OPT is a type of temporary work permission available for eligible F-1 students. It is an ability for students to get real-world work experience directly related to the students program of study listed on the form I-20.

Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT employment, available for each higher education level of study. OPT is authorized by USCIS. Authorization to engage in optional practical training employment is automatically terminated when the student transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level.

What is Optional Practical Training?

  • Type of temporary work permission available for eligible F-1 students
  • Ability to get real-world work experience directly related to the individual’s program of study listed on the form I-20
  • 12 months available for each higher education level of study (i.e. bachelors, masters, PhD, etc.)
  • Requested by the student and authorized by USCIS.

Types of Optional Practice Training:

  • Pre-completion OPT: Any portion of OPT used before the student’s Program End Date. It may be part-time or full-time.
  • Post-completion OPT: Any portion of OPT used after the student’s Program End Date. It must be full-time.
  • 24-month (STEM) OPT Extension: For students who majored in designated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) degrees approved by DHS. This type of OPT is a 24-month extension of OPT.
  • Cap-Gap OPT Extension: For students whose prospective employers filed a qualifying H-1B-cap subject petition.’

What is the OPT Process?

  • International Services offers monthly OPT workshops to assist students with the application process.
  • While a Designated School Official (DSO) recommends OPT in SEVIS, it is the student who must apply for the work permit with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
  • The student must file the completed I-765 Employment Application in the appropriate time with USCIS and provide all required documents.
  • Once received, USCIS will check the application for completeness and establish a basis for eligibility. USCIS may reject or deny application at this time (i.e. insufficient funds, lack of signature, no DSO endorsed I-20).
  • USCIS may request that you provide more information or evidence to support your application.
  • The decision on Form I-765 involves a determination of whether you have established eligibility for the immigration benefit you are seeking. USCIS will notify you of the decision in writing.
    • Approval: If your application is approved, USCIS will either mail your EAD to you;
    • Denial: If USCIS cannot approve your application, you will receive a written notice explaining the basis of your denial.
  • The student must not begin working before the start date on the EAD.
  • This employment option allows students to get real-world work experience directly related to the individual’s major area of study listed on the form I-20.
  • Students are eligible to receive 12 months for each higher education level of study.

When to File for OPT?

  • You must apply within 30 days from the date your DSO endorsed your requested I-20.
  • You can apply up to 90 days before you complete a full academic year, as long as you do not start OPT employment until you complete one full academic year.

  • Post-Completion OPT can be filed by the student up to 90 days before, but no later than 60 days after their program end date.
  • The student must file the Form I-765 within 30 days of the date that their DSO enters the recommendation for OPT into their SEVIS record. If the student fails to do so, their OPT request will be denied.C

  • Students can file the STEM OPT Extension up to 90 days before the expiration of the current OPT.
  • The current processing times for the I-765 application is 3.5 — 5.5 months from receipt.
  • A student who has timely filed an application for a 24-month STEM OPT extension with USCIS may work for the STEM OPT employer while the STEM extension application is pending, for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of his or her post-completion OPT EAD.
  • If a STEM OPT application is still pending more than 180 days beyond the expiration of the student’s regular or cap-gap OPT, the student must stop working.

  • H-1B petitions that are timely filed on behalf of an eligible F-1 student that request a change of status to H-1B on October 1 qualify for a Cap-Gap extension.
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