Center for International Programs

Current Students

Employment Information - Optional Practical Training

On April 8, 2008, The Department of Homeland Security published an interim final rule that changes several key aspects of F-1 optional practical training (OPT). The rule is effective April 8, 2008.
OPT is training that is directly related to an F-1 academic student’s major area of study. It is intended to provide students with practical experience in their field of study during or upon completion of a degree program.
An F-1 student could be authorized to receive up to a total of 12 months of practical training either before (pre-) and/or after (post-) completion of studies. However, students who have accumulated 12 months or more of full-time curricular practical training are ineligible to apply for OPT.

An F-1 Student is eligible for 12 months of OPT for each degree program completed at a higher level of education.


Types of OPT
  1. Pre-Completion OPT

    Pre-Completion OPT is employment authorized before the student’s program end date. Students with approved pre-completion OPT may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students who are eligible to register for the next term, and who plan to do so, may have approval to work full time when school is not in session.
  2. Post-Completion

    Post-completion OPT is employment authorized after the student’s successful completion of studies and program end date.


  3. STEM Extension OPT

    F-1 students who completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a STEM field (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and are currently engaged in post-completion OPT may apply for the STEM extension if they have a job or job offer from an E-Verify employer.



Pre-Completion OPT Back to Top

Pre-Completion OPT is employment authorized before the student’s completion of his or her program of study. Students may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and more than 20 hours while school is not in session.


General guidelines

  • Student must be in lawful F-1 student status at the time of application
  • Student must have been enrolled in a full course of study for at least one academic year/ or will have met this requirement by the time the pre-completion OPT is supposed to commence
  • Student must have not engaged in more than 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during the current degree level
  • Student must have not been authorized for 12 months of OPT at the current degree level
  • Student does not need to have a pending job offer letter to apply for pre-completion OPT
  • Student may only engage in part-time employment (up 20 hours a week) while school is in session
  • Student may only engage in full-time employment, if the following applies:
    • a student’s annual vacation semester and/or during official school breaks

Important deadlines for pre-completion OPT

A student may file for OPT up to 90 days before he or she completes a full academic year. If the student has already completed a full academic year, he or she may apply for OPT up to 120 days in advance of the requested

  • employment start date
  • The pre-completion OPT application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the DSO’s signature on the properly endorsed Form I-20.

Students interested in applying for pre-completion OPT, should do the following

  1. Obtain and complete the Application Form I 765– Pre-Completion OPT ( c ) ( 3 ) ( A )
  2. Return completed application form and supporting documentation to us for review 
  3. Student must obtain an updated Form I-20 endorsed for pre-completion OPT
  4. Student must sign the updated Form I-20 prior to making the photocopy to be included in your application packet
  5. Student must mail the completed application packet to USCIS within 30 days of the Form I-20 issuance date

Student responsibilities while on pre-completion OPT

During the application process:

  • Student must continue to meet his or her reporting requirements
    • Report to their DSO within 10 days of:
    • Legal name changes
    • A change in residential or mailing address

After the pre-completion period has begun:

  • Student must provide us with a copy of his or her Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card
Student must continue to meet his or her reporting requirements

Post-Completion OPT Back to Top

Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment authorized after the student’s successful completion of studies and program end date.


General guidelines

  • Student must be in lawful F-1 student status at the time of application
  • Student must have been enrolled in a full course of study for at least one academic year/ or will have met this requirement by the time the post-completion OPT is supposed to commence
  • Student must have not engaged in more than 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during the current degree level
  • Student must have not been authorized for 12 months of OPT at the current degree level
  • Student does not need to have a pending job offer letter to apply for post-completion OPT
  • Employment may not begin until the OPT application has been approved by USCIS and the student has received his or her ‘employment authorization document’ (EAD) card
  • The recommended employment start date must be after the student’s official program end date (commencement) but no later than the end of his or her 60 day grace period
  • Employment must be within the student’s field of study
Important deadlines for post-completion OPT

  • Students may apply up to 90 days before their anticipated program end date and up to 60 days after their program end date.
    • Applying for OPT during the 60-day grace period:
      As of April 8th, 2008 students may apply for OPT within the 60 day grace period following their program end date (commencement). Schools are currently not able to recommend OPT in this situation in SEVIS without engaging in a complex process, which may result in delays. It is highly recommended that students apply for post-completion OPT prior to their program end date, until SEVIS has been properly modified to accept this change in regulations.
      • Travel warning: A student may not leave the U.S. after the program completion date has passed and re-enter to apply for post-completion OPT, even if the student is within his or her 60 day grace period.
  • The post-completion OPT application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the DSO’s signature on the properly endorsed Form I-20.


