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Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to your major field of study. If you want to work off-campus as an F-1 student, one way to do so is to be approved for OPT. You cannot begin work on OPT until you receive your approval in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and it is within the dates listed on your EAD.


Who Can Apply

  • You do NOT need to have a job offer in order to apply for OPT. 
  • You must have been a full-time student for at least one academic year in the US.
  • You must currently be in F-1 status.
  • You must be in good academic standing and be making normal progress toward finishing your degree.
  • You must not have used more than 12 months of OPT in the past at your current degree level.

How Long Your OPT Lasts

You can get a maximum of 12 months of OPT for each degree level you complete. If you are studying within certain fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), you may be eligible for an additional 17 months of OPT.

Students on post-completion OPT must report your job information within 90 days of being on OPT. If you don't report your employment or find a job within that time, your OPT will automatically end.


When Can You Use OPT

You can use your OPT:

  • before you finish your studies (this is called Pre-Completion OPT)
  • after you finish your studies (this is called Post-Completion OPT)
  • or a combination of the two, as long as the total amount of OPT does not exceed 12 months.

How Long Does It Take to Get Approved

It takes around 3-4 months to get approved for OPT so please plan ahead. It takes this long because:

1. Your academic department signs off on a request form (1-2 weeks)

2. The OGS prepares your new I-20 (up to 2 weeks).

3. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) evaluates your application (up to 90 days).


How to Apply

To use OPT before you finish your studies, review the Pre-Completion OPT information.

To use OPT after you finish your studies, review the Post-Completion OPT information.


OPT and Travel Planning

Travel outside the U.S.

Travel before your program end date is the same as it has been: you must have all documents as listed on our documents to carry page.

If you want to travel after your program end date, you need all the documents as listed on our alumni documents to carry page.

You can also view this YouTube video to review what documents you need to have with you while traveling on post-completion OPT.

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