.g. OPT based on a Bachelor's degree and then OPT based on a Master's degree or PhD).
  • The 12 months of OPT must be used all at once, it cannot be broken up.
  • OPT must be used directly after graduation; it cannot be saved for later.
  • You cannot start work until you have received your EAD card and reached the start date on the card.

Eligibility

To be eligible for OPT, you must:

  • Maintain valid F-1 student status at the time of application
  • Be enrolled full-time for at least one full academic year in the U.S.
  • Be physically present in the U.S. when you mail your application
  • Intend to work or volunteer in a professional development opportunity directly related to the major field of study

Additional Considerations

  • You do not need to have a job in order to apply for OPT.
  • All work must directly relate to your field of study.
  • Students with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) may be eligible for a 24-month extension to their 12 month post-completion OPT.
  • You do not need paid employment (volunteering is ok).
  • You can work on multiple opportunities at one time.