The Basics of Optional Practical Training

To qualify for optional practical training, students must have been enrolled in school for nine consecutive months at an USCIS-approved school and presently be in F-1 status. This requirement may also be met if the F-1 student was studying full-time for all or a portion of the nine months while in another lawful status that allows full-time study at a Service-approved school (including, but not limited to, J-2, H-4, L-2, or dependent E status).

If otherwise qualified as described above, a student may be granted a cumulative period of 12 months of practical training to use in his or her related field of study. A new 12-month period is available at each degree level. No offer of employment is required, but the student is expected to work or be actively seeking employment after the OPT EAD is issued. A student may use all or part of an OPT prior to the end of his or her studies, and part-time employment up to 20 hours per week can be deducted from the cumulative period at a reduced rate. A student who chooses to use part or all of the OPT during studies is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session but may work full-time during official school breaks. An OPT issued for a post-completion studies period can be issued only for full-time use and must be completed within 14 months of the student’s graduation date.

When a student applies for optional practical training, the DSO must update the student's record in SEVIS, recommend that USCIS approve the student for employment, and print SEVIS form I-20 with the recommendations for the student to submit to USCIS with the I-765. A student must apply for the EAD via Form I-765, with the proper filing fee and two passport-style photos and photocopies of Form I-20 and I-94. The application for post-completion practical training must be submitted to USCIS prior to the date of the student’s program completion.

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