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 takes at least 90 days, so careful planning is required.
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.
- Paperclip--do not staple your documents, not even your I-20 copy. Stapling delays processing time.
- 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
- 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
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.