Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit for F-1 students to work off-campus in a field directly related to their major area(s) of study. OPT is offered as Pre-Completion, Post-Completion, and STEM extension, each requiring a separate application. An offer of employment is not required to apply for OPT. All off-campus employment requires prior approval by your International Student Advisor (ISA). Be certain to make an appointment with your ISA prior to submitting any applications, engaging in employment, or accepting employment.
Eligibility for this category requires that students be enrolled full-time for at least one academic year, and are in F-1 status at the time of their application. Employment must be directly related to the student's field of study. Students become eligible for another twelve months of OPT when they enroll in a higher degree level. You are eligible for OPT once for each completed degree.
Pre-Completion vs. Post-Completion OPT
Pre-Completion OPT can be used before the student completes their degree. While school is in session (fall and spring semesters) students are only eligible to work part-time (maximum of 20 hours per week); during winter and summer break students are eligible to work full-time (more than 20 hours).
Part-Time OPT will accrue time at a half rate (i.e. 2 months of part-time Pre-Completion OPT will equal one month of full-time), this will be subtracted from your total 12 months of OPT. If 12 months of full-time pre-completion OPT is used, post-completion OPT is forfeited.
Post-Completion OPT is used once the student has completed their degree. This is accrued at a full-time rate.
Students do not need a job in order to apply for Pre or Post Completion OPT. However, once granted by USCIS, unemployment time will begin to accrue from the start date of your OPT. Students may apply for periods of OPT before completion of studies, save the total twelve-month period to be used after completion of studies, or use a combination.
While on OPT students are restricted to 90 cumulative days of unemployment. If you accrue 90 days of consecutive unemployment, SEVIS will automatically terminate your SEVIS record, and you will lose your student status effective immediately. Once you report your new employer information to ISS, your 90 days of unemployment will stop accumulating.
If you do not have an employer at the time of your initial OPT application, you will need to update ISS once you find employment.