Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is for F-1 visa holders only. OPT is a benefit, not a right. It is an opportunity to gain temporary work experience in a field directly related to your academic major. The OISA recommends OPT, and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must adjudicate it. To be eligible, you must be in “good standing” with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and you must have been enrolled full time for the previous academic year (*with the exception of pre-approved short course load options). You are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT per degree. Individuals who have majored in Sciences, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) are eligible for an additional 17 months of OPT, and this extension is applied for in conjunction with their employer. More information.

Employment through OPT is limited to positions that are related to your major field of study and your degree level (Bachelor’s). You may not begin employment until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and employment is allowed only within the period of authorized dates on the EAD. 

  • Pre-completion OPT must take place in addition to (rather than in place of) regular full-time enrollment. You may request OPT on a part-time basis (up to 20 hours per week) during your studies or on a part-time or full-time basis during break periods. (Part-time OPT is deducted from your available 12 months at a rate of 1 month for every 2 months authorized.)
  • Post-completion OPT begins after your program end date.  Employment must be full time, which is defined as at least 20 hours per week.

OPT Handout (.pdf)