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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined in the Federal Regulations as temporary employment directly related to a student’s field of study. During OPT, a student remains in F-1 status, the SEVIS record remains active, and the student must report changes in address and employment to International Student Affairs. When OPT is approved by US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the student receives an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) which authorizes employment for a specific time period. Below are some important points regarding OPT.

Non-STEM OPT is limited to an equivalent of 12 months full-time per degree level. Extensions are not allowable and students cannot “bank” previously unused time for use during or after a subsequent degree level.

Pre-completion OPT

Post-completion OPT

Eligibility Criteria for OPT:

Note: If an F-1 student has engaged in 12 months or more of full-time curricular practical training (CPT), he/she is ineligible for OPT. Any amount of part-time CPT does not have any effect on eligibility for OPT.

OPT Application Process

Step 1: Meet with your academic adviser and confirm your degree completion date. If applying for post-completion OPT, please note that the normal federal processing time is 90 days.

Step 2: Have your academic adviser send an email to International Student Affairs confirming the projected date you will complete degree requirements and recommending practical training.

Step 3: Prepare your application and make an appointment with International Student Affairs to review the application and to issue a new I-20 endorsed for OPT.

Step 4: Mail your application to USCIS. Remember, you cannot start work until you have received the EAD and will be working within its valid dates.

Step 5: Receive EAD card within 2-3 months and begin working after start date printed on the card. Please provide International Student Affairs a scanned copy.

While you are on OPT:

Employment Authorization

OPT Employment Requirements and Reporting:

The EAD is not employer specific, so you may change employers at will. However, employment must be directly related to the field of study in your degree program. Any employment outside your field of study is unauthorized and is a substantive violation of your status.

It is recommended that you keep documentation of all of your places of employment. In the future, you may be asked to provide proof that your employment during OPT was in your field of study or that you did not exceed 90 days of unemployment. You should maintain evidence — for each job — of the position held, proof of the duration of that position, the job title, contact information for your supervisor or manager, and description of the work.

Full-time, part-time, and unpaid volunteer or internship opportunities are permissible under OPT.

If you cannot find employment that meets the definition of OPT employment, you may have the following options:

Social Security Number

If you do not yet have a Social Security Number (SSN), you may apply for one after you have received the EAD card and the begin date on the card has been reached.  If you already have a SSN, do not apply for a new one. Social Security Numbers are unique and issued for life.

You do not need your SSN to begin working. On your first day of employment, you will be asked to complete employment paperwork. If you do not yet have your SSN, you may write “applied for” in the space where the SSN is to be provided. Once you receive the Social Security Card in the mail, provide the number to your employer.

Travel Outside the U.S. and Reentry

Options After Post-Completion OPT