OPT – Optional Practical Training

optional practical training F-1 foreign students completing associate, bachelors, masters or doctorate degrees as well as non-degree students completing structured programs or certificate programs in F-1 student status are eligible to receive OPT aka Optional Practical Training from  the USCIS for a period of one year.

On March 6, 2023, USCIS announced Premium Processing and New Online-Filing Procedures for Certain F-1 Students Seeking OPT or STEM OPT Extensions.

Those students who majored in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) who find a related job for an E-Verify employer can qualify for STEM-OPT for an additional 2 years of employment.

Due to a ruling by a Federal Judge in July 2021, USCIS has extended some flexibilities to F-1 students seeking OPT who have been negatively affected by government delays in processing their EAD applications. Initially, this only applied to filings received by May 1, 2021. It now applies to EAD filings received by October 31, 2021.

Students whose OPT applications were received between October 1, 2020 and October 31, 2021, will be permitted to complete their 12-month OPT period within 14 months of the date of that their EADs were approved, instead of 14 months from the date that they completed their F-1 program.

F-1 students whose EAD applications were rejected because of USCIS delays can refile their applications by November 30, 2021, as long as USCIS received their initial filing between October 1, 2020 and October 31, 2021.

All OPT applications received through October 31, 2021 may be filed up to 120 days before the F-1 program end date, extended from 90 days under the standard rules.


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On April 12, 2021, the USCIS announced that F-1 students seeking OPT or a STEM-OPT extension can apply online.

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General Information: Optional Practical Training

USCIS regulations, at 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(10), provide that optional “practical training is available to F-1 students who have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis in a Service-approved college, university, conservatory, or seminary for at least nine consecutive months. Students in English language programs are ineligible…”

In order to receive optional practical training, you must apply to your Designated School Official (DSO) at your university within 90 days prior to the completion of your studies or within 60 days thereafter.

To apply for practical training, you must complete the top portion of form I-538 (Certification by DSO) and give this form accompanied by your current form I-20 ID to your DSO. The DSO must certify on form I-538 that the employment which you have proposed is directly related to your major area of study and is commensurate with your educational level. The DSO will endorse your I-20 ID if he recommends practical training in your major field of study.

Under current procedures, form I-538, a copy of form I-20 with your DSOs endorsement, an Application for Employment Authorization (I-765 immigration form) together with the appropriate fee, photographs, and signature card are sent to the Regional INS Service Center having jurisdiction over your school. Only when USCIS issues you an Employment Authorization Document I-766 may you begin employment.

Under USCIS rules, a student may engage in practical training “after all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent) if the student is in a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree program.” Your Employment Authorization Document I-766 will allow you to be employed for a maximum of 12 months. However, since practical training will terminate no later than 14 months after completion of study, it is best to apply early.

What if your want to engage in practical training prior to the completion of your studies? Optional practical training is available during as well as after the completion of your academic program. However, remember that the total amount of optional practical training permitted is 12 months although some STEM graduates may be able to extend their Optional Practical Training for an additional 17 months if their employers enroll in the E-Verify program. You may apply for part-time optional practical training prior to the completion of your studies. After you complete your studies only full-time optional practical training is available.

There are a number of other work options available for students such as work-study and on-campus employment. One such option is called “curricular” practical training (CPT). USCIS requires students who are authorized for one year or more of curricular training to forfeit all optional practical training benefits. However, it pays to know the rules. Students who engage in less than one year of curricular training may still qualify for one year of practical training. Also, time spent in part-time curricular training is not counted as time spent in full-time curricular training for this purpose.

Frequently Asked Questions


  • A student may apply for Practical Training part-time or full-time when school is not in session and when they intend to register for the following semester.
  • A student may apply for Practical Training part-time while school is in session.
  • A student may apply for Practical Training part-time of full-time after completion of graduation requirements (excludes dissertation and thesis)
  • A student may apply for Practical Training full-time after the completion of degree completion.


You can apply for Practical Training as early as 90 days before the end of your program, and for up to 60 days after your program ends. You must also apply within 30 days after you receive a recommendation from your DSO.


Before the completion of Practical Training you will need:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 visa stamp (except for Canadian and Bermudian citizens)
  • Endorsed ractical Training I-20 for travel by your Designated School Official within the last six months

After completion of Practical Training, you will need:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 visa stamp (except for Canadian and Bermudian citizens)
  • Endorsed Practical Training I-20 for travel by your Designated School Official within the last six months
  • Employment Authorization Document Card
  • Proof of current employment (job offer or employment verification letter)

*If you are missing any of the previously mentioned documents, make sure you visit your DSO before traveling.


Yes and no. If your entry date is before the degree completion date on your I-20, yes. If your entry date is after the completion date on your I-20 then no.


You may but you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa stamp.


Employment authorization will either begin on the date requested or on the date on which a decision on the employment authorization is made, and will be effective until the date requested.


If you are not employed after 90 days of the start of your EAD card, you will be considered out of status. Each day you are not working in a qualified Practical Training job, that day will be counted towards the limit of 90 days (total) you are allowed to be unemployed. If you come across this problem, it is in your best interest to:

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