Regulations Relating to Optional Practical Training
What is optional practical training?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student's major area of study.
An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT after he or she has been enrolled for one full academic year. The pre-completion OPT must be directly related to the student's major area of study. 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.
An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in post-completion OPT upon completion of studies. The post-completion OPT must be directly related to the student's major area of study.
What is the application process to participate in pre- or post-completion OPT?
- Students must initiate the process by requesting a recommendation letter from their academic advisor, followed by a recommendation from the Designated School Official (DSO) at their academic institution.
- The DSO will then help the student file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A list of other necessary documents to complete application submission is available in the office and online ("OPT Checklist"). If approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to the student.
- The student may begin pre- or post-completion OPT only after an application has been approved and an EAD has been received.
Do the periods of pre-completion OPT count against the available periods of post-completion OPT?
Yes. All periods of pre-completion OPT are deducted from the available periods of post-completion OPT at a 2 to 1 ratio (One month of pre-completion OPT is worth two months of post-completion OPT). For each degree level, a student may complete a maximum six months of pre-OPT or 12 months of post-OPT.
Are there fees associated with filing for OPT?
Yes. USCIS charges $380 when an applicant files a Form I-765 for optional practical training.
When must a student apply for OPT?
- Under current regulations, F-1 students may apply for post-completion OPT up to 90 days prior to graduation. It is recommended students apply as closely to the beginning of this time period as possible as the USCIS posts a processing time of up to 90 days.
- This rule also allows F-1 students seeking initial post-completion OPT to apply during their 60-day departure preparation or grace period (but may count against their 12 month total if the application is not approved before the scheduled start date; post- OPT must begin 60 days after degree completion date).
Travel while OPT application is pending?
- USCIS has stated informally that it considers a departure from the United States during pendency of a change of status application to be an abandonment of the change of status request. Since the work authorization request is a modification of a current status, we strongly encourage you not to travel while pending OPT approval.