Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides international students with off-campus employment authorization for up to 12 months in their major field of study. Students who begin a new degree program at a higher level gain access to a new period of 12 months of OPT.

You are eligible to apply for OPT if you meet the following conditions:

  • You have F-1 visa status 
  • You have completed at least one year of full-time study (3 consecutive terms, or approximately 9 months)
  • If you are applying for post-completion OPT, you must be completing your degree-required coursework in the term you apply; for graduate students in a thesis or dissertation program, you must have completed all degree-required coursework, but are eligible to apply for OPT before completing the required thesis or dissertation.

Students are not required to study full-time in Summer to maintain eligibility for OPT because Summer term is the annual vacation term. However, if a student does not study full-time in Summer, that term cannot count toward the academic year required to become eligible for OPT.

Students may count terms of full-time study completed in another non-immigrant status toward meeting the academic year requirement. If you are considering changing your visa status to F-1, meet with an advisor to discuss the timeline for your OPT eligibility.

Students working on homework

OPT Tutorial

Please review our online tutorial if you are interested in applying for OPT. The tutorial is a helpful guide and will provide answers to many of your questions!  

OPT Application Procedure

  1. Gather the materials on the OPT Checklist
  2. Submit materials to ISSS for review (See "ISSS Remote Procedure")
  3. Receive I-20 from ISSS with OPT recommendation
  4. Submit application to USCIS

Maintaining Status During OPT

Work at least 20 hours per week in a job or internship related to your major. Both paid and unpaid experiences may be counted as “employment” for the purposes of maintaining status. *Update* Due to the COVID-19 emergency, DHS has approved employment less than 20 hours a week as long as the work is still related to your major.

Do not exceed 90 days of unemployment during your 12-month period of OPT authorization. Unemployment days only accrue during your approved period of OPT. Your grace period and OPT processing time do not count toward unemployment days.

Report any changes to your employment during OPT. Your employment details MUST be reported to the Department of Homeland Security via the SEVIS database. We strongly encourage you to report those details through the OPT Reporting E-Forms in WorldLink in order to ensure that your days of unemployment are counted accurately.  However, you may choose to use the OPT Student Portal to report directly in SEVIS.