Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment available to F-1 students. The employment must be directly related to the major program of study.

ISSS facilitates the OPT application process, however final authorization is processed through Immigration (USCIS). It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the application is submitted at least three months prior to the requested OPT start date.

  • Pre-Completion OPT: is used prior to completion of degree. Normally it is part-time employment, and can only be full-time while classes are not in session.
  • Post-Completion OPT: is used after completion of degree. It is issued only as full-time employment.



  • Have been maintained legal F-1 status for at least 9 consecutive months or one full academic year.
  • Have not used full-time CPT for 12 months or more.
  • Apply within 60 days of completion of degree.


How to Apply

You must attend one of several OPT Workshop Sessions at least 3 months prior to you anticipated OPT start date.

Bring to the session the following documents:

  • Application fee of $380 (check or money order) payable to: U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Copy of I-94 form (accessible online)
  • Copy of Passport I.D. page(s) including expiration date
  • Copy of Visa Stamp page
  • Copy of all previous Employment Authorization Documents (EAD cards) if you previously been granted employment
  • 2 Passport photos


Additionally, during the session the following documents will be provided for completion and submission of your request for OPT: I-765 Form and G-1145 Form. Instructions for completing the Form I-765 can be found in the Department of State website.

Processing Time

OPT applications can take up to 120 days to be processed, and students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Employment may not begin until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and the start date on the EAD has passed.

Hours and Restrictions

  • Employment on OPT must be directly related to your major program of study and commensurate with your educational level.
  • You may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during your 12 months of OPT.
  • Total OPT time per degree level is 12 months; the 12-month allotment per degree level may be divided into various segments.
    • Example: Bachelor student who completes 3 months Pre-Completion OPT during one summer is eligible for 9 months remaining after program ends.
    • Example: If the same student then begins a master’s in the U.S., he is eligible for a new 12 month period of OPT. Any unused OPT time from the previous degree level does not carry over to the new degree level. OPT is not cumulative.
  • Part-time OPT is authorized for up to 20 hours per week; Part-time OPT is reduced from the 12-month limit at 50%.
  • OPT start date must begin within 60 days of completion of program (this is not necessarily the same date as graduation day).
  • During full-time OPT, you may enroll in classes that are “incidental” to the employment
  • Do not begin a new program of study while on OPT.