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:
Types of Optional Practical Training: Pre- and Post-Completion
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.
Eligibility Requirements for OPT
To qualify for OPT, you must be in the United States in valid F-1 student status. In addition:
You must have studied on a full-time basis in a US-based academic program in valid status for at least one full academic year before your OPT can begin
Time spent in non-academic (e.g., English language training programs) or primarily online or overseas programs does not count toward the academic year requirement
You must currently be making normal academic progress toward degree completion (for post-completion OPT, you may also apply within 60 days after completing your degree requirements, as indicated by the program end date on your I-20*
You cannot apply for OPT if you were already approved for 12 months of OPT at the same degree level, since you are only given 12 months of OPT per degree level (not 12 months per degree)
You do not need a job offer to apply, but for post-completion OPT you are given only 90 days of unemployment (see below)
The unemployment rule only applies to post-completion OPT
*For post-completion OPT, please remember that you must be in the US in valid F-1 student status in order to apply. If you complete your program and depart the US without applying for OPT, you are no longer eligible to apply for OPT as your F-1 student status ends upon departure from the US.
OPT Application Steps
Step 1: Attend an OPT Workshop and Confirm Your OPT Timeline
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.
Understand the OPT Timeline
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.
Earliest Day USCIS Will Accept Your Application
Last Day USCIS Will Accept Your Application
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
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.
Step 2: Confirm Your Completion Date and Apply for Graduation (Post-Completion OPT)
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.
Step 3: Submit Your OPT Request to the International Center
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.
Step 4: File Your OPT Application with USCIS
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. You may then proceed to completing a USCIS Form I-765 application for employment authorization.
We recommend that you file your application online with USCIS using the 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 meeting this essential OPT application deadline.
Step 5: Wait for Your EAD Card to be Approved
USCIS will take anywhere between 6-12 weeks to process your I-765 application. Processing times can vary widely from case-to-case and according to time of year. Students should plan at least 8 to 12 weeks processing time as the typical or average processing time.
Once your application is approved, USCIS will order a card to be printed and mailed to you. Printing and mailing time can take an additional 2+ weeks in many cases. Be sure that your mailing / delivery address is up to date with USCIS.
As of May 2023, USCIS also offers premium processing service for OPT and STEM OPT applications. The premium processing service, which requires USCIS to process the application within 30 days, costs an additional fee ($1,500 as of May 2023). You may request the premium processing option by completing an USCIS Form I-907 Form I-907 may be submitted at the same time when you file Form I-765, or at a later date, after USCIS has received or started processing your I-765. You do not need additional forms from the International Center to request premium processing service.
Requirements for Students on OPT
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.
Acceptable Jobs and Job Types
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:
Regular paid employment for at least 20 hours a week
Multiple short-term employments (gigs) for musicians, artists, etc.
Work for hire: Services performed based on a contractual relationship
Self-employed business owner: must have proper business licenses
Employment through an agency for at least 20 hours a week
Volunteers or unpaid interns: the volunteer or unpaid internship position must meet the requirements for unpaid activity; any position must be at least 20 hours per week
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.
Understand Your 90-day Unemployment Allowance (Post-Completion OPT)
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.
Students on pre-completion OPT are not required to have a job. As a result, unemployment time during pre-completion OPT will not trigger loss of F-1 status. However, any time that is authorized but not used is lost and cannot be recovered for use at a later date.
Report Your OPT Employment or Address Changes within 10 Days
As required under F-1 regulations, you must report the following within 10 days:
Changes to your employment information, including adding or deleting jobs
When adding a new job, you must report the company name, location, hours per week, and an explanation of how the practical training opportunity relates to your major of study at Tufts
Changes to your US residential address and contact information
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.
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:
An unexpired passport valid at least six months into the future
A valid F-1 visa
Your OPT Form I-20, with a travel endorsement signature no more than six months old on the date of your return
Your EAD card
Strongly recommended: evidence of employment such as a job offer letter, a letter from your supervisor, copies of paychecks, or other evidence that you are using your OPT
For more information about travel during OPT, go to our Travel Resources section.
Take Steps When Post-Completion OPT Ends
Your OPT benefit ends when any of the following apply:
Your exceed 90 days of unemployment OR your EAD card expiration date is reached, whichever comes first
You request that your I-20 and SEVIS record be transferred to another school
You start a new academic program at a different educational level (e.g., you complete a BA degree and then enroll in a MA degree program)
Your immigration status is changed from F-1 to another status, such H-1B status
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.
Get a Replacement EAD if Your Original EAD is Lost, Stolen or Damaged
If your EAD card is lost, stolen or damaged, you may have different options depending on the circumstances. Contact the International Center for more information about the options below.
If your card was mailed to you but never received by you, start by opening an inquiry with your local US Postal Service office responsible for delivering mail to the address listed on your I-765 application. If you have a tracking number, provide the number to the Post Office so they can track the package. If it is determined that the EAD card was never delivered, ask the Post Office if they would issue a letter to you confirming that the package was not delivered. You may also check with USCIS to see if the package was returned to them. You can also open an inquiry with USCIS if your card was not delivered, and provide them with information about your application and details about the delivery.
If you received your card, but the card was later lost, damaged or stolen, you will need to apply for a replacement EAD 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:
Indicate that the "Reason for Applying" is for "Replacement of lost, stolen or damaged employment authorization document".
Upload an updated I-20 that reflects your current OPT employment information
Include a copy of your original Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card, if available, or a copy of any receipts from USCIS that will help USCIS to identify the original card number.
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:
Check the expiration of your current student health insurance plan. If you are currently enrolled in Tufts student health insurance, send an email to email@example.com (along with your name and ID card) to confirm the exact expiration date of your current student health insurance coverage. This will give you a timeline for planning your post-insurance needs. If you have a health insurance plan through an accepted outside insurance company, you can do the same with that company.
Check with your OPT employer (if you have one) to see if you will receive health insurance company as a benefit of your job. Depending on your employer and the types of benefits they offer, you may be able to obtain health insurance as a benefit of your job. You should discuss this with your OPT employer, if you have one.
If you do not have insurance through your job, shop for and purchase an external insurance plan for either short- or long-term coverage. There are many private, commercial providers that offer health insurance to students who are on OPT. Deciding which plan is best for you will require you to do your own research, since different individuals will have different healthcare and different insurance needs. Some plans may offer coverage for a wide variety of services, while others will offer only a more limited package of benefits. Some companies offer short-term or month-to-month plans, while others offer longer-term plans that can cover several months to a year.
Private Health Insurance Providers
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.
Social Security and Medicare (FICA) Taxes
In general, F-1 students are considered tax non-residents for the first five calendar years of F-1 status, and as such are typically exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare (also known as FICA) taxes. (However, FICA taxes may be withheld if the student is considered a resident alien for tax purposes.) F-1 student status includes the time spent pursuing the academic objective plus any approved periods of practical training, including curricular practical training and optional practical training, which are benefits of F-1 student status.