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Optional Practical Training (OPT) Tutorial


  • Student must have been enrolled full-time for a minimum of one academic year (one fall and one spring semester) to be eligible for OPT.
  •  Intensive English students are not eligible for OPT.
  •  OPT authorization may be granted only once per degree level.
  • Undergraduate students and coursework-only graduate students may apply for OPT up to 90 days before graduation and up to 60 days after graduation.
  • Graduate students completing a thesis, project, or dissertation may apply for OPT as early as 90 days before completing the required coursework and as late as 60 days after graduation.  In this discussion of OPT eligibility, the definition of “required coursework” excludes thesis, project, or dissertation hours.
  • Students cannot begin post-completion OPT until they have completed all required coursework for their degree.
  • OPT may not extend more than 14 months after graduation.  In order to receive a full 12 months of post-completion OPT, the OPT start date cannot be more than 60 days after graduation.
  • OPT employment must be full-time, which is defined by USCIS as 20 hours per week or more.  The employment may be paid or unpaid and may exceed 40 hours per week.  The student and employer must work together to ensure the employment arrangement does not violate any U.S. labor laws. See this Fact Sheet from the U.S. Department of Labor for more information about unpaid internships.
  • A student may work more than one job while on OPT, but all employment must be related to the major field of study.
  • During the 12-month post-completion OPT period, F-1 status is dependent on employment.  The student is allowed 90 days of unemployment during OPT.  Students who accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment may be considered out-of-status by USCIS at any point in the future.  Days of unemployment begin accumulating on the start date listed on the EAD (“OPT card”). Please note: Due to a recent update to SEVIS, students without reported employment will be considered "unemployed" and SEVIS will automatically begin counting days of unemployment. A SEVIS update expected to occur in the near future will result in the  automatic termination of records of those students who exceed the cumulative 90 day unemployment limit. To avoid being automatically terminated by mistake, be sure to report all employment information so we can keep your SEVIS record up to date.
  • Students with certain STEM degrees may qualify for an extension of OPT authorization.  A list of qualifying majors can be found on the ICE website.  To learn more about eligibility requirements and how to apply for the extension, please review the information in our STEM OPT Extension Tutorial.

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