Overview

Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides an F-1 visa holder with an opportunity to gain 12 months of employment experience in his/her major area of study (with an option for a 24-month extension for STEM majors).  The OPT time can be used all at once (12 months) or in shorter increments during the school year (part-time), summer vacations (part-time or full-time), or after graduation (full-time). Employment while on OPT must be related to your major field of study.  A job offer is not required to apply for OPT, but you must obtain authorization by the USCIS prior to beginning employment. OPT is granted for specific dates and connot be adjusted after it is approved.  Once the application is submitted, please allow 90 days for processing.  

There are three types of OPT (listed below).  Please review the following information to determine which OPT type fits your situation.

Pre-Completion OPT

Pre-completion OPT is used during the F-1 visa holder’s program of study (before the end date on the I-20 form), and is either part-time while studying or full or part-time during annual vacations (summer).

To apply for Pre-completion OPT:  prepare all the documents as outlined in the Pre-completion OPT packet, then schedule a meeting with one of the advisors. 

Post-Completion OPT

Post-completion OPT is used after the F-1 visa holder has completed his/her program of study, however it is recommended that you apply 90 days before the end date on your I-20 form.  You may apply for Post-completion OPT up until 60 days after the program end date listed on your I-20 form. 

To apply for Post-completion OPT:  attend one of the following OPT sessions (at least 3 months before graduation):

Obtaining immigration approval to work off-campus sessions - stop by anytime between 3 and 4:30pm in CGE on Oct. 19, Nov. 2, Nov. 14, Nov. 29.

.  The OPT session will include a presentation on the application process, covering the details regarding OPT, time for questions, and the Post-completion OPT packet, which includes the graduation verification form that must be completed by the Registrar's Office, prior to applying for OPT with an ISSS advisor.  Check the ISSS home page for the next OPT session.

OPT STEM Extension

OPT STEM Extension is for F-1 visa holders who majored in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM), have a job in the STEM field, and whose employer is enrolled in E-Verify, an internet-based system operated by the U.S. government used to verify employment eligibility of new hires. The extension is for an additional 24 months. 

To apply for OPT STEM Extension:  prepare all the documents as outlined in the STEM Extension OPT packet, including an official school transcript and the I-983 form (instructions).  Applications for OPT STEM Extension must be received by USCIS prior to the expiration date of the current Post-completion OPT (listed on EAD card).   You can apply up to 90 days before the expiration date on your EAD card.

Additional Information

*For students on Post-completion OPT or OPT STEM Extension and their employer files for an H-1B employment visa, there is a provision to bridge the gap between the end date of the OPT and the start date of the H-1B, call the CAP-GAP Extension.    

** For questions about Reentry and travel while on Post-completion OPT, it's best to consult with an ISSS advisor. 

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