OPT (Optional Practical Training)
Optional Practical Training is used by students to gain work experience in their field of study after completing a degree program. There are certain other situations in which OPT may be possible prior to the completion of a degree program.
Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regulations allow up to 12 months of OPT at each degree level for a student in F-1 status. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students are eligible for an extension of 24 months of OPT. For information about STEM OPT, visit our STEM OPT page.
An application for post-completion OPT can be filed up to 90 days prior to the student's completion date and no later than 60 days after the student's program completion date.
It may take the government agency (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS) up to 90 days or more to process an OPT application. Your International Student Counselor may be able to provide a current estimate of processing times. However, processing times are unpredictable so it is always best to apply early. You cannot begin working until you have received your Employment Authorization Card (EAD) in the mail from the government agency and until the start date listed on the EAD card. International Student Services is not responsible for the length of time required to process your OPT application.
Applying for OPT
We encourage students to apply online and strongly discourage students from filing the paper application.
Step 1: Learn about OPT
Watch the OPT video by clicking on the link below.
Step 2: Obtain I-20 with OPT recommendation from your International Student Counselor
Once you have watched the linked OPT Presentation above and are ready to apply for the OPT, you will need to complete the following documents and either email them to your international student counselor. The I-20 with OPT recommendation (the I-20 you will need to file OPT application) will be issued and provided to you after your counselor reviews and approves these documents:
- Academic Adviser's Statement of Program Completion Form.You will need to make an appointment with an academic adviser in your department to determine when your academic program will end. Your academic adviser will have to fill out and sign the Academic Adviser's Statement of Program Completion Form.
- The OPT Acknowledgment Form, which shows your understanding of the OPT regulations and your intent to follow them. It is not part of the OPT application.
Step 3: File your OPT application and wait for your EAD card
Once you receive the I-20 with OPT recommendation from your counselor, you will need to create a USCIS online account. Then you will file your application using our video instructions on how to complete the online application.
Once you have made the application fee payment and received your payment confirmation, your application is completed. USCIS will send your EAD card and any other relevant documents to the mailing address you provided to them. It is critically important that you keep USCIS informed of any address changes. If you change your mailing address while OPT application is pending, you must inform USCIS through your online USCIS account or at the USCIS website.
Remember, you can't start working until you have your EAD card and until the start date on the EAD card.
For those currently on OPT: Did you move? Change employer? Start a new job?
Please refer to our OPT Reporting page to report these changes to your ISSS counselor. Remember, the regulations require that you report such changes within 10 days!