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International Student Services


F-1 Employment: Optional Practical Training

If you are an F-1 student, then Optional Practical Training, or OPT, allows you to work off-campus in your field of study for 12 months.

Things You Need to Know Before Applying for OPT

  • Before applying for OPT, you must watch the OPT Online workshop (to the right), or attend an in-person OPT workshop.
  • The OPT Application material can be found in the Forms Library. Make sure to download Parts 1 and 2.
  • You do not need a job offer to apply for post-completion OPT.
  • Your application must be reviewed by an international student advisor to get your new OPT I-20, which is required for the OPT application.
  • OPT usually takes 90 days (3 months) to process, plus mailing time, so apply as soon as possible! 
  • OPT employment must be directly related to your field of study/major.
  • In order to be eligible for OPT, you need to be a degree-seeking student who has been in full-time student status for at least one academic year.

I want to apply for  OPT.

List of Documents Necessary for the OPT Application

(All documents can be found in the Post-completion OPT Application (part 1 &2), located in the Forms Library. Note that participation in a workshop is required prior to applying for OPT.)

  1. Participate in and complete quiz from the OPT Online Workshop, or attendance at an OPT In-Person Workshop
  2. I-765
  3. G-1145
  4. Academic Advisor Recommendation Form
  5. Copy of Passport Photo Page
  6. Copy of most recent F-1 visa
  7. I-94
  8. Check for $410 made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  9. Passport Photos with name and I-94 number written on the back
  10. Previous EAD cards, if applicable

When you have readied these documents, please email the ISS Office or visit us during walk-in hours to get in touch with an immigration advisor.

I am currently on OPT. What do I do to maintain my status?

You need to report updates in your physical location and employer to International Student Services within 10 days of any change using our OPT Update Form, located in the Forms Library. Failing to report employment can lead to an automatic termination of your status.

Important Things to Keep in Mind While on OPT:

  • While on OPT, you have 90 days of allowable unemployment (120 days for STEM Extension OPT). 
  • You need to work at least 20 hours per week.
  • The following things are considered employment:
    • Paid employment
    • Unpaid/volunteer employment
    • Contract Hire (keep a list of the 1099's and the duration of your employment)
    • Self-employed (if you have the proper business licenses)
    • Multiple jobs (as long as all jobs are in your field of study)

I have applied for OPT and am waiting for my EAD. What do I do now?

Keep in mind that it typically takes 90 days for your OPT application to process. Please do not call or contact USCIS about your application without contacting the ISS Office first. It is better to avoid calling about your application unless absolutely necessary.

Requesting an expedite when it is not absolutely necessary can cause delays to your processing times. Do not request an expedite of your case without talking to the ISS Office first. You can see the official expedite criteria on the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services website. Please note that there is a very high standard for proving that a case requires expedited handling.

I want details about working off-campus on OPT before I graduate.

Pre-completion OPT is Optional Practical Training utilized before the I-20 end date and the completion of your studies. Pre-completion OPT is counted towards the 12 months of OPT available. If you do part-time pre-completion OPT, it is counted at half the rate of full-time OPT. Please note the specific requirements necessary to apply for pre-completion OPT:

  • You must have a job offer to apply for pre-completion OPT.
  • While school is in session, you are limited to part-time pre-completion OPT, unless you are exempt from full-time enrollment/on Z status. You can take part in full-time pre-completion OPT during summer and winter breaks.
  • You must have been enrolled as a full-time student for at least one academic year. You are eligible to apply for your pre-completion OPT to start the summer after your first academic year.