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Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training

If you have an F-1 Visa, you’ve surely heard about Optional Practical Training (“OPT”).  OPT grants undergraduate and graduate students in F-1 status authorization to work in the U.S. while completing their studies or after completion. Post-completion OPT is much more common and below are some answers to FAQ regarding post-completion.


How long do I have to be pursuing my degree for to be eligible for OPT?

  • One academic year (9 months).


How long can I get OPT for?

  • Generally, 12 months per educational level.


When can I apply for OPT?

  • You can apply for OPT between 90 days before completing your studies and 60 days after completing your studies. Also, don’t forget. USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of the designated school official entering the recommendation for OPT.


Do I need a job offer to apply for OPT?

  • Nope. OPT is not employer specific.


If I don’t have a job offer, what should I put as my start date?

  • It can be any date from the date you complete your studies up to 60 days after completion of your studies. If you think it may be difficult to find a job, pick a later date (ex: 50 days after completing your studies). If you have some good job prospects lined up and you think an offer will be coming soon, pick a closer date (ex: 10 days after completing your studies).


I have a job offer to start work 75 days after completing my studies, what should I put as my start date?

  • The 60th day from completion of your studies.


When can I start working in the U.S.?

  • Once you receive your EAD card and the start date on your EAD has been reached.


How long can I be unemployed with OPT?

  • 90 days.


What is STEM OPT?

  • STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Those studying in the described fields get added benefits, such as:
    • They are eligible for 36 months of employment authorization; and
    • They can be unemployed for 150 days.