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 cannot be adjusted after it is approved.  Once the application is submitted, please allow at least 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: review and gather all the documents listed in the Pre-completion OPT packet, then complete the Optional Practical Training application in Terra Dotta. You will be contacted by ISSS for an appointment to complete your OPT application.


Did you know? Career and Academic Planning offers a scholarship for students who are doing unpaid summer internships! Learn more.

Post-Completion OPT

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

To apply:  read through and gather all the documents listed in the Post-completion OPT packet, which includes the graduation verification form that must be submitted to the Registrar's Office, prior to meeting with an ISSS advisor. You will need to complete the Optional Practical Training application in Terra Dotta. You will be contacted by ISSS for an appointment to complete your OPT application.

OPT STEM Extension

OPT STEM Extension is a 24-month extension of OPT for F-1 visa holders who majored in certain Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) fields, 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. 

To apply: prepare all the documents as outlined in the STEM Extension OPT packet, including an official school transcript and the I-765 and I-983 forms, then complete the STEM OPT Extension application in Terra Dotta. An ISSS advisor will contact you with questions and when your new I-20 is ready to be mailed to you.

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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