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F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows F-1 students to accept paid, off-campus employment that is directly related to their field of study. This permission is granted as a benefit of the F-1 program and does NOT change your US immigration status. Applications must be filed with USCIS and are subject to application fees and significant processing time. Please discuss your plans with an ISO Student Advisor.

 

Eligibility

Eligible students may apply for Optional Practical Training with a recommendation from their current institution. No job offer is required to apply and the work permission may be used at different employers during the authorized employment period. You must meet the following eligibility criteria to apply:

  • Maintain valid F-1 status and normal progress towards degree requirements
  • Been enrolled in a full-time course of study for at least 1 academic year
  • Not previously authorized for 12 months of OPT at current or higher degree level
  • Not been authorized for more than 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training

"Use It, or Lose It": OPT is a benefit of valid F-1 status and eligibility is directly associated with the current degree level. Therefore, once you change to a different immigration category or begin a new degree program, any authorized OPT period is forfeited. Similarly, you may not save your OPT eligibility to be used at a later time.

 

Authorization Type

A 12-month period of OPT authorization is available at each higher degree level while maintaining valid F-1 status. Periods of full-time OPT may be granted in segments up to the full 12 months. Part-time OPT authorization is counted at 50% towards the total 12 months (2 months of part-time OPT will count as 1 month of the total OPT). Students moving to a higher degree program will be eligible for an additional 12 months of OPT at that level. Eligible students may apply for OPT under these categories:

Pre-completion
     -  During the academic year while enrolled in coursework (part time)
     -  During the annual vacation period (part time or full time)

Post-completion
     -  After completion of all degree requirements excluding the thesis (full time)
     -  After completion of all degree requirements (full time)

Please see OPT Decision Factors for additional discussion of these authorization types.