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Applying for Optional Practical Training

OPT is defined as temporary employment in the student's field of study.  Students on F-1 visas who are in legal immigration status, and have been full-time students for at least one academic year are eligible to apply for up to 12 months of optional practical training (OPT) in a job that is directly related to their major field of study.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office must authorize OPT and supply the student with an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) Card prior to beginning OPT employment.

The term "optional" means that students can choose to use all or part of their total practical training allotment of a maximum of 12 months. OPT can be authorized by USCIS for:

  1. Pre-completion OPT

    OPT that is completed while still pursuing your degree.  Pre-completion OPT can be:

    • Part-time (less than 20 hours per week) while school is in session.
    • Full-time (20+ hours per week) while school is NOT in session.
    • Any OPT used prior to degree completion will be deducted from the 12 months of post-completion OPT.

  2. Post-completion OPT

    OPT that is completed after all course requirements for the degree program have been fulfilled.  Full-time (20+ hours per week) is required.

    Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered "full-time" OPT. Students on OPT are permitted to have 90 days of unemployment.  After 90 days, if the student is still not employed, OPT is automatically terminated. 

When to Apply for OPT

Your OPT application may reach U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as early as 90 days before your program end date, OR as late as 60 days after your program end date. However, you are strongly encouraged to apply 90 days prior to your program end date as this is the typical USCIS processing time. 

Additionally, failure to apply in a timely manner may result in a loss of your full 12 months of Post-Completion OPT as it must be completed within 14 months of your program completion date. 

Please Note: You do not need a job offer letter to apply for OPT. Also, you will not be authorized to work until you have received your OPT approval and have your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) in hand.