Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a type of work authorization that permits F-1 students to gain work experience in their field of study while in the United States. OPT is not a visa; rather, it is a type of employment benefit for F-1 students who are maintaining their visa status. Students must first obtain an OPT recommendation I-20 from OIS. Then, students submit their OPT application and supporting documents to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for adjudication. There are three types of OPT. Please review the eligibility requirements for each type of OPT:

Pre-Completion OPT Work experience that is permitted during the student’s academic program (before the student’s program end date that is printed on the I-20).

Students interested in pre-completion OPT must consult with an OIS advisor for more information.

After consulting with an OIS advisor, students will apply for the OPT I-20 with OIS. One part of this process is to submit a form confirming the academic department supports the application. The form, called OPT Graduation Verification Form, will be used for the purposes of Pre-Completion OPT as well as Post-Completion OPT.

Post-Completion OPT Work experience that occurs after the student’s academic program ends.

Please visit the Post-Completion OPT page for additional information.

STEM OPT Extension Additional 24-months of work authorization for students who are in an approved period of post-completion OPT and have a degree in one of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) majors on DHS’ STEM Designated Degree Program list.

Please visit the STEM OPT Extension page for additional information.

COVID-19 Updated Guidance on OPT Requirements

For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will allow students to work fewer than 20 hours per week and still meet the OPT employment requirements. SEVP did not specify a minimum number of hours at time, only that students should still be working and reporting employment to SEVP as required.

F-1 students on post-completion OPT or STEM OPT Extension must report changes of employer, address, and telephone number to SEVP. Temporary remote work arrangements do not need to be reported to SEVP, however students should document these arrangements for their own records.