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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT is practical training that is directly related to your major field of study but is not required for you to complete your program of study. Authorization to participate in OPT is granted by US Citizenship and Immigration Services. USCIS may take up to 90 days to authorize your OPT, so you will want to apply early.

You may participate in OPT either during your program of study or following the completion of your program. While classes are in session OPT can only be part-time – up to 20 hours per week. During breaks between classes, it can be full time. Following the completion of your program of study, it must be full time – over 20 hours per week. During your post-completion OPT you may complete your training with multiple organizations, either sequentially or simultaneously, but all of your work must be directly related to your major field.

You may apply for up to 12 months of full time OPT at each degree level. Any part-time OPT used prior to your program completion will count half as much as full time OPT. For example, if you complete four months of part-time OPT during your program, you will only have 10 months of full time OPT remaining to use after you finish your program.

If you major in a STEM field, you may apply for an additional 24 month extension to be added to the end of your post-completion OPT.

While you are participation in post-completion OPT, you are still in F-1 status and must continue to report any changes in your address, your name or your non-immigrant status. You must also report any changes in your training – start and end dates, changes of position, or address. Please email to report your changes or fill out the OPT Reporting Form.

Download the OPT Checklist-2020-21

How to apply:

  1. Attend an OPT workshop to learn about all your options and review the required documents
  2. Make one-sided photocopies of all of the following:
    • The ID page of your passport (and any extension pages)
    • The visa stamp that you used for your last entry to the US (if you have one)
    • Your form I-94 (gov/i94)
    • Any previously received EAD cards (front and back)
  3. Also prepare:
  4. Call Student Success at: 314-529-9649 to make an appointment
  5. Bring all of the above to the appointment

After your appointment, you will mail your completed application to USCIS. After about 2-4 weeks, you will receive a receipt notice containing your case number, allowing you to track the status of your OPT application line. When your OPT is approved, you will receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card), which can take up to 90 days for adjudication.

Applicants for the 24-month STEM extension will follow the same general process outlined above. Please read and ask your prospective STEM employer to read the information found on the Study in the States website. You will find there much valuable information, including a link to those programs of study (majors) eligible for the extension and what both you and your employer must do while you are participating in the extension. You should pay careful attention to the new training plan requirement that was not a part of the previous STEM extension program.

If your employer chooses to file and H-1B change of status petition with a start date of October 1 while you are still participating in your authorized period of OPT or are within the 60-day grace period following your OPT, ask the employer if he is subject to the cap on H-1B visas. If so, you may also be eligible for another extension known as the “cap-gap” extension. This extension will allow you to continue in F-1 status and possibly to continue your training/employment until October 1. If you think you might qualify for this extension, contact ISS to discuss your options.

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