Students interested in applying for post-completion OPT, should do the following

  • Obtain and complete the Application Form – Post-Completion OPT ( c ) ( 3 ) ( B )
  • Return completed application form and supporting documentation to us for review 
  • Student must obtain an updated Form I-20 endorsed for post-completion OPT
  • Student must sign the updated Form I-20 prior to making the photocopy to be included in your application packet
  • Student must mail the completed application packet to USCIS within 30 days of the Form I-20 issuance date

Student responsibilities while on post-completion OPT


During the application process:

  • Student must continue to meet his or her reporting requirements
    • Report to their DSO within 10 days of:
      • Legal name changes
      • A change in residential or mailing address


After the post-completion period has begun:

    • Student must provide us with a copy of his or her Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card
    • Student must continue to meet his or her reporting requirements
      • Report to their DSO within 10 days of:
        • Legal name changes
        • A change in residential or mailing address
        • Changes in employer, including the employer name and employer address
        • Loss of employment and unemployment
        • Employment start date
    • Students on post-completion OPT may accrue up to no more than 90 days of unemployment within the dates of the authorization, shown on the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). If a student exceeds the 90 day unemployment limit, he/she is no longer considered to be in maintenance of F-1 status.
    • Time spent outside the United States during post-completion OPT does count against the limit on unemployment, unless the student is employed and in an authorized period of leave from the employer, or if the student is traveling for his/her job.
    • Please keep in mind that when a student is approved by USCIS for post-completion OPT, the EAD is issued for the entire post-completion OPT period (typically equal to twelve months), not just for 90 days.


STEM Extension OPT Back to Top

The Interim Final Rule published on April 8th also extended the 12 month limit on F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) by 17 months, for a total of 29 months, for certain STEM degree-holders (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

F-1 students who completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in a STEM field and are currently engaged in post-completion OPT may apply for the STEM extension if they have a job or job offer with an E-Verify employer.  

General guidelines

  • Student must be in lawful F-1 student status at the time of application
  • Student must currently be engaged in their post-completion OPT
  • Student must have not been authorized for 17 month STEM extension previously
  • Student must have employment and/ or a job offer form an E-Verify employer
  • Student must have a degree in one of the approved STEM major areas of study (STEM Designated Degree Program List)  


Important deadlines for the OPT STEM Extension:

  • Students must submit a completed application for the STEM Extension to USCIS prior to the expiration of their current OPT authorization; however, students may apply no sooner than 120 days of the expiration date of the current OPT authorization
  • The OPT application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the
  • Immigration Coordinator’s signature on the properly endorsed Form I-20


Students interested in applying for the 17-month OPT STEM Extension should do the following

  • Obtain and complete the Application Form - STEM Extension ( c ) ( 3 ) ( C )
  • Return completed application form and supporting documentation to us for review
  • Student must obtain an updated Form I-20 endorsed for the 17-month OPT STEM Extension
  • Return completed application form and supporting documentation to us for review
  • Student must obtain an updated Form I-20 endorsed for the 17-month OPT STEM Extension
  • Student must sign the updated Form I-20 prior to making the photocopy to be included in your application packet
  • Student must mail the completed application packet to USCIS within 30 days of the Form I-20 issuance date
Student responsibilities while on the 17-month OPT STEM Extension

During the application process:
  • Student must continue to meet his or her reporting requirements
    • Report to their DSO within 10 days of:
      • Legal name changes
      • A change in residential or mailing address
      • Changes in employer, giving the employer name and employer address
      • Loss of employment

After the 17-month OPT STEM Extension period has begun:

  • Student must provide us with a copy of his or her Employment Authorization Document (EAD card)
  • Students pursuing a period of the 17-month OPT STEM Extension must:

    • Work in a paid position for an E-Verify employer at least 20 hours per week
    • Work in a position related to the STEM degree
      • Report to their Immigration Coordinator within 10 days of:
        • Legal name changes
        • A change in residential or mailing address
        • Changes in employer, giving the employer name and employer address
        • Loss of employment
        • Employment start date
    • Send the DSO a validation report every six months starting from the date the 17-month OPT STEM Extension starts and ending when the student’s F-1 status ends or the 17-month OPT STEM Extension ends, whichever is first. The validation report must include the student’s:
      • Full legal name
      • SEVIS identification number (if requested by the school)
      • Current mailing and residential address
      • Name and address of the current employer
      • Date the student began working for the current employer

    Students pursuing a period of the 17-month OPT STEM Extension must NOT:

    • Work in a paid position for any employer that is not an E-Verify employer
    • Have more than 120 days of unemployment time during the entire period of OPT (regular post-completion OPT and the 17-month OPT STEM Extension)
      • Students who accumulate a period of 120 days of unemployment (starting with the start of their original authorized OPT period) are considered to not be maintaining status. For those students whose OPT authorization began prior to this rule coming into effect, the days of unemployment will begin counting on April 8th, 2008.