Home / Immigration / F-1 Students / F-1 Employment / F-1 Optional Practical Training
Update (March 20, 2023): You can find a recording of the January 25, 2023 Post-Completion OPT workshop here.
F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment benefit that allows you to work in the US in a job or jobs directly related to your major(s). Only jobs directly related to your major are permitted while using OPT. You are given a maximum of twelve (12) months of OPT per degree level. Additional OPT becomes available only if you advance to a higher degree level.
This page covers the standard F-1 OPT benefit only. Refer to separate sections for the following types of other OPT benefits:
OPT can be done either before completing your degree (pre-completion OPT) or after completing your degree (post-completion OPT). Very few students use OPT on a pre-completion basis, and instead save OPT for after completion of studies.
To qualify for post-completion OPT, you must be in valid F-1 student status. In addition:
If you are interested in applying for Optional Practical Training, you should first attend an OPT workshop. For a schedule of workshops, see our Event and Workshop Calendar.
You may watch a pre-recorded OPT Workshop as well. The workshop contains updated information about the online I-765 filing process.
OPT applications must be submitted to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) within specific timelines. Applications that are received too early or too late will result in a denial, so please plan carefully.
|OPT Type||Earliest Day USCIS Will Accept Your Application||Last Day USCIS Will Accept Your Application|
|Pre-completion OPT||90 days before start of OPT employment, as long as employment does not begin before completing at least one year of full-time study||No last day, but USCIS may take 3+ months to process applications|
|Post-completion OPT||90 days before program completion date (program completion date is the last day of final semester of study, not the graduation date)||60 days after program completion date (applications will not be accepted after this date)|
IMPORTANT: if you are planning to travel internationally after finishing your program, you must first apply for post-completion OPT BEFORE traveling outside the US. If you depart the US after completing your studies without first submitting your application for post-completion OPT, your F-1 status is considered completed and you will no longer be allowed to apply for the benefit.
If you are applying for post-completion OPT, you should review your degree requirements with your academic advisor, dean, or school registrar. If required, apply for graduation in SIS.
Undergraduate students are expected to complete all requirements to qualify for graduation in order to be eligible for post-completion OPT. Students who start the OPT application process but then fail to qualify for graduation by their expected graduation date may be required to withdraw their OPT application.
Graduate students may apply for post-completion OPT based on either completion of all requirements needed for the degree or all coursework requirements for the degree, except for a required thesis, capstone, or dissertation. However, students should talk to their academic advisors about their plans for finishing the remaining thesis, capstone, or dissertation while working on OPT.
After you have reviewed the OPT website information and understand your application timeframes, you must proceed to the International Center Portal, go to the Request Center, and submit an Optional Practical Training Request. Be prepared to upload a copy of your I-94 record. Print out and save your I-94 record from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov.
On the International Center Portal you must confirm your requested OPT dates and send an electronic approval form to your Academic Advisor, Dean, or Registrar's Office as applicable.
Upon submission, an International Center advisor will review your documents. If your request is approved, the advisor will produce a new OPT I-20 for you that contains an OPT recommendation printed on page 2 of your updated I-20.
Once you have your OPT Recommendation I-20 from the International Center, sign it in the "Student Attestation" section at the bottom of page 1.
File your application online with USCIS: online version of Form I-765. Do not complete this step until you have received an OPT I-20 from the International Center.
Your application must be submitted to USCIS within thirty (30) days from the OPT I-20 issuance date. If more than 30 days passes between the time your OPT I-20 was produced and the time USCIS receives your application, your application will be denied. Contact the International Center if you have any questions or concerns about your OPT application deadline.
Note: If you would rather file a paper-based OPT application via mail, use the paper version of Form I-765.
USCIS takes between 2 - 5 months to process EAD cards. You must have your EAD card, and your EAD card start date must have been reached, before you are allowed to start any employment. Once you receive your EAD card, make a copy for your personal records.
OPT requires that you are engaged in jobs or training activities that are related to your major(s). Positions that are not related to your major are not permitted under OPT. In addition, students who are working on post-completion OPT are subject to certain mandatory restrictions regarding unemployment and end or termination of OPT. It is extremely important that you understand and comply with the requirements described below. Failure to do so may lead to your OPT benefit being lost or terminated. If this occurs, you will no longer be able to work and may be required to leave the US. If you have any questions about these requirements, contact the International Center.
While you are working under either pre-completion or post-completion OPT, you are allowed to work only in jobs that are directly related to your major (or majors). You may be asked to provide a brief explanation when updating your OPT information about how any job you accept is related to your major. While your employment must be related to your major(s), many majors prepare students for a wide range of job opportunities, so consider how your degree relates to the duties and requirements of any job you take under OPT.
Acceptable job types include:
You can combine multiple jobs as long as the total hours per week is at least 20 hours per week or more.* If you do not have training activity at 20 hours per week or more, your time may be counted in your unemployment allowance (see next section).
