International Student Services Office

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a possible benefit of F-1 student status, not an entitlement. Students may request up to one year of OPT per educational level (ex: one bachelors = one educational level, two master's degrees = one educational level).

Spring 2015 graduates

Earliest date to request OPT I-20 from ISSO: Feb 10, 2015

USCIS must receive application on or before: Jul 10, 2015

Summer 2015 graduates

Earliest date to request OPT I-20 from ISSO: May 8, 2015

USCIS must receive application on or before: Oct 7, 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 to apply 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

  1. Limit unemployment

    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.

  2. Work at jobs appropriate to your degree

    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.

  3. Report changes in employment and address

    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.

    Student employment information that is reported to ISSO may be shared with other UT Dallas offices and departments in accordance with the law.

  4. Work during your OPT authorization period only

    You may not lawfully begin employment, or pre-employment training, until you receive your EAD and the start date has arrived.

    If you work during a gap between previous work authorization (for example, CPT authorization, or on-campus work authorization) and the start of your OPT authorization, you violate your F-1 status.

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.