Optional Practical Training

The F-1 visa provides for one year of Optional Practical Training (OPT) per educational level (ex: bachelors + masters = two educational levels).

Summer 2014 graduates
Earliest date to request OPT I-20 from ISSO: May 07, 2014
USCIS must receive application on or before: Oct 08, 2014

Fall 2014 graduates
Earliest date to request OPT I-20 from ISSO: Sep 15, 2014
USCIS must receive application on or before: Feb 16, 2015

OPT Eligibility

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) is available to F-1 students after one year of full-time enrollment, in the academic year immediately preceding OPT, at a U.S. university. F-1 students are eligible for up to one year of Optional Practical Training (OPT) per educational level.

OPT Resources

OPT Options

General Application Process

  • Familiarize yourself with requirements and processes for the selected OPT type.
  • Complete the appropriate forms and pay the ISSO Practical Training Fee.
  • Submit required documents to the ISSO.
  • ISSO staff produce the required I-20 and provide mailing instructions.
  • Except for the cap gap benefit, you  will assemble and mail a package to USCIS for processing.
  • USCIS processing is about 3 months, If approved the USCIS will mail you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Requirements During OPT

  • Limit unemployment
  • Work at jobs appropriate to your degree
  • Report changes in employment and address


To maintain your F-1 status DHS requires that you limit days of unemployment during OPT.

Students in Initial OPT Period – Maximum of 90 days allowed during the 12-month OPT period.

Students with an OPT STEM Extension – An additional 30 days applies, for a maximum of 120 days allowed during the 27-month OPT period.

It is crucial that you report all periods of employment to avoid unnecessary accrual of unemployment days.

Appropriate Employment

DHS has ruled that acceptable employment during OPT can include standard employment, contract employment, self-employment and volunteer positions. All employment must be appropriate to your degree and average at least 20 hours per week. Please refer to the OPT Reporting webpage for more details.

Reporting Requirements

Report any change of official name, address, employer name and address, or loss of employment within 10 days of each change, throughout the OPT period. In addition, STEM extension students must report at 6- and 12-months after the start of the extension period. DHS may terminate the F-1 status of OPT students who do not fulfill all reporting requirements. See detailed instructions.

International Travel During OPT

Students on OPT must have the following to re-enter the U.S.:

  • Valid, unexpired passport with an expiration at least six months into the future
  • Valid, unexpired visa
  • OPT I-20
  • Proof of employment

Homeland Security has indicated that a student may leave the U.S. while OPT is pending, but if the OPT is approved the student will need the EAD and proof of employment to re-enter.

The ISSO recommends that students do not leave the U.S. while an OPT extension application is pending.

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