Optional Practical Training

This type of authorization requires an application to United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) after approval from International Engagement. The process can take 90 days or more to receive the work authorization permit. There is a limit of 12 months of full time OPT unless you qualify for STEM OPT.


You can apply as early as 90 days before you complete your program. The latest USCIS can receive your application is 30 days after the program completion date. OPT applications must be submitted to USCIS within 30 days of receiving the OPT I-20. Make an appointment with International Engagement and bring the documents listed below at the time of your appointment.

Application Requirements:

Points to Remember

24-Month Extension of OPT

Students who have received a U.S. Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) , are eligible for a one-time, 24-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 24 months). Visit STEM Extension OPT for more information.

OPT Address & Employer Reporting Requirements

Visit the Online Reporting for OPT and report within 10 days any changes to the following information:

You are required to update this information within 10 days of any changes. Students who fail to report this information as required will be in violation of their F status and may jeopardize their opportunities for future benefits in the United States.

Types of Qualifying Employment

All OPT employment, including post-completion OPT, must be in a job that is related to your degree program.

This employment may include the following:

Paid employment
Students authorized for post-completion OPT may work part time (at least 20 hours per week) or full time.

Multiple employers
Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student's degree program. Employment during pre-completion OPT cannot exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours.

Short-term multiple employers (performing artists)
Students who are musicians and other performing artists may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing a list of all gigs.

Work for hire
Work for hire means that an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. It is sometimes called “1099 employment” because people who “work for hire” receive Internal Revenue Service Form 1099-MISC – which shows how much money was earned for a particular year – from the contracting company. If requested by DHS, students must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.

Self-employed business owner
Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. In this situation, the student must work full time. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student's degree program.

Employment through an agency
Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency. 

Unpaid employment
Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. These students must be able to provide evidence from the employer that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.

Students should maintain evidence for each job: the position held, duration of that position, the job title, contact information for the student’s supervisor or manager, and a description of the work. Students must always report employment at OPT Reporting Requirements .

OPT Unemployment Allowance

What are the limits of unemployment?

What counts as time unemployed?

How does travel outside the US impact the period of unemployment?

What happens if the student exceeds the period of unemployment?

A student who has exceeded the period of unemployment while on post-completion OPT has violated his or her status unless he or she has taken one of the following actions:

Beginning a New Program of Study While on OPT

Beginning a full-time program of study while on OPT is NOT allowed.

If a student has been admitted to a full-time degree program while on OPT, the remainder of the OPT (if any) must be forfeited before beginning classes at the new school. In order to maintain F-1 status and remain in the U.S., a student must do one of the following:

  1. Request transfer of F-1 record if admitted to a school different from the school that recommended the OPT.
    • This must be done before the end of the 60-day grace period following the OPT end date.
    • We recommend that students speak to the International Student Advisor at the new school about this process.
  2. Request an I-20 for a "change of level" if returning to the same school that recommended the OPT.
    • If the OPT was recommended by TAMIU, contact an advisor before the new program begins or the OPT expires, whichever is earlier.


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