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February 20, 2024
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Optional Practical Training (OPT) For F-1 Students

Optional Practical Training (OPT) For F-1 Students


Temporary job that is directly relevant to an F-1 student’s major field of study is known as Optional Practical Training (OPT). Before or after finishing their academic studies, eligible students can submit an application to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization (pre-completion or post-completion).  In this blog, we will discuss everything you need to know about OPT job and OPT candidate in USA.

Different OPTs

Your major field of study must be directly related to all OPT. If you are an F-1 student, there are two ways that you can be qualified to take part in OPT:

Pre-completion OPT: Following one academic year of authorised full-time enrollment in a U.S.-approved college, university, conservatory, or seminary,

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVP) to accept F-1 students, you may submit an application to take part in pre-completion OPT. You can meet the “one full academic year” criterion even if you were in a different nonimmigrant status during that time; you are not required to have had F-1 status for the whole academic year.

If pre-completion OPT is permitted for you, you may work (20 hours or less per week) while classes are in session. 

Post-completion OPT: After finishing your studies, you can apply to take part in post-completion OPT. If post-completion OPT is approved, you must work full-time (at least 40 hours per week) or part-time.

Effect of Pre-completion OPT Employment Authorization on Post-Completion OPT Requests at the Same Education Level

The total amount of full-time OPT that is still available will be cut in half, or by six months, if you have already been authorised for one year of part-time (20 hours per week) pre-completion OPT. In this case, the sole remaining period of full-time post-completion OPT job eligibility of an OPT candidate would be for 6 months.

The total amount of full-time optional practical training that is still available will be decreased by one year, or 100% of the previously authorised year at the same educational level, if you have already obtained one year of full-time (40 hours per week) pre-completion OPT. You wouldn’t be eligible for any post-completion OPT job permission in this situation.

OPT Extension in STEM

You may submit an application for a 24-month extension of your post-completion OPT employment authorization if you hold a degree in specific STEM subjects and you:

Are an F-1 student who earned a STEM degree listed on the STEM Designated Degree Programme List (PDF); Work for a company who participates in and uses E-Verify; and Have a STEM degree that was the basis for your initial award of post-completion OPT work authorization.

Please visit our Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) website for more details if you’re interested in applying for a STEM OPT extension.

Acquiring OPT

Request the OPT from the designated school official (DSO) of your academic institution. Your Form I-20, Certification of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, will be signed by your DSO, who will also make the necessary entry in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to support the recommendation.

Fill out Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, correctly and submit it to USCIS together with the necessary fee and supporting documents as instructed in the form’s instructions.

When to apply

If you are applying based on a… For… Then you…
STEM degree Pre-completion OPT
  • You can apply up to 90 days before you finish a full academic year, as long as you wait to begin OPT employment until you have finished a full academic year. 
  • You must apply after your DSO inserts the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record..
Initial post-completion OPT
  • Must apply after your DSO enters a recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record.
  •  Must apply within 30 days of when your DSO enters the recommendation into your SEVIS record; and may apply up to 90 days prior to your degree completion, but no later than 60 days after your degree completion.
  STEM OPT extension
  • Must apply within 60 days of your DSO entering the OPT recommendation into your SEVIS record.
  •  You have up to 90 days to apply before your current OPT employment authorization expires. 
  • Must apply after your DSO enters the OPT recommendation into your SEVIS record.
Non-STEM degree Pre-completion OPT
  • You can apply up to 90 days before you finish a full academic year, as long as you wait to begin OPT employment until you have finished a full academic year. 
  • You must apply after your DSO inserts the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record.
Post-completion OPT
  • Must utilise following your DSO moves into a recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS record, within 30 days of that entry
  •  May apply up to 90 days prior to your degree completion, but no later than 60 days after your degree completion. 

Only when we have approved your Form I-765 and you have your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) can you start your pre- or post-completion OPT.

We will automatically extend your employment permit for 180 days if your STEM OPT extension application is submitted on time and your OPT period ends while it is still pending. When USCIS decides whether to grant your STEM OPT extension request, the automatic 180-day extension expires.


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