two girls looking at test tubes

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Tell Us What You Think Of This Website

International students and scholars, and department contacts: Share your opinions and experiences on our website, and enter a drawing to win an Amazon gift card. 

Take the survey with your Google account

Optional Practical Training Overview

Optional Practical Training (OPT) gives an F-1 student the opportunity to apply what they have learned in a degree program through off-campus employment after completion of all degree requirements. 

Employment approval can take several weeks to 90 days or more, so careful planning is required. We recommend submitting your OPT request in the earliest timeframe possible according the OPT Timelines below.”

Helpful Acronyms and Terms

  • OPT — Optional Practical Training 
  • USCIS — U.S. Customs and Immigration Service 
  • EAD Card — Employment Authorization Document  
  • SEVP — Student and Exchange Visitor Program 
  • Grace Period — the 60 days following the last day of the quarter you complete the requirements for your degree OR the 60 days following your authorized OPT period

Tips for Success

  • Make copies of application materials submitted to USCIS and keep for your records.
  • Please follow these USCIS guidelines on how organize and arrange your physical documents if you are submitting your OPT request via mail to USCIS
  • Your recommendation is only good for 30 days.  Check the date it was printed on page 1.  If it is more than 30 days old, come to SISS.  Expired recommendations are denied.
  • Do not mail too early. USCIS will deny applications received more than 90 days before the I-20 program ending date. Applications received even one day early are denied.

Additional Resources 




Information on the SISS website, in iGlobal, or from any other resource, including emails, associated with SISS is intended to provide you with general guidance and should not under any circumstances be considered or interpreted as legal advice. 

Additionally, due to the fluid nature of governmental interpretation, it must be understood that US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Department of State (DOS) may change their interpretations of established immigration laws/regulations and eligibility requirements for benefits at any time.

SISS reviews application materials as a courtesy and makes recommendations based on our current knowledge regarding common errors. As an international student, it is your responsibility to ensure that your application is complete and correct, and to seek legal advice concerning any aspect of your application that may be needed.