*Please be aware that per temporary guidance issued by SEVP which remains in effect until further notice, valid F-1 status may be maintained while authorized for full-time OPT even if your employment is for less than 20 hours per week. Per the SEVP guidance, "for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT." For further details, please view the Frequently Asked Questions for SEVP Stakeholders about COVID-19.
Beware of Internship or Job Scams
All students should be aware of the possibility of job or internship scams. Scams may include getting offers from companies that are in fact not real, but are designed to have you pay as a condition of getting the job or internship. Learn to recognize when you might be involved in a job scam. If you have to pay fees up front, even if promised "reimbursement" at a later time, your internship may not be legitimate. Read more about how to recognize job scams.
During post-completion OPT, you are allowed only 90 days of unemployment. Unemployment refers to any day in which you are not engaged in training activity. This includes time spent looking for jobs or in between jobs.
The unemployment time starts counting from the first day of your OPT approval, as indicated on your EAD card. If you do not have a job on your first date of employment, your unemployment time will start counting. Once you find a job, you should report your job information to the International Center Portal by accessing the Request Center and submiting an OPT Employer Update.
If you accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment time while on post-completion OPT, US Homeland Security regulations state that you lose your OPT benefit and your F-1 status. If this happens, you may lose your F-1 status and/or be prevented from returning to the US. Contact the International Center if you have any questions about the unemployment restriction.
As required under F-1 regulations, you must report the following within 10 days:
You may report your OPT employment information through the International Center Portal or directly on the SEVP Portal. SEVP will send you your login credentials to their Portal within 2 weeks of your OPT approval date. We highly recommend students to report their OPT employment information through the International Center Portal to ensure that the information is reviewed by an International Center advisor and reported correctly.
Reporting Employment on the International Center Portal
You will continue to have access to the International Center Portal as a Tufts alum. Your Portal UTLN login will be deactivated approximately 45 days after graduation. At this time, you will receive an automated email message from the Portal containing your new login credentials.
You may complete the following actions on the International Center Portal Request Center:
If you need assistance retrieving your Portal Login credentials, please contact us at InternationalCenter@tufts.edu
During post-completion OPT you should be aware of the requirements for travel. These requirements apply once your post-completion OPT has been approved. To re-enter the US, you will need the following:
For more information about travel during OPT, go to our Travel Resources section.
Your OPT benefit ends when any of the following apply:
In general, once your EAD card expires, you still have a sixty day grace period to depart the US, apply for a change to another status, or apply for a new I-20 to start a new program at Tufts or another school. Contact the International Center if you have any questions about when your OPT benefit ends.
If your EAD card is lost, stolen or damaged, you should apply for a replacement card. Applying for a replacement EAD is similar to applying for the original EAD; you will need to file a new I-765 and pay another I-765 application fee. When filing an EAD replacement card request you should:
File your EAD replacement card application online with USCIS: online version of Form I-765
If you would rather file a paper-based EAD replacement card application via mail, use the paper version of Form I-765.
Students who are planning to apply for post-completion Optional Practical Training should research options for health insurance coverage during their OPT period. It is essential to have US health insurance at all times while in the US. Without health insurance, the cost of medical care - as well as related services, such as prescription drug coverage - can become extremely expensive. Here are some steps to take:
There are a variety of private insurance companies that offer insurance plans designed for international students. The following is a list of suggestions. Note that the International Center does not endorse or recommend any of the options below. It is up to each individual to review the plans offered and see which offers the best plan to fit their needs. See also the section below on ACA compliance.
ACA Compliance and State and Federal Health Insurance Markets
In general, students on OPT should consider whether they are subject to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements for health insurance coverage. ACA compliance applies to persons who are considered resident aliens for tax purposes. In general, F-1 students are non-residents for tax purposes for the first five years of physical presence in the US, at which point they may become residents. If you are a resident for tax purposes, you should consider purchasing an ACA compliant plan as required under the ACA's individual mandate. You may also search different health insurance 'marketplaces' managed by the US federal government and state governments. These marketplaces are online sites where individuals may search for or get connected to insurance options. Please research each option carefully.
In general, during your post-completion Optional Practical Training period, your primary purpose is to find and engage in practical training opportunities related to your most recent degree.
Consequently, starting a new academic program (whether at Tufts or another school) may lead to termination of your OPT. For example, if you are doing OPT after completing your bachelor's degree, but are admitted to a master's degree during your OPT period, you will either need to delay the start of your master's program until your OPT is completed, or terminate your OPT early and obtain a new I-20 for your master's program.
During OPT, study that is limited, part-time, and avocational or recreational in nature (i.e., relating to hobbies and other personal interests), or study that might be considered job-related professional training (e.g., taking a coding class while working as a computer programmer) should be permissible.
Contact the International Center if you have any questions about studying while on OPT.