International Students and Scholars Office

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a type of work authorization that permits F-1 students to gain work experience in their field of study while in the United States. OPT is not a visa; rather, it is a type of employment benefit for F-1 students who are maintaining their visa status. In order to be eligible for OPT, students must first apply for an OPT recommendation I-20 from the ISSO. Upon receiving the I-20, students then mail their documents to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for adjudication. 

There are three(3) types of OPT:

Work experience that is permitted during the student’s academic program (before the student’s program end date that is printed on the I-20).
Students interested in pre-completion OPT must consult with your International Student Advisor for more information.


Work experience that occurs after the student’s academic program ends.
Please visit the Post-Completion OPT page for additional information.


Additional 24-months of work authorization for students who are in an approved period of post-completion OPT and have a degree in one of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) majors on DHS’ STEM Designated Degree Program list. Please visit the STEM OPT Extension page for additional information.



You are required to meet all the following criteria to be eligible to apply for OPT:

  • You are currently in F-1 status.
  • You have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year (two semesters) or will complete one academic year by the date the OPT approval begins.
    • Some students who have changed their visa status to F-1 and who have been continuously enrolled in a full-time degree program for at least 1 academic year at a SEVP approved school may qualify for OPT prior to 1 year in F-1 status. See an International Student Advisor for more information.
    • If you started your program from abroad, semesters completed outside the US as a non-F-1 student will not count towards the one academic year requirement. 
      • For example, if a student started their program from overseas in Spring 2022, their enrollment in Spring 2022 will not count towards the one academic year of full-time enrollment. See SEVP guidance
  • You have not been authorized for a total of 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Part-time CPT does not affect OPT.
  • You do not need a job offer first; you can apply for the 12-month OPT authorization without a job offer.
  • You have not previously completed 12 months of OPT at the same degree level.
  • You are eligible for 12 months of full-time OPT per academic level, when changing to a higher educational level.
    • For example, you may apply for 12 months of OPT after completing a bachelor’s degree and then another 12 months after completing a master’s degree.
  • You may apply for OPT authorization during your academic program, after your program completion, or a combination of both. 


OPT Cap-Gap Extension

The Cap-Gap Extension is an automatic extension of F-1 status and work authorization past the EAD End Date, for students transitioning to an H-1B work visa. Please visit the OPT Cap-Gap Extension page for additional information.

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