Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion). However, all periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT.
Types of OPT
All OPT must be directly related to the student’s major area of study. Students may participate in OPT in two different ways:
F-1 students may apply to participate in pre-completion OPT after they have been enrolled in school for one full academic year. Students authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT must work part-time while school is in session. They may work full time when school is not in session.
F-1 students may apply to participate in post-completion OPT after completing their studies. Students authorized for post-completion OPT may work part-time (at least 20 hours per week) or full-time.
Please Note: Practical training may be authorized to an F-1 student who has been lawfully enrolled on a full time basis for one full academic year at a college, university, conservatory, or seminary that has been certified by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to enroll F-1 students. The “one full academic year” requirement may be satisfied while in another nonimmigrant category, not just while in F-1 status. Students may participate in OPT both before and after completing their studies. However, all periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT.
STEM OPT Extension
Students who have earned degrees in certain science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields may apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT employment authorization if they:
- Are an F-1 student who received a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree included on the STEM Designated Degree Program List (PDF)
- Are employed by an employer enrolled in E-Verify, and
- Received an initial grant of post-completion OPT employment authorization based on their STEM degree.
If you are interested in applying for a STEM OPT extension, please see our Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) page for more information.
Applying for OPT
Generally, if you are an F-1 student who wants to apply for OPT, you must:
- Request that your designated school official (DSO) at your academic institution recommend the OPT. Your DSO will make the recommendation by endorsing your Form I-20 and making the appropriate notation in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
- Properly file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization with USCIS, accompanied by the required fee and the supporting documentation as described in the form instructions.
When to apply
|If you are applying based on a…||For…||Then you…|
|STEM degree||Pre-completion OPT|
|Initial post-completion OPT|
|Post-completion STEM OPT extension|
|Non-STEM degree||Pre-completion OPT|
You may begin your OPT only after USCIS approves your Form I-765 and you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
Cap-gap Extension for F-1 Students with Approved H-1B Petitions
If you are an F-1 student with a timely filed H-1B petition and change of status request, and your F-1 status and employment authorization will expire before the change of status to H-1B occurs (typically October 1), you may be eligible for a cap-gap extension. Go to our Cap-Gap Extension page for more information.