Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study". It is meant to supplement your academic experience with practical experience as authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). OPT can be applied before and/or after a student completes his or her studies. 

There are different types of OPT

  1. Part-time OPT- (less than 20 hours per week) during the spring and fall semester.
  2. Full-time OPT- valid for one year after student’s completion of studies.
  • Students can engage in OPT during or at the completion of their studies. However, only a maximum of 12 cumulative months per educational level (bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral) will be granted. The 29-month rule only applies to STEM programs.
  • Students applying for OPT may only begin employment on the date specified on their Employment Authorization Card (EAD).
  • Students on OPT are allowed to work for more than one employer as long as that the jobs are directly related to the student’s area of study.
  • Since OPT is under the F-1 visa, all students who wish to travel outside the United States will follow travel requirements of a regular F-1 student. Students are also required to have their EAD card and proof of employment from the employer

Eligibility Requirements for OPT

To be eligible to apply for optional practical training, you must be

  1. Currently in valid F-1 status
  2. Legally been a full time student for at least one ful academic year

Application and Authorization Procedure

To apply you must make an appointment with International Student Services 90 days before completion of studies. The following is a checklist for application:

  1. Bring your most recent I-20 Form and make copies of any previous I-20's
  2. Bring you current, valid passport
  3. Bring your most recent I-94
  4. Bring a front and back copy of any previous EAD cards.
  5. Bring $380 check (from a U.S. bank) or money order payable to "Department of Homeland Security" Write your 11-digit I-94 number on the check or money order.
  6. Two identical color photos .

When to Apply *new filing deadlines*

Under the new rule, initial post-completion OPT applicants may be able to file the application 90 days before the degree program completion date, and up to 60 days after the degree completion date. Submit the OPT application immediately to USCIS after ISS enters the recommendation for OPT into the SEVIS record. 

Do I Need to Get a Job to Apply for Optional Practical Training?

No, you do not need to have a job offer before applying for optional practical training. However if you are applying for optional practical training during your course of study or vacation periods, you will want to either have a job offer or a firm job prospect because periods of optional practical training cannot be rescinded once the period requested has been authorized.

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