International Student Services Office

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Temporary employment for optional practical training directly related to the student's major area of study.

Requirements:

You must be enrolled full-time for one academic year before you are eligible for OPT

  • Can be before or after completion of academic program
  • You are eligible for 12 months of OPT; Two separate application need to be submitted to USCIS for each instance of OPT

Cumulative maximum of 12 months per education level (undergraduate, graduate, etc)

  • The 12 months of OPT eligibility can be divided between pre and post-completion of your academic program

You are ineligible if one year of full time CPT has been utilized

Your OPT must relate to course of study and be in line with education level

You must apply for and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card from USCIS before beginning OPT

Application must be filed with the USCIS before the program completion date

  • It usually takes 90 days  for your application to be approved or denied by USCIS

You do not need an offer of employment to apply for OPT. However, you are only allowed 90 days of unemployment throughout your post-completion OPT.

  • SEVIS with cancel OPT after 90 days of unemployment from OPT start date
  • You must notify the OISS when you have secured employment. You can either:
    • Fill out the online update OPT employment form
    • Notify the OISS with an offer letter from employer with the name and address of employer

Pre-completion OPT: Before completing your academic program, OPT is limited to 20 hours per week

  • Part-time OPT is deducted from 12 month limit at 50% (for example, if you work part-time on OPT for 6 months, 3 months will be deducted from your 12 months of OPT eligibility).
  • Exception: during official school breaks or if all coursework for degree is completed & all that remains is a dissertation or thesis
  • If you are engaged in pre-completion OPT, you must maintain full time student status

Post-completion OPT: After completing your academic program, OPT must be more than 20 hours per week. 

You must make an appointment with OISS to apply for OPT. You will need to bring ALL of the following:

  • Completed OPT Recommendation Form (to be completed by your advisor or department head)
  • FORM I-765, completed by student
    • Item 16 on form
      • (c)(3)(A) for pre-completion
      • (c)(3)(B) for post-completion
      • (c)(3)(C) for STEM (17month) extension
  • I-765 filing fee, money order $380 made out to 'US Department of Homeland Security'
  • Passport, visa, I-94 card, current I-20 and ALL previous I-20s
  • 2 passport photos
  • $6 for FedEx envelope
  • Social Security card (if applicable)
  • EAD card (if applicable)

STEM (17 month) extensions also need:

  • Copy of degree
  • Employer's E-verify number and name of the Employer as it appears in E-verify

Check the status of your OPT application at: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/Dashboard.do

OPT Begins:

The date the employment is scheduled to begin OR the date the EAD is issued, whichever is LATER (you are unable to begin your OPT until you have received your EAD card, even if your chosen start date has arrived)

A student may not begin employment prior to the approved start date on his or her employment authorization.

A student may not request a start date that is more than 60 days after the student's program end date.

Employment authorization will begin on the date requested or the date the employment authorization is approved (the day you receive your EAD card), whichever is later.

OPT Ends:

After 14 months of completion of study regardless of whether student has reached 12 month limit or not (unless the student is eligible for the STEM program)

On transfer release date to another institution

When a change of education level occurs (when previous education level becomes complete and current becomes active in SEVIS)

STEM PROGRAM

17-month extension of post-completion OPT for students with a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree. Consistent with paragraph (f)(11)(i)(C) of this section, a qualified student may apply for an extension of OPT while in a valid period of post-completion OPT. The extension will be for an additional 17 months, for a maximum of 29 months of OPT, if all of the following requirements are met. (Revised 4/8/08; 73 FR 18944 )

  1. The student has not previously received a 17-month OPT extension after earning a STEM degree.
  2. The degree that was the basis for the student's current period of OPT is a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in one of the degree programs on the current STEM Designated Degree Program List, published on the SEVP Web site at http://www.ice.gov/sevis.
  3. The student's employer is registered in the E-Verify program, as evidenced by either a valid E-Verify company identification number or, if the employer is using a designated agent to perform the E-Verify queries, a valid E-Verify client company identification number, and the employer is a participant in good standing in the E-Verify program, as determined by USCIS.
  4. The employer agrees to report the termination or departure of an OPT employee to the DSO at the student's school or through any other means or process identified by DHS if the termination or departure is prior to end of the authorized period of OPT. Such reporting must be made within 48 hours of the event. An employer shall consider a worker to have departed when the employer knows the student has left the employment or if the student has not reported for work for a period of 5 consecutive business days without the consent of the employer, whichever occurs earlier.

(C) Applications for 17-month OPT extension. A student meeting the eligibility requirement in paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C) of this section may file for a 17-month extension of employment authorization by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with the appropriate fee, prior to the expiration date of the student's current OPT employment authorization. If a student timely and properly files an application for a 17-month OPT extension, but the Form I-766, Employment Authorization Document, currently in the student's possession, expires prior to the decision on the student's application for 17-month OPT extension, the student's Form I-766 is extended automatically pursuant to the terms and conditions specified in 8 CFR 274a.12(b)(6) (iv) .

 STEM Designated Degree Program List