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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:

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

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.

Other Issues for Students on OPT