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Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) for students on F-1 visas provides up to 12 months of off-campus employment authorization. Employment must be directly related to the student’s major and can occur either during the student's academic program (Pre-completion OPT) or after graduation (Post-completion OPT). Students with majors in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are eligible to apply for a 24-month STEM OPT Extension at the end of their Post-completion OPT, for a total of 36 months of OPT work authorization.

Here are some helpful reminders when applying for OPT:
  • Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT at each educational level (Associate’s, Bachelor’s, etc.).
  • Students who complete a total of 12 months or more of full-time CPT are no longer eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT); this includes practical training after graduation.
  • An application is required.  There is a $410 application fee*, and USCIS can take 3 - 5 months to adjudicate OPT applications (although early online applications tend to get adjucated faster, applications submitted late in the season will likely take 3+ months). *This fee is supposed be going up to $555 at some point in 2024. 
  • There is now an online version of the OPT application (I-765). Check out our OPT Online Application Guide for more details. Online processing times usually take 1-2 months when submitted early, but as usual, applications submitted late in the season will likely be .
  • A 24-month STEM extension is possible for students who majored in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields. This is available only twice in a student’s lifetime.
  • OPT can be (a) Part-time or full-time during the student’s annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session, if the student intends to register for the next term or session; (b) Part-time while school is in session; or (c) Full-time (over 20 hours) after completion of the course of study.
To be eligible for OPT, you must meet the following requirements:

1.) You must be in valid F-1 status.

2.) You must have been enrolled for two consecutive semesters immediately prior to the proposed OPT period.

3.) Your major must be declared with the Registrar’s Office and any employment must be directly related to your major. You are not required to have an offer of employment prior to applying for OPT as OPT is general work authorization and is not tied to a specific job.

4.) You must not have used 12 or more months of full-time CPT or Pre-completion OPT.

5.) You must be physically present in the U.S. when you submit a Post-completion OPT application during the grace period (or it must be submitted before your program end date if you are out of the country on an off-campus program).
To apply for OPT, please go to the Request Center after logging into Terra Dotta to begin the OPT Request with our office so that we can produce the I-20 you will need to submit with your application.

Make an appointment with an international student advisor to complete on your I-765. You can choose to mail your application or there is now an online version of the OPT application.
  • If you plan to apply online, visit to create an account from which you can complete your I-765 during the appointment.
  • Check out our OPT Online Application Guide for step-by-step instructions.
Determining when to apply for OPT, and understanding the deadlines associated, are very important as you begin the application process.  Here are some reminders as you begin the OPT application process:

1.) A student’s 12 months of OPT must be completed within 14 months of their Program End Date.  Meet with an International Student Adviser to discuss your actual Program End Date (which must be accurately recorded on your Form I-20).

2.) Students can apply for Post-completion OPT no more than 90 days before their Program End Date and no more than 60 days after their Program End Date.

3.) The entire OPT application, including a new Form I-20 indicating OPT recommendation, must be submitted to USCIS no more than 30 days after the OPT recommendation has been submitted in SEVIS.

4.) The expected USCIS processing time for an OPT application is 3 - 5 months for paper applications, 1-2 months for online.

5.) Graduates with Post-completion OPT are allowed up to 90 days of unemployment.

6.) Graduates volunteering for at least 20 supervised hours per week in their major field do not accrue days of unemployment if they report their volunteer experience to an International Student Adviser. Unemployment is not counted until the Start Date on the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

7.) Employment can begin only on or after the OPT Start Date listed on the EAD.