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.
- OPT Timelines—Please Note: The dates listed in the timelines are for reference purposes. All students applying for OPT are responsible for verifying the correct dates and deadlines.
- Handout for Employers—A handout to help educate potential employers about hiring international students
- Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act—A factsheet from the U.S. Department of Labor
- Employment for F-1 Students On, Off-Campus and International Interns—Basic employment guidelines from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
- Social Security and Tax Issues—Information about social security and medicare tax exemptions
- Volunteer Positions Under the Fair Labor Standards Act — Regulations on what constitutes volunteer work that is exempt for work authorization requirements
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.