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F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Overview of OPT

Optional practical training is available for degree seeking students. An initial period of 12 months may be awarded by Immigration (USCIS) per degree level. You may be eligible for a new period of OPT only if you move subsequently to a higher degree level.

OPT can be used during breaks in study or after completion of your final degree requirement.

OPT requires that you pursue employment in your area of study, but does not require a specific employer at the time fo filing.




No greater than 90 days of unemployment is permitted during the initial 12 months of post-completion OPT. For those students approved  for the 17-month STEM extension , the unemployment allowance increases to a total of 120 days throughout the 29 month period of OPT.  Exceeding the limit on unemployment constitutes a loss of your legal status.  With that in mind, be sure to report your changes in employment and address to ISO promptly.


Reporting Obligations


Any student on post-completion OPT must report changes in residential address and employment to the ISO within ten days of any change. Changes should be emailed to


OPT Eligibility

To apply for OPT you must first obtain Form I-20 from the ISO documenting your eligibility for OPT.  You will subsequently submit a paper-based application for employment authorization to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS).


You must be in lawful F-1 status at the time of filing, and your period of OPT may commence only following two immediately prior full and continuous semesters, meaning Fall-Spring or Spring-Fall semesters.


Application Essentials

Applications for post-completion OPT must be filed and reach USCIS:

  • No earlier than 90 days prior to the completion of study which corresponds to the end date of your I-20. The I-20 can be shortened by the ISO if required to accurately reflect your academic status and eligibility for OPT.
  • no later than during the grace period, presuming you have not departed the U.S. once studies are completed:
  • and within 30 days of the issuance date on the original OPT-endorsed Form I-20.


NOTE: If you have not completed all coursework for your degree and are unsure that you will complete your degree on time, you should consult the ISO before submittg he application for OPT.


Requesting Start & End Dates of Employment

Students may request OPT to begin on any date from one day after the date of completion of studies up to 60 days after the date of completion of study. Applications for OPT can take three months or more for the USCIS to adjudicate so it is very important to plan accordingly.


Authorized Period of Employment


Students may not begin working pursuant to post-completion OPT unless they are in possession of a valid OPT employment authorization card issued by the USCIS and the start date has been reached.


Special Topics



To begin the OPT process, watch the OPT Application Presentation:

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This presentation can be viewed in full screen by clicking here: (SWF) (Web)


How to Apply for F-1 OPT


Step One: Review carefully the F-1 OPT Instructional Workshop (SWF) (Web)

Step Two: Ask your advisor to complete the Academic Advisor Recommendation Form (MS Word).


Step Three: Complete a I-20 Request Form for OPT (MS Word) and Form I-765 (PDF) - For more I-765 information, including the USCIS instructions, visit the USCIS website. Please complete Form I-765 electronically, save it and print it to bring to the ISO for review.

Step Four: Submit the materials (including Form I-765) to the ISO during office hours.  If applying for post-completion OPT, do not submit to our office earlier than the 90 days prior to the end of your I-20, or end of studies, whichever is earlier.  See the online presentation for more precise instructions.

Step Five: Pick up the endorsed Forms I-20 and Form I-765 from the ISO, and follow the OPT USCIS Filing Instructions. The OPT I-20 and full application must be in the hands of Immigration no later than 30 days after the OPT I-20's issue date. Do not E-File your application.

Step Sixth (optional): Complete the Form, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance if you wish to take advantage of receiving email and/or text messages when your application has been received.  NOTE:  USCIS will continue to mail the receipt notices to you.  Completion and submission of this form for email and/or text message notificaton is an option for you and not a required form.


The U.S. postal service will not forward USCIS correspondence to a new address. If you change your residential address, you must visit to change your address online and provide your application receipt number (see the Form AR-11 page on the USCIS website)