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)

OPT Frequently Asked Questions

The most common OPT questions are listed below. If you have other questions or want to talk though your individual situation please contact Kimberly and she is happy to assist.

Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the Steps on How To Apply for OPT.

You are eligible for 12 months OPT per education level. That means you receive 12 months of OPT for completion of a Bachelor’s degree and will receive another 12 months for completion of a Master’s degree.

However, if you complete a second degree at the same level you are only allowed one period of OPT for that specific level. For example, if you complete a second Master’s degree and you have already used OPT at the Master’s level, you are not eligible for 12 additional months of OPT after completing the second Master’s degree.

You must not have used OPT at a higher degree level. For example, if you complete a PhD, and use your OPT, and then complete a Master’s-level program, you will not be eligible for OPT for the Master’s level.

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 as it can take up to 90 days for USCIS to approve your application for OPT.

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 you may not receive the full year of OPT.

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.

Many students are looking for a job while their OPT application is pending. Or they wait until after they graduate to look for a job.

You must be in the U.S. to apply. You will not be eligible to apply for OPT if you are outside of the U.S. at the time of application. 

You must complete all degree requirements in order to be eligible for post completion OPT.

No. You can use your OPT authorization to work anywhere in the US.

Yes, but we don’t recommend it. Some students will elect to use some of their OPT during the summer. However, any OPT you use prior to graduation will be deducted from your 1 year of post completion OPT.

We recommend that you save your full year of OPT for after graduation and use CPT for opportunities to gain experience in your field of study during the summer or academic year.

Yes, the current fee to apply for OPT is $410

Yes students in certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) majors who are employed by an E-Verify employer are eligible for a 24 month extension.

To learn if you are eligible for STEM OPT or to learn how and when to apply please contact Kimberly. The process is similar but there are some additional steps which must be completed prior to applying.

Volunteering and participation in an unpaid internship can be considered employment for purposes of the initial 12-month period of F-1 post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), and can be reported in SEVIS as valid OPT employment.  The volunteer or training opportunity must comply with applicable federal and state labor laws.

Volunteering and/or internships cannot be considered employment for the purposes of STEM OPT.

Yes, Limited unemployment time is allowed during post-completion OPT and STEM OPT.

  • Post-Completion OPT: Students can accrue no more than 90 days of unemployment, which is cumulative.
  • STEM OPT: Students can accrue no more than 150 days of unemployment, which is cumulative, and includes the post-completion OPT unemployment time.

We recommend that you do not travel outside of the US while your OPT application is pending as you may not be able to re-enter the US.

Once you have received your OPT and have an EAD card in hand travel is possible. However, in order to be granted readmission to the US you must have:

  • The EAD (Employment Authorization Document) OPT Card 
  • A valid unexpired F-1 visa stamp (Canadian citizens are exempted from this requirement)
  • A valid passport
  • A Form I-20 with the OPT endorsement and a recent travel signature on page 2 that is less than six months old
  • Proof of a temporary job in your field of study

How do I apply for Optional Practical Training

  1. Obtain a letter from your faculty advisor recommending you for Optional Practical Training and confirming your graduation date. A sample letter is available here.
  2. Reach out to Kimberly to schedule an appointment to apply for OPT and discuss what documents you will need to submit with your application.
  3. Meet with Kimberly via zoom to complete the application. (This is the best way to apply as the application is completed online and meeting via zoom allows you to share your screen so that we can walk through the application together.)