Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- 24-Month STEM Extension
- Pre-completion OPT
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- USCIS – Check Your Case Status
OPT is a privilege provided by the U. S. government to international students who desire to gain employment experience in their major field of study. Most students avail themselves of this privilege following completion of their program of study. However, OPT may also be used during a vacation period if a student intends to register for the following session, or part-time while school is in session.
International students interested in applying for this privilege should carefully read all instructions below before contacting the Office of International Student Services.
Eligibility & Explanations
International students who have completed at least one full academic year of study (two semesters) may engage in Optional Practical Training upon approval by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the U. S. Department of Homeland Security. The application may be submitted up to 90 days prior to the completion of one academic year, but the authorization will be granted only from the date the student actually completes a full academic year.
OPT may be authorized for up to 12 months for each level of education. For example, a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree may accumulate a total of 12 months OPT during and following completion of the degree. A master’s degree student will become eligible for an additional 12 months following completion of one full academic year of study toward that degree. Students enrolled in the English Language Institute are not eligible for OPT.
OPT may be full-time or part-time. Full-time OPT may be authorized during summer breaks, after completion of all course work but prior to completion of the thesis (for master’s degree students), or after graduation. Part-time (up to 20 hours per week) OPT is permitted while school is in session, but the student must maintain a full course load. Part-time OPT is counted at half the regular full-time accumulation. For example 4 months of part-time OPT will be counted as equal to 2 months of full-time OPT. Any part-time OPT used during school sessions will be deducted from the 12 months total remaining following completion of studies.
A student that desires to participate in OPT following completion of studies must apply prior to the completion of studies. The process may take from 2 to 3 months. Employment cannot begin until the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is received.
It is not necessary for a student to already have a job offer in order to apply for OPT. However, OPT, once granted, cannot be recovered if a job offer does not materialize. The employment must be directly related to the student’s major field of study and must be appropriate for someone with the student’s level of education.
Once the EAD has been received and employment has been obtained, students may travel with an endorsed I-20 form. If a student leaves the U. S. after completing the program of study but before receiving the EAD or obtaining employment, re-entry to the U. S. will most probably be denied. Even with the EAD, a letter from the employer indicating that the student is expected to resume duties after a brief absence is recommended.
- Complete the OPT Advisor’s Form, which will be signed by your academic advisor. Check UIS Enterprise prior to submitting the OPT Advisor Form – make sure your address and emergency contact are up to date, all holds have been removed, and you have completed your graduation application. Bring completed and signed OPT Advisor Form to the International Office to schedule your appointment. Bring the following documents to your OPT Appointment:
- Typed Form I-765. The address entered in section 3 of the form should be either the address where you will be living when the application is approved or our office address. The F-1 OPT code for section 16 is ( c )(3)(B ) for post-completion OPT, (c)(3)(A) for pre-completion OPT, and (c)(3)(C) for post-completion STEM OPT. Please note: This is optional, but you can now apply for your Social Security Number (if you do not already have one) on the new Form I-765. If you choose to apply for the SSN using the I-765, then you MUST use your own address. If you use the ISS Office address and you do not already have a SSN, then you must apply for your SSN AFTER you receive your EAD.
- Typed Form G-1145.
- Write a check in the amount of $410.00 payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Write your I-94 number on the bottom of the check.
- Copies of all original Form I-20’s (with CPT or OPT authorization), Form I-94, and copies of any previous Employment Authorization Documents.
- Make photocopies of your passport ID page and your visa.
- Have two identical color passport photographs made according to these specifications. Print your name and I-94 number on the back of each photograph with a pen or pencil.
An Immigration Advisor will review your documentation and recommend authorization for a period of up to one year. The Office of International Student Services will return your application to you to be mailed to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration and Services within 30 days for processing.