Office of International Programs

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit given to F-1 students who are completing a Bachelor's, Master's or Doctoral degree in the United States. Its purpose is to provide an opportunity to gain employment experience in a student’s field of study.  OPT is adjudicated (approved) by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

A few Frequently Asked Questions about OPT:

When should I apply for my OPT?

Applications for OPT can be filed up to 90 days before your program end date and up to 60 days after the end of your program. We recommend you apply before the end of your program.

Students MUST complete their 1 year of OPT within 14 months of their program end date. That means that if you apply after your program ends your time may be cut short.

Do I need to have a job in order to apply for OPT permission?

No, unlike CPT which is authorized for a specific employer OPT provides for one year of work experience that is directly related to your major and appropriate for your level of education.

Do I need to complete my degree first or can I do OPT while finishing up my last course or two?

All course requirements for the degree must be completed in order to be eligible for your 1-year of post completion OPT.

Do I have to stay in Maine?

No, you may use your OPT authorization to work in another state within the US.

Does it cost anything to apply for my one year of OPT?

Yes, the current fee that needs to be submitted with your OPT application is $410.

How do I apply?

Read USM's OPT Instruction Sheet which outlines the process which needs to be completed before you can apply.

We have also posted a sample letter to assist your advisor with their part of the application process.

As always if you have questions about the process please do not hesitate to ask.

includes a sample letter that needs to be completed by your academic advisor as part of the application process.

What are some of the key rules governing OPT?

  • The OIP office at USM must be notified of any Change of address within 10 days of moving
  • The OIP office at USM must be notified of any date of new employment within 10 days of being hired
  • When providing the date of hire you must also provide the employer’s name, address, e-mail, phone number and a few sentences to explain how the job is relevant to your major. 
  • You must notify the USM International Office when your employment ends
  • You will be in violation of your immigration status if you are unemployed more than 90 days of your initial 12 month OPT period
  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students may apply for a 24-month extension of their OPT benefits.