Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is work authorization available to international students who have been in valid F-1 status for two semesters and who plan to seek employment in their field of study. The earliest you can apply for OPT is 90 days before your "completion date." The latest date the U. S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) will accept your application is 60 days after your completion date. In addition, OPT applications must be submitted to USCIS within 30 days of receiving an OPT I-20 from the Tarleton International Programs Office.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization that is related to an F-1 student’s academic program. The work done does not count towards course credit; therefore, it is the student’s option to apply for OPT. OPT may be used during a degree program as well as after completion of course requirements. The application process takes approximately three months.
To be eligible for Optional Practical Training:
- The student must have been lawfully in full-time status for one academic year preceding the OPT application.
- The student must be in valid F-1 status at the time of application. It is important to note that auditing courses, enrolling in correspondence courses and in absentia registration do not fulfill full-time student status requirements.
- Tarleton students who will be completing their thesis in the summer but will not enroll for the summer session must apply for OPT before the end of the spring semester.
- Students who finish all coursework required for graduation and plan to enroll in absentia for the following semester must apply for OPT before completion of coursework.
- For post-completion OPT, the student must properly file his or her Form I-765 up to 90 days prior to his or her program end-date and no later than 60 days after his or her program end-date. For more information, Click here.
Bring the following to the International Office:
- Completed Form I-765 (instructions to fill I-765).
- Original Form I-20, Passport, Form I-94 and copies of any previous EAD’s (work cards).
- Check or money order made payable to Department of Homeland Security. Check USCIS's website for the most updated filing fees.
(do not write or make corrections in the upper portion of the check)
- Two recent, passport-style photos on white background. The photos must be 2 x 2 inches; the images must be 1 inch from the hair to the chin and 1 ¼ inch from eye height to the bottom of the photo. Your name and I-94 number must be printed in pencil on the back of the photos.
- Letter from department or Registrar’s Office to verify expected graduation or completion of course requirements. If you are double-majoring, please be sure to bring a letter for each major.
Students must pick up OPT card in person or International Programs will mail to the address provided. International Programs will not give the card to anyone but the student.
What is the purpose of OPT?
The purpose is to allow students the opportunity to engage in off-campus employment, which is related to their major field of study, but is neither required nor earning course credit for their degree program.
Do I have to have a job offer to apply for OPT?
It is not necessary to have an offer of employment to apply for OPT. However, while on OPT, you have to be working or be actively looking for a job. In the future, if you want to apply for other benefits, USCIS may require verification of employment while on OPT.
When am I eligible to use OPT?
Students may be authorized for Optional Practical Training with the noted limitations:
- During vacation periods (no restriction on hours per week)
- During the long semesters (limited to 20 hours per week, but must maintain full-time enrollment)
- After completion of a course of study (i.e., after graduation), work must be full-time.
How can my OPT be used?
OPT can be divided into shorter segments. OPT can be used during your program or saved for after completion of your degree program. Part-time OPT used during your program will be counted at the rate of 50% (two months part-time OPT authorization equals one month full-time OPT).
Note: Part-time employment is 20 hours per week and less, full-time is 21 hours per week and more.
When can I start working?
OPT is authorized by USCIS. The International Office will mail your application to USCIS, and it may take USCIS at least 90 days to process your OPT application. Since you may begin working ONLY after receiving the EAD (Employment Authorization Document or the “work card”) we recommend that you apply early to avoid delay in starting your employment.
What will be the dates of my OPT?
You request the dates of your OPT authorization at the time of application. Discuss with the IAP office your preferred dates at the time of application.
When you have received OPT authorization, you use the time requested regardless of whether or not you have actually worked. (Ex.: Your work dates are 07/20/09 to 07/19/10, but you didn’t start working until 12/09. Your work authorization still expires on 07/19/10)
How much OPT am I allowed to have?
OPT authorization is allowed for 12 months for every higher degree obtained by a student. It is possible for a student who graduates with a Bachelor, Master and PhD degree to have three separate periods of OPT during his/her stay in the U.S. However, it is not possible to accumulate several years of OPT and apply for a more than 12 months of OPT at a time.
What is my visa status during OPT?
While your OPT