Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows eligible F-1 students to engage in employment (both on-campus and off-campus) within their major area of study for up to 12 months per educational level.
OPT Application Steps
There are very specific procedures for applying for Optional Practical Training.
- Students who intend to engage in post-completion OPT are encouraged to start the paperwork 3 months prior to the completion of all degree requirements.
- Most students use their 12 months of OPT upon degree completion [post-completion OPT]. OPT is granted by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. The processing can take up to 3 months and costs $380.
What happens after USCIS recEIves your OPT application?
- Global Services will receive a receipt notice from USCIS after your application has been filed and will contact you to request that you pick it up at our front desk. You can check the status of your application with the receipt notice number by going to the USCIS Case Status Web Page.*
- Up to 90 days after applying, Global Services will receive your OPT card and will contact you to request that you pick it up at our front desk. Please note that you are not authorized to work until you have the card in hand and the effective start date on the card has arrived.
- You must notify Global Services when you begin employment, any time you change employers, and when you lose a position.**
*For OPT extension applications you should use your home address but you must be careful to notify USCIS when you move. Government documents, such as your receipt notice and OPT card will not be forwarded to a new address but rather returned to USCIS.
**The new regulations that went into effect on 4/8/08 specify the amount of time a student may remain in the US unemployed during the 12 and 29 months of OPT. It is unclear how this will be monitored however and Global Services is waiting for guidance and advocating that this provision of the law be reconsidered. We will be updating our site and sending updates as these issues are clarified.
17 Month OPT Extension Applications
For students in certian major areas of study there is an opportunity to extend OPT for an additional 17 months near the end of the approved 12 month period one time. For information regarding this 17 month extension please visit our OPT extension page.
- When filing OPT extension applications you should write in your home address on Form I-765
- Mail your application to one of four different USCIS Service Centers, depending on the state where you are living.
- To determine which Service Center you must mail your application to, please see page 10 of the I-765 instructions
Contact an Global Services advisor if you have a job offer and need to expedite your pending OPT application in order to begin work.
- For information regarding important things to remember after applying for post-completion OPT, please refer to our OPT follow-up information guide
- For information regarding travel and OPT, visit our OPT Travel Regulations page
Students who are currently on OPT are required to keep their employment status and employer information up to date using this online form: