Optional Practical Training (OPT) gives students an opportunity to obtain practical work experience in the U.S. before and/or after completion of their degree. The work must be related to the student’s major area of study. Three kinds of OPT can be identified:1. Pre-completion OPT
2. Post-completion OPT
3. 17-month extensions of post-completion OPT for certain STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) degree holders
Pre-completion practical training consists of work during the student’s annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session, if the student is currently enrolled, and is eligible for registration and intends to register for the next term or session or while school is in session, provided that practical training does not exceed 20 hours per week while school is in session
Post-completion practical training is work aftercompletion of the course of study, or, for a student in a bachelor’s, master’s,or doctoral degree program, after completion of all course requirements for thedegree (excluding thesis or equivalent).
The special 17-month extension of post-completion OPTis available to students with a science, technology, engineering, ormathematics degree.
F-1 students are eligible for OPTif they have maintained lawful student status for at least one academic year. The work must be directly related to the major field of study and it must beappropriate for someone with the student’s level of education. The workmay be full-time or part-time, and it may be completed anywhere in theU.S.
Students may apply for OPT: 1) during vacation periods, 2) after completion of all course requirements, 3)part-time during the academic year, and 4) full-time after completion of the program of study. Students may be authorized for twelvemonths of practical training, and become eligible for an additional twelvemonths of practical training when changing to a higher education level (Masters or Doctoral). A student who has required coursework remaining to complete his/her educational objective/degree program is limited to 20 hours per week of OPT while school is in session. Such a student can, however, apply for full-time authorization during his or her annual vacation, and during other official school breaks.
Students who engage in an aggregate of 12 months or more of full-time curricular practical training at the same educational level become ineligible for optional practical training. Part-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) does not count towards the 12 months of full-time CPT determinate of OPT eligibility.
OPT done after completion of the course of study is referred to as “post-completion” OPT. A Form I-765 for standard post-completion OPT can be filed up to 90 days before the program end date and up to 60 days after the program end-date, provided that it is filed with 30 days of the date the DSO enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.
For standard post-completion OPT, a student may not request a start date that is more than 60 days after the student’s program end date. This restriction relates to the requirements that all standard post-completion OPT must be completed within 14 months of completion of the program of study. Students do not have to have a position offered at the time of application.
To apply for OPT, students must complete an application in the Office of Student Life. Application packets containing necessary forms and requirements may be obtained from the Dean of Student Life. Once all the requirements are met, the Dean of Student Life will recommend OPT participation to USCIS. Applications typically take 3-4 months to be approved. For this reason, most students applying for post-completion OPT apply at the beginning of their final semester.
There is a filing fee for processing of the USCIS form and it issubject to change. The fee is currently $340; so students should prepare forthis expense.
Students wishing to explore options for pre-completion or the special 17-month STEM extension should schedule an appointment to discuss with the Dean of Student Life.