What is Optional Practical Training?
Optional practical training is one type of work permission available to eligible F-1 students who have been in valid F-1 status for at least two consecutive semesters. It allows students to get real-world work experience related to their field of study. While OPT is recommended by a Designated School Official (DSO) in Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), final approval of OPT is granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If the OPT is approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The student may not begin working before the start date on the EAD Card.
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To be eligible for OPT:
- Student must be in valid F-1 immigration status
- Student must have been enrolled full-time for one academic year (two semesters)
- Student must not have used 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Up to 12 months of OPT used after the student’s Program End Date. Graduate students who have completed all required coursework except thesis/dissertation are eligible to apply for post-completion OPT.
For students who majored in a designated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
12 Month OPT Process at a Glance
Students must submit a completed OPT application at the UCIE Immigration Window. A complete application includes the following items.
- OPT Application
- Completed form I-765
- G1145 form
- Department Certification Form – Graduate or Undergraduate
- Photocopies of all previous I-20s
- Photocopy of passport bio page
- Photocopy of F-1 visa
- Print out of I-94 or photocopy of I-94 card
- Two passport size photos
- Application Fee - $410 check or money order made payable to: Department of Homeland Security
- Photocopies of any previously issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
DSO recommends student for OPT in SEVIS and creates OPT I-20
Student signs and submits photocopy of OPT I-20
OPT application is mailed to USCIS
USCIS will send an I-797C Notice of Action receipt within 2-3 weeks of receiving application
If approved, USCIS will send Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by mail after approximately 90 days
Report employment information within 10 days of employment start date
More information regarding OPT can be found at the Study in the States, Department of Homeland Security website.