Optional Practical Training Overview

Eligibility

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 been authorized for a total of 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Multiple overlapping, part-time CPTs would count toward this limit; otherwise, part-time CPT does not affect OPT.
  • 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, when changing to a higher educational 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, before your program end date, is called “pre-completion” OPT. Pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 months of OPT eligibility, and most students prefer to save OPT for after program completion. You may start the OPT application process up to 90 days before your requested employment start date. For more info and instructions, see Pre-Completion OPT: How To Apply.

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