Overview

Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides F-1 students with an opportunity for hands-on work experience (work authorization) related to the academic field of study.

You are eligible to apply if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are currently in F-1 status.
  • You have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year (three quarters, including final exams weeks) or will complete one academic year by the date the OPT approval begins.
  • You have not exceeded 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization. (Part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility.)
  • You do not need a job offer first; you can apply for the 12-month OPT authorization without a job offer.
  • You have not previously completed 12 months of OPT at the same degree level.
  • You are eligible for 12 months of full-time OPT per academic level. For example, you may apply for 12 months of OPT after completing a bachelor's degree and then another 12 months after completing a master's degree.
  • You may apply for OPT authorization during your academic program, after your program completion, or a combination of both.

Post-completion OPT

OPT authorization that begins after completion of your academic program is called “post-completion” OPT. This is the most common type of OPT. Post-completion OPT is full-time, and it can begin:

  • after you complete your degree or exchange program*
  • after you complete all course requirements for your degree, excluding thesis or equivalent**

* You must apply for OPT based on your last registered quarter. If you missed the graduation application deadline or if you will pay the Graduate Registration Waiver Fee, your degree will be awarded in a quarter in which you are not registered. In these situations, the OPT application must be submitted in the prior (registered) quarter. If you are not able to complete your program as expected, contact your ISS adviser immediately to review your options.

** Graduate students: consult your ISS adviser if you are considering applying for post-completion OPT to overlap with completion of the thesis/dissertation (prior to graduation).  

Pre-completion OPT

OPT used while you are still enrolled in your course of study is called "pre-completion" OPT. Pre-completion OPT is rather uncommon. Usually current students are eligible for alternate employment authorization, such as Curricular Practical Training. Because pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 months of OPT eligibility, most students prefer to save OPT for after program completion. You may start the OPT application process up to 120 days before your requested employment start date. Pre-completion OPT can be approved for different rates:

  • Full-time (more than 20 hours per week) or part-time (20 hours per week or less) during your annual vacation quarter and between quarter  breaks
  • Part-time (20 hours per week or less) while enrolled in a full course of study

While approved for OPT, you are still in F-1 status and must report address changes and employment information to ISS. Review our OPT: Work, Travel, and More link for information about employment requirements, reporting rules, travel, and other regulations pertaining to your OPT authorization period. 

STEM OPT Extension

Students in their 12-month OPT authorization period, with a qualifying STEM degree and working for an E-Verify registered employer, may apply for an extension of their OPT.

Application Instructions, Practical Training Requirements, and More