International Student Services

Optional Practical Training

Definition of "Optional Practical Training"

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is designed to provide you with an opportunity to gain actual employment experience in your chosen profession for a maximum of one year. Its purpose is to complement your academic work. Optional practical training falls into two categories: (1) part-time employment (20 hours per week or less) while school is in session; (2) full-time employment after you have completed your degree.

Eligibility Requirements

Students who have completed one full academic year may engage in Optional Practical Training. An application for OPT may be submitted early prior to completing one academic year, but authorization will only be granted from the date the student actually completes a full academic year.
A student authorized for 12 months of OPT becomes eligible for another 12 months of OPT when he/she changes to a higher educational level (ie. Bachelors to Masters; Masters to Doctorate).
A student may be granted authorization to engage in temporary employment for OPT:

  • While school is in session provided that OPT does not exceed 20 hours a week.
  • After completion of study or after completion of all course requirements for the degree, excluding thesis or equivalent.
  • OPT can be requested during the 60 day grace period at the completion of study.
  • A student must complete OPT within a 14 month period following the completion of study.

Part-Time: Part-Time OPT (maximum of 20 hours per week) is permitted while school is in session, but students must be registered for a full course load. A part-time OPT period is computed at half the regular full-time period. For example, students who choose to engage in OPT while school is in session during the fall semester (4-1/2 months) would have two months and one week deducted from the total one year. If you are applying for part-time (before completion of studies) OPT, you can only work 20 hours per week while school is in session. You may work full-time during vacations.

Full-time: Full-time OPT is permitted during the school recess, after completion of all course work, or after the completion of all requirements for the degree.

Application Deadline

Application for Optional Practical Training (OPT) should be submitted several months prior to the beginning date of employment, since the application process with USCIS is a lengthy one. OPT must be requested within the 60 days after completion of studies.

Students may not start working until they receive their Employment Authorization to engage in practical training related to their field of study. During the period in which a student is on OPT, the student must notify the International Student Services Coordinator if his or her address changes, if the student wishes to discontinue OPT, if the student transfers out to another school, additionally, the student must report the name and address of employer.

Importance of the Actual Date You Complete Your Program of Study

USCIS regulations refer to the date you complete all requirements for a program of study and not to the date you participate in graduation ceremonies and receive a certificate or diploma. Your lawful F-1 status expires 60 days after the date you complete degree requirements, and you are expected to leave the country by that date unless you have filed an application for practical training or made other arrangements to lawfully remain in the United States by continuing on for another degree or change your immigration status.

Application and Authorization Procedures

Your permission to begin optional practical training is not official until you have received an “Employment Authorization Document” (EAD) and the starting date on the EAD is reached.

Authorization May Not Be Rescinded or Deferred

Once authorization to engage in optional practical training is granted and the EAD is issued, it may not be rescinded, canceled, or deferred. This means that, after optional practical training is authorized by USCIS, unexpected delays in completing degree requirements, inability to find an appropriate job, or loss of a job may reduce the time you have available for work.

Change of Employer After Post-Completion Practical Training

You may change employers after your have begun authorized employment provided the new job is directly related to your major field of study and appropriate for someone having your level of education.

Limits on periods of unemployment

Students who are on full-time OPT after completion of studies may have up to 90 days of unemployment. Please read the information below carefully, so that you clearly understand how it will affect your status in the USA.

If you do not have qualifying employment, each day during the period when OPT authorization begins and ends counts as a day of unemployment. The only exception—the only time when unemployment will not be calculated—is the period of up to 10 days between the end of one job and the beginning of the next job. Time spent outside the USA will count as unemployment unless you travel while employed and your leave is authorized by your employer.

Consequence of exceeding the 90 day period unemployment

Students who have exceeded the 90 day period of unemployment while on full-time OPT will violate their status unless they do one of the following:

  • Apply to continue their education by change of level or transferring to another SEVIS certified school
  • Depart the USA
  • Taken some action to maintain another legal status

How will the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enforce the 90 day provision?

Students may be denied future immigration benefits that rely on the student's valid F-1 status. Additionally, DHS may review the SEVIS data base for an individual at random or for all students on full-time OPT and terminate a student's record if it fails to show the student maintained the proper period of employment. The student will be given the opportunity to show that they complied with all OPT requirements, including maintaining their employment.

Last modified: Jan 31, 2012

  • Division of Student Affairs
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