There are legal restrictions on employment as an international student. You are not allowed to work off-campus except as part of an approved internship. Before engaging in any kind of employment, internship or volunteer activities, please read the guidance found here. Contact us with any questions and concerns. 

Optional Practical Training

Undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status can work towards getting practical training to complement their field of study. This is called Optional Practical Training (OPT). There are two types: pre-completion (before you graduate) and post-completion (after you graduate).



Are you eligible for OPT?

You must be in the U.S. in active F-1 status for at lease 1 full academic year, and have a valid passport for at least 6 months to be eligible to apply. If you are applying for post-completion OPT be sure that you are in your last term or semester. You are eligible to apply for a new OPT at each education level (associates, bachelors, masters, doctorate). Keep in mind that your employment must be related to your major. If you realize after applying that you have to take more courses, you will lose a substantial portion of your OPT as it will be reduced to part-time OPT until you complete your studies. 

Watch our "Understanding OPT" workshop video 

Understanding when to apply for post-completion OPT

When you choose a start date for your OPT, it cannot be changed, so think carefully about the one you select when you apply. Your OPT start date must begin within 60 days of graduation. Earliest you can apply: 90 days before graduation. Latest you can apply: 58 days after graduation (avoid if possible). Work can only begin when you have the Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) and your start date has arrived. Understand that traveling outside the U.S. is not recommended while your application is being processed. 

 Schedule an OPT appointment with us 

Meet with us to start your application process

Before your 30 minute OPT meeting with the OISS office, you must gather the documents and items mentioned in the OPT application checklist above (application cost: $410), watch the "Understanding OPT" workshop video, and pay your $10 OPT mailing fee to cover mailing costs during OPT (if you choose the mailing application option). During the meeting, we will give you instructions on how to complete the application form (I-765) and issue your new OPT I-20.

Pay your $10 OPT mailing fee in advance →

Keep track of your OPT application

All processing times may vary. A couple weeks after sending your application, you will receive a receipt that allows you to track your application online. Keep this in a safe place. It usually takes between 90 and 120 days to process and receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. After you get your EAD card, if you also applied for a Social Security card on the application, it should arrive about two weeks afterward. Keep in mind that you cannot start working until the start date you have chosen and have received the EAD.

Check your case status on USCIS. gov 

Maintaining your OPT status

You should not travel outside the U.S. while you have an OPT application in pending status. Once you are in possession of your employment authorization document (EAD card), you may travel and return with an employment letter (example) which states when you will return, a valid visa, a signed I-20 from the OISS office, and your EAD card. You must let us know when you have updated the SEVP portal when you report your employment so that we can issue you an updated employment I-20 or if you are ending your OPT early. For OPT STEM students, make sure you report on your program participation every 6 months.

Contact the OISS office to report OPT portal updates 

Changing status from OPT to H-1b

To change your status from F-1 OPT to H-1b, you must be sponsored by your employer while still on OPT. Your H-1b application has to be filed on April 1st. After you do so, you can continue working on your OPT until a decision is made beyond the expiration of your OPT. If approved, your H-1b will start on October 1st. This extension period is called "Cap Gap". The OISS office will issue an extended I-20 to reflect the Cap Gap when provided with evidence of a pending application.

Request a cap-gap extension