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.
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.
You can use your OPT:
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).
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.
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.