Optional Practical Training (Online Application)
*We encourage students to apply online and strongly discourage students from filing the paper application.
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. For information about STEM OPT, visit our STEM OPT page.
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.
Step 1: Learn about OPT (watch the OPT video by clicking on the black and white Optional Practical Training presentation button below)
Watch the Presentation!
Step 2: Obtain I-20 with OPT recommendation from you counselor
Once you have watched the linked OPT Presentation above and are ready to apply for the OPT, you will need to complete the following documents and either email them to your international student counselor or upload them when scheduling an appointment with your counselor through “Make an Appointment” page. The I-20 with OPT recommendation (the I-20 you will need to file OPT application) will be issued and provided to you after your counselor reviews and approves these documents:
- Academic Adviser's Statement of Program Completion Form. 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.
- The OPT Acknowledgment Form Which shows your understanding of the OPT regulations and your intent to follow them. It is not part of the OPT application.
Step 3: File your OPT application and wait for your EAD card
- Once you receive the I-20 with OPT recommendation from your counselor, you will need to create a USCIS online account. Then you will file your application using our video instructions on how to complete the online application below:
Once you have made the application fee payment and received your payment confirmation, your application is completed. USCIS will send your EAD card and any other relevant documents to the mailing address you provided to them. It is critically important that you keep USCIS informed of any address changes. If you change your mailing address while OPT application is pending, you must inform USCIS through your online USCIS account or 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.