Optional Practical Training (OPT) Work Authorization

Definition

Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides an F-1 visa holder with an opportunity to gain 12 months of employment experience in his/her major field of study (STEM majors have the option to apply for a 24 month extension). OPT can be used all at once (12 months) or in shorter increments during the school year (part-time), or summer vacations (part-time or full-time).  Employment while on OPT must be related to your major field of study.  A job offer is not required to apply for OPT.  You must obtain authorization by USCIS in the form of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) prior to beginning employment. OPT is granted for specific dates, and cannot be adjusted after it is approved.  You should allow approximately 90 days for your application to be processed.

*Most students use OPT for post-graduation employment and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for pre-graduation employment. If you wish to use OPT for pre-graduation employment, please consult a CIE advisor.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for OPT, the student must:

  • Be in legal F-1 immigration status
  • Be a full-time student for at least one academic year
  • Be in good academic standing

Employment

  • The work must be related to your major field of study.
  • The work may be paid or unpaid and must be at least a minimum of 20 hours per week.
  • Employer sponsorship is not required, for the student already has the work authorization.
  • You may not be unemployed for more than 90 days during the OPT period.

Maximum Length

  • The standard OPT period is a cumulative maximum of 12 months.
  • Part-time OPT is deducted from the 12-month limit at 50%.
  • You can only work on OPT until the end date listed on your OPT card, unless you have applied for a 24 month STEM extension, or your employer has filed for an H-1B for you.
  • An F-1 may become eligible for another 12 months of OPT if he/she advances to a higher educational level.

*Some students may be eligible for a 24-month STEM extension of OPT.

Applying for OPT