Optional Practical Training (OPT)

An employment option for F-1 students who wish to gain work experience directly related to their field of study. Eligible students may be authorized for up to 12 months total OPT per degree level. OPT can be used during a student's studies (pre-completion) or immediately after graduation (post-completion).

Pre-Completion

  • Work authorization for a period that will begin and end before the completion of the degree program.
  • May work part-time (20 hours a week or less) while school is in session and full-time (more than 20 hours a week) during summer or winter break.
  • Pre-completion OPT time will deduct from post-completion OPT eligibility, at a rate of half time, (e.g. If you work part-time 4 months you use up 2 months of OPT).
  • May apply 90 days before desired employment/OPT start date. 

 

Post-Completion

  • Post-completion OPT is a temporary employment benefit for F-1 students. It permits you to work work in your major field of study for a maximum of 12 months per education level.
  • Your post-completion OPT start date must be within 60 days after your program completion date. Your program completion date is determined from the Completion of Academic Program e-form on iEagle. (typically, graduation date or last day of classes).
  • ISSS recommends that you clear your account balance before applying for post-completion OPT.
  • May apply up to 90 days before graduation date and 60 days after graduation date. It is strongly recommended to start the application before graduation. 

 

  • Must have been enrolled in a full-time degree seeking program for one academic year (Fall and Spring)
  • Job offer not required for application
  • One 12-month OPT per degree level
  • Degree levels are:
    • Associates (AA)
    • Bachelors (BA/BS)
    • Masters (MA/MS, LLM, MBA)
    • Doctoral (PhD, JD, SJD)
  • Attend a mandatory OPT Session. Register online on iEagle via Session Sign-ups - OPT. You will learn about:
    • The documents and forms required for the OPT application and how to complete them
    • The rights and responsibilities of students engaged in OPT
    • The deadlines and processing time of OPT applications
    • Travel restrictions on OPT
  • Review the I-765 guide, handouts, and video on iEagle > OPT Reporting > OPT Application.
  • Submit a Completed Application packet to ISSS via iEagle
  • Submit the Completion of Academic Program e-form on iEagle > OPT Reporting. This form will be routed to the chosen academic advisor for approval and will be used to certify the program completion date. 

ISSS will review your entire OPT application and issue a new I-20 with OPT recommendation noted. This process can take 5-7 business days.

While ISSS is reviewing your OPT packet please prepare 2 passport sized photos and a Cashier's Check, Personal Check or Money Order for $410.00 (payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security). Here is a guide. 
*The filing fee was not updated to $550 on October 2, 2020, due to a temporary injunction.

When your new I-20 is ready, ISSS will contact you to arrange it to be mailed. You will then receive instructions by mail on the next steps before mailing the packet to USCIS. 

USCIS must receive your OPT application within 30 days of your new OPT I-20 issuance date. If not received within 30 days, OPT will be denied and appeal is not possible.

Please include a Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, in your OPT packet to receive a text or email message from USCIS after they accept your application for processing.

Please review the Optional Practical Training Reporting page to find out your reporting responsibilites during OPT.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Application

When you mail your OPT application, we recommend you track the delivery of your package to USCIS using the method available through the delivery service (USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc.).

To receive e-notifications from USCIS on the status of your OPT application, you should include the G-1145 e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (PDF) with your OPT application when you apply.

You may also sign up for USPS Informed Delivery and check your OPT application status on the USCIS website

USCIS will notify you by mail within 2 to 3 weeks that they have received your application. Please save this receipt as it will include your USCIS file number. With your USCIS file number, you can monitor progress on your application at the USCIS Case Status Service website. 

Students generally receive their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) cards within 8 -12 weeks. If 80 days have passed from the receipt date and you have not received your EAD card, contact ISSS immediately.

If you are authorized for a total of 12 or more months of full-time CPT during your degree, you will lose your eligibility for OPT at that degree level.

Part-time CPT does not affect your OPT eligibility.

Applicants who receive their approved EAD card from USCIS should receive their Social Security card from the Social Security Administration within the following 2 weeks.

Work

Students on post-completion OPT are allowed only 90 days total of unemployment during their OPT period. Please contact ISSS with any questions about the unemployment period and how volunteer work can count as employment.

After 90 days of unemployment on post-completion OPT you can be considered in violation of your F-1 status unless you:

  • Transfer to a new educational program
  • Depart the US
  • Change visa status

Yes. 

When you report your employment with a staffing agency, the address you report must be the location where you are physically working.

Be mindful that some recruiters and placement agencies may engage in fraudulent activity. You should ensure the agencies you are using are trustworthy and reputable. Reputable recruiters will not modify your resume or academic background to secure OPT placement. 

If you witness a fraudulent activity by an OPT recruiter or company, please contact the ICE Homeland Security Investigations tip line

Life

Students on pre-completion OPT should follow the regular travel protocol for full-time degree seeking students.

It is not recommended to travel during post-completion OPT until after you have found and started employment. During your OPT never try to re-enter the US on any other visa status (e.g. B-1/B-2, Visa Waiver, etc) as this can result in losing your OPT.

If you travel outside the US while on OPT you will need the following documents to re-enter the US:

  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card
  • Letter of employment on company letterhead and signed (If you do not have proof of employment, you may be denied re-entry to the US)
  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa (if your F-1 visa has expired you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa while you are outside the US)
  • OPT I-20 with travel signature from ISSS (signed within the last 6 months before the day you will re-enter the US)

Yes, you can extend your AU health insurance coverage as long as you apply for the extension at least 1 month before the end of your current coverage. Please note that while on OPT you cannot move to AU health insurance after your employer's insurance. 

For more information contact your current health care insurance provider.

Extensions

Students become eligible to apply for an additional 12 months of OPT per higher level of degree study completed.

Example: A student completes a Bachelor's degree and gets 12 months of OPT. The student then completes a master's degree and is eligible for another 12 months of OPT because it is a higher degree level. The same student then completes a PhD and is eligible for a third 12 months of OPT because it is a higher degree level.

Only Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) majors have an option for a 24-month extension of OPT. A minor in a STEM field does not make you eligible for the STEM extension. For more information, see our webpage on the STEM OPT Extension.

The "Cap-Gap" refers to the period of time where F-1 students on OPT have a gap in their visa status.

Find out if you are eligible for the Cap-Gap extension.