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 and post-completion.
New OPT STEM Extention Requirements!
Your major must be eligible for the STEM OPT as determined by the Department of Homeland Security's approved list of majors that appear on the Department of Education CIP Code list of STEM majors. Read more about the determination of STEM eligible majors at Study in the States .
Three months prior to the end of your first 12 months of OPT:
1. Have your employer complete the I-983 Training program form (form and instructions below)
2. Email completed form for approval to email@example.com
3. Once approved, gather all the items on the checklist (below).
4. Schedule a phone appointment to complete the application using the button below.
Credit Card Authorization Form (if desire to pay by credit card)
Schedule STEM OPT Phone Appointment
Pre-completion OPT is done before you graduate.
Post-completion OPT is done after you graduate.
Watch opt workshop video
- You must be in the U.S. to be eligible to apply.
- You are applying for an Employment Authorization Document commonly known as an EAD card.
- This card will permit you to accept employment, apply for a social security card, and renew your driver's license.
- Immigration defines employment as a job, internship, volunteer position, or starting your own business.
- The employment must be related to your major.
- You must be in the U.S. in active F-1 status for at lease one full academic year prior
to applying for OPT and that travel outside the U.S. is not permitted while your application
is being processed.
Before you apply for OPT
- Be absolutely sure that this is your last term or semester.
- Know that you are eligible to apply for one OPT for each degree level: associates, bachelors, masters, and doctorate.
- Understand that when you choose a start date for your OPT, the dates cannot be changed, so think carefully about the start date you select when you apply.
- If you realize after applying that you have to take more courses, you will lose a substantial portion of your OPT as your full-time OPT will be reduced to part-time until you complete your studies.
- You cannot begin a new course of study while on OPT. Your OPT ends on the day your SEVIS record is transferred to a new school.. Records can be scheduled for release after OPT and before the new course of study begins.
- You must have a valid passport for at least 6 months.
Know when to apply
- Your OPT start date must begin within 60 days of graduation. You cannot begin work before your start date or before you get your EAD card — even if you find a job.
The sooner you apply for OPT, the better.
- Earliest you can apply: 90 days before graduation
- Start date: Must always be within 60 days after graduation
- Normal Processing Time: 90 - 120 days from receipt of application by USCIS
- Latest you can apply: 58 days after graduation (avoid if possible). USCIS must have your application no later than day 59.
Prepare for your application appointment
- We have prepared a checklist of what you need to do before meeting with us to apply for OPT.
You must watch the video, pay the mailing fee, and prepare all the items on the checklist prior to your appointment.
If you do not bring all the required items to your appointment, we will have to reschedule your appointment since all items are required to accompany your application.
1. Meet with us
You will have a 30 minute phone appointment with us. We will call you using the phone number you provided. Be on time for this meeting!
We will mail you instructions for putting your completed application together with the completed I-765 and new OPT I-20.
You will mail your completed application to the address provided in the instructions once you receive the required items from us.
2. Save your receipt
In about a month, you will receive a receipt that allows you to track your application. Keep this in a safe place.
It takes between 90 and 120 days to process and receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.
3. Track your application progress
Your receipt will have a tracking number on it. Use this to track the progress of your application online.
4. Receive your EAD card
Your EAD card will arrive within 120 days, but you can request an expedited card after 90 days.
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.
5. Start working
You cannot begin work until:
- You receive your EAD card
- It is the start date you have chosen
Cost to apply
The cost to apply is $410. (Fee increases to $550 on October 2, 2020)
The preferred method of payment is a money order. Money orders can be obtained at any local grocery store, 7-11, or drug store for a small fee. You will need to exchange cash for the money order.
You can also pay by credit card by bringing a completed Authorization for Credit Card payment form to your OPT appointment.
Cash is not accepted.
Cost to mail
The cost to mail your application is $7.
Click here to pay the certified mail fee.
You cannot 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.
Travel during your OPT is permitted if you have:
- Valid visa
- Employment letter from your employer which states when you will return
- Signed I-20 from us
- EAD card
This is your responsibility!
You do not need to come into our office during this time, but you do need to keep us updated. We report this information to Homeland Security.
Let us know:
- Where you are working
- Current U.S. address
Must be related to your degree
Your employment must be related to your degree. Business majors must look for a business-related job, while biology majors need something science-related.
You are entitled to:
- 90 days of unemployment
- 10 days of grace between jobs
Beginning another academic program
You are not allowed to begin another academic program while on OPT.
If you begin a new academic program, then your OPT automatically ends with the transfer of your SEVIS record for the new academic program.
To change your status from F-1 OPT to H-1b, you must be sponsored by your employer while still on OPT.
- Applications: Accepted starting April 1
- H-1b start date: October 1
After you apply
After you apply for H-1b, you can continue working on your OPT until a decision is made beyond the expiration of your OPT.
This is called Cap Gap.
We will issue an extended I-20 to reflect the Cap Gap when provided with evidence of a pending application.