What is Optional Practical Training
International students might wish to gain work experience while attending college or after finishing their program of study. OPT authorizes employment for F-1 international students. This type of employment is permitted so they can benefit from a work experience related to their field of study. Students should continuously be in full time status to be eligible for OPT. That is, they must continue to enroll on a full-time basis and be in good status for at least one academic year. OPT allows students to work for 12 months. Students do not need to have a job to apply for OPT. They can apply for a job after OTC approves their OPT application. Students apply for OPT through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and they are responsible for paying application fees. F-1 International Students can engage in OPT before or after the completion of a degree program.
Students who have already completed one academic year (at least one fall semester and one spring semester) can apply for the pre-completion OPT. Students who have not yet completed the full one academic year can also file for the pre-completion OPT provided that they are within 90 days of attaining a full academic year. Students cannot work more than 20 hours a week when doing a pre-completion OPT or before completing their program of study. However, they can work up to 40 hours while school is not in session (winter and summer breaks).
Both pre-completion OPT and post-completion OPT must relate to the student’s major area of study.
Standard post-completion OPT
Students can apply for OPT up to two months before graduation or during the two months grace period following graduation. Students can engage in post-completion OPT upon the completion of the degree. USCIS must receive the I-765 and OPT I-20 no sooner than 90 days before the program end date.
Both pre-completion OPT and post-completion OPT relate to the student’s major area of study.
How does an international student apply for OPT?
There are four steps to apply for OPT:
1. The student makes a request for OPT to the DSO.
2. After the department determines your eligibility, the DSO will update your SEVIS and recommend OPT.
3. The DSO will prepare an I-20 form with the OPT recommendation and the required signatures.
4. The student files a form I-756 including a fee and a signed form of I-20, showing that OTC has recommended OPT.
If the USCIS approves the OPT application, students will receive an Employment Authorization Document. This document allows students to start engaging in employment anywhere in the United States.
Please visit the official website of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to learn more about the eligibility requirements for an F-1 student OPT application.