Optional Practical Training & STEM OPT
Applying for OPT
What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
Optional Practical Training is used by students to gain work experience in their field of study after completing a degree program. There are certain other situations in which OPT may be possible prior to the completion of a degree program.
How long can I do OPT?
Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regulations allow up to 12 months of OPT at each degree level for a student in F-1 status. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students are eligible for an extension of 24 months of OPT.
When can I apply for OPT and How?
An application for post-completion OPT can be filed up to 90 days prior to the student's completion date and no later than 60 days after the student's program completion date.
How long does the OPT application process take?
It may take the government agency (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS) up to 90 days or more to process an OPT application. Your International Student Counselor may be able to provide a current estimate of processing times. However, processing times are unpredictable so it is always best to apply early! You cannot begin working until you have received your Employment Authorization Card (EAD) in the mail from the government agency and until the start date listed on the EAD card. The ISSS office is not responsible for the length of time required to process your OPT application.
Sounds good. What do I do next?
Go to Step 1 to view the OPT slideshow. Once you are done with that, follow the remaining steps.
Step 1: Learn about OPT
Optional Practical Training Presentation
Step 2: Apply for OPT
Once you have watched this OPT Presentation linked above and are ready to apply for the OPT
The first thing you will need to do is to make an appointment with an academic adviser in your department to determine when your academic program will end. Your academic adviser will have to fill out and sign the Academic Adviser's Statement of Program Completion Form. E-mail this completed and signed form to your international student counselor and request an appointment to complete the process. You should also inform your counselor of your desired OPT start date.
When you come in for your OPT appointment, bring in all of the required documents for your OPT application so your counselor can review them for completeness and accuracy. This OPT Checklist has a list of everything you need. Included on this list are the following forms:
- The I-765 form. Fill out what you can. If you are unsure of anything leave it blank and check with your counselor when you come in (The USCIS I-765 instructions state that this form can not be signed electronically but must be signed in ink and by hand).
- The OPT Acknowledgment Form shows your understanding of the OPT regulations and your intent to follow them. It is not part of the OPT application.
- The G-1145 Form will allow USCIS to send you via email or text message your OPT receipt number.
Your counselor will review your application materials and answer any questions you might have, and provide a handout regarding how to file your application.
Step 3: Wait for your EAD Card
NOTE: USCIS will send your EAD card to the address given on your I-765 form. It is critically important then that you keep USCIS informed of any address changes. You must do so at the USCIS website. Remember, you can't start working until you have your EAD card and until the start date on the EAD card.
Applying for a STEM OPT Extension
If your STEM OPT employer has any questions, please refer them to the text box below and the STEM OPT Hub.
Please take a moment to confirm that you are eligible for the STEM OPT extension. Note the CIP code on your I-20 (under Major 1; xx.xxxxx) and compare it to the official STEM OPT list here.
Before you begin the STEM OPT extension process it's important that you understand the rules and regulations that you and your employer will have to abide by. USCIS has put together an excellent resource for this: the STEM OPT Hub. In particular, please note the sections on reporting requirements for students and employers and the overview of the I-983 training plan. Failure to follow the regulations could result in the termination of your SEVIS record. If you have any other questions, contact your ISSS counselor.
Step 1: Learn about STEM OPT
STEM Optional Practical Training Presentation
Step 2: Apply for STEM OPT
Once you have watched this STEM OPT Presentation linked above and are ready to apply for the STEM OPT extension, submit to your counselor via email the following documents:
- The STEM OPT Acknowledgment form (signed by you)
- The Form I-983 Training Plan. (Please read the Instructions for Completing the Form) for STEM OPT Students (filled out by you and your employer).
- A new I-765 form. (The USCIS I-765 instructions state that this form can not be signed electronically but must be signed in ink and by hand).
Once we receive those documents we will send you a new I-20 with the OPT STEM extension dates along with instructions and a checklist of documents you need to send to USCIS. Please also review the STEM OPT helpful links and info handout.
Step 3: Wait for your STEM OPT EAD Card
NOTE: USCIS will send your EAD card to the address given on your I-765 form. It is critically important then that you keep USCIS informed of any address changes. You must do so on the USCIS website.
Information for Employers
- Employers play a key role in maintaining and strengthening the integrity of the STEM
OPT extension program. Although compliance with the program's various reporting requirements
predominately apply to students and their universities, there are instances where
STEM OPT employers must assist in tracking the STEM OPT students and their practical
See employers' requirements for more information on employer reporting requirements.
- DHS requires that the STEM OPT student and employer work together to complete the
form I-983. Properly completing this form will successfully document the relationship between
the STEM OPT opportunity, the academic degree received and the learning objectives
of the F-1 student.
See employers' I-983 form for more information on filling out the form I-983.
- Site visits ensure that STEM OPT students receive structured and guided work-based
learning experiences and reduce the potential for abuses of the STEM OPT extension.
During the site visit, DHS's intent is to confirm that information reported on the
student's form I-983 concerning the training opportunity is accurate, while not placing
an unnecessary burden on employers.
See employer site visits for more information on site visits.
*Form I-983 Training Plan Section 3: Information for TTU employers
Employer ID Number (EIN): 75-6002622
Number of Full-Time Employees in U.S.: 4,993
NAICS code: 611310
Start Date of Employment: Enter date the employee will begin STEM OPT training with the department.
If you have a question, that is not listed here. See our OPT Frequently Asked Questions. If that does not answer your question, email your international student counselor.