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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an opportunity to gain work experience to complement your academic program. The Career Center manages all OPT requests and applications.

  • Students must complete one full academic year of study before being eligible for Optional Practical Training. All F-1 students are eligible for one year (12 months) of practical training for each degree level obtained.
  • The Department of Homeland Security must receive your application for Optional Practical Training no later than the 60th day following your graduation date, or they will not authorize your practical training.
  • Please plan ahead. The application process at the DHS usually takes a minimum of ninety (90) days.
  • You must pick up the OPT packet available in the Career Center and meet with an authorized DSO (Lauren Johns to file your paperwork.

STEM Extension

In addition, students who major in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields may be eligible for twenty-four (24) additional months of Optional Practical Training (36 months total) if their employer participates in the E-verify employment verification program.

Periods of Unemployment During OPT

DHS regulations currently define the period of an F-1 student’s valid status as the time the student is pursuing a full course of study or is engaged in authorized post-completion Optional Practical Training, plus a sixty (60) day grace period. The DHS has established an aggregate maximum period of allowed unemployment of ninety (90) days for students on 12-month OPT. Students who qualify for and receive the 24-month OPT extension (only for STEM degrees and employment) can be unemployed for an aggregate of 150 days. This particular part of the rule also puts the responsibility on students to keep the university up to date with the name and address of your OPT employer. Unless we have the SEVIS system updated with the name and address of your employer, you will be accumulating unemployment time in SEVIS. Once you have reached the 90 or 150 day maximum, your F-1 status will be terminated. Please notify the university with the name and address of your employer once employment is secured. If you do not secure employment within the 90 day period beginning with the start date on your OPT card, you will be expected to depart the U.S. or otherwise take steps to maintain proper F-1 status (get a new I-20 to start a new program of study). Volunteer (unpaid) employment does not accrue unemployment time provided the volunteer work is for twenty (20) hours per week or more.

OPT Eligibility

An F-1 student who has attended an SEVP-certified college, university, conservatory, or seminary on a full-time basis for at least one academic year may be authorized for up to 12 months of OPT per education level. However, F-1 students who have one year or more of full-time curricular practical training (CPT) are not eligible for OPT for that degree.

Pre-completion OPT

Pre-completion OPT is OPT authorized to be engaged in before the student’s program end date. Students with approved pre-completion OPT may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students who are eligible to register for the next term and who plan to do so may have approval to work full-time when school is not in session.

Post-completion OPT

Post-completion OPT is OPT authorized to be engaged in after the student’s program end date (i.e. graduation).

Post-completion OPT Restrictions

  • Apply no more than 90 days before graduation and no more than 60 days after graduation.
  • Your application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of getting the new I-20.
  • A student cannot have a requested start date that is more than 60 days past the student’s
    program end date.
  • The requested end date cannot be more than 12 months after the requested start date. The end date may be sooner if the student has less than 12 months of OPT left at the current education level or the student wishes to retain a period of OPT for pre-or post-completion OPT for another degree at the same education level.