Optional Practical Training for F-1 students
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is meant to give you practical experience in your major field of study, and you can apply for it either during your program of study or after graduation. OPT generally lasts up to 12 months.
Before you can participate in OPT, you'll need to get approval from US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which usually takes around 90 days, but could be shorter or longer, so you'll want to plan ahead.
You don’t need to have a job offer when you apply, but you are required to begin working on post-completion OPT within 90 days of the start date on your OPT EAD card in order to maintain valid F-1 status.
When classes are in session, OPT can only be part-time, up to 20 hours per week. It can be full time during the summer and other breaks.
Post-completion OPT is full time (more than 20 hours per week). You can work with multiple organizations, as long as each position is directly related to your major field of study.
If you are considering an unpaid internship or position, you may do so during the regular post-completion OPT period, but you should get written verification that your position does not violate any local, state, and federal labor laws from someone in HR at your organization. Financial compensation is not the only indicator of employment.
- online - please request access to the online workshop via the "Online OPT Workshop Access Request" e-form in ISSS Link under F-1 Practical Training; or
- in person - sign up for one of the in-person sessions below
You can apply for OPT if:
- You currently hold F-1 status
- You have finished at least 1 academic year as a full-time student at a US institution
- You have not participated in full-time CPT for 12 months or more at your degree level
If you re-enter the US using a new SEVIS record after your previous record was terminated, you need to complete another academic year of full-time study before you can apply for OPT.
- Sign up for and attend an OPT workshop.
- After the workshop, you'll get a link to the OPT request e-form. Fill out this form in ISSS Link.
- Fill out an I-765 form.
- Once you receive an email from ISSS confirming that your academic advisor has submitted their portion of the e-form request, schedule an appointment with your ISSS advisor. You should bring all documents or you will be asked to reschedule.
- After your appointment, ISSS will mail your application to USCIS. We will let you know when we receive a receipt notice, which usually takes 3–4 weeks, and then your new employment authorization document (EAD card), which can take around 90 days, but possibly shorter or longer. Plan accordingly!
- Your filled-out form I-765 signed in blue ink
- Check or money order payable to US Department of Homeland Security (in the memo section, write your I-94 number)
- Copies of all previously issued I-20s, even those from other institutions (all pages)
- Copy of any previous EAD cards
- Copy of your most recent I-94
- Copy of the ID page of your passport, plus any extension pages
- Copy of your current visa (if you have one)
- 2 passport-style photos. Photo requirements >>
- Form G-1145 (optional, but recommended)
During post-completion OPT, you'll need to report:
- Any change to your non-immigrant status within 10 days by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Any change to your legal name within 10 days by emailing email@example.com
- Change of your address within 10 days by logging in to ISSS Link and filling out the Update Current OPT Employer e-form
- Change of employer or work address, including end of employment, within 10 days by logging in to ISSS Link and filling out the Update Current OPT Employer e-form
STEM OPT extension
If you are on post-completion OPT and you have applied for H-1B temporary worker status, a cap-gap extension would allow you to stay in the US during the gap between the end of OPT and the beginning of your H-1B status. Learn more >>