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OPT (Optional Practical Training)

What is OPT?

OPT is Optional Practical Training, an US-government authorized period of employment in the US. This is an opportunity for F-1 students to gain real world work experience in the U.S. For most F-1 students, it is done after graduation. The student must apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (U.S.C.I.S.) using Form I-765 to be authorized. Since the authorization process takes 2 to 3 months, the ideal time to apply is prior to graduation. If approved, the student will receive an employment authorization document (EAD). The maximum amount of time granted to work on F-1 OPT status is 12 months per degree level.

Are you eligible for OPT?

  • Have you been a full-time F-1 student in good standing for at least 1 full academic year?
  • Are you currently maintaining F-1 status?

When to apply?

You may file up to 90 days prior to your Program End Date (your graduation date becomes your program end date when you apply for graduation) and not later than 60 days after your Program End Date. Once your Designated School Official (DSO) makes the a recommendation for post-completion OPT in the SEVIS database, USCIS must receive your application within 30 days. Failure to submit within that 30 days will result in denial of your application and loss of the application fee. Do not start working in the U.S. until you receive your employment authorization document (EAD) and a new I20 with a showing approving OPT.  Performing work without an EAD is illegal and can negatively affect your immigration status now and in the future.  

Qualifying Employment

Your OPT employment must relate to your major or course of study. It can be paid or unpaid (volunteer) work. You must be able to show how you will use what you have learned at the job. USCIS has the final decision as to whether the job qualifies. It is best if the employer uses E-verify as this method is quickly becoming the standard for the government.

Continue to About Form I-765.

Filling out Form I-765

Other Application Documents and Next Steps

Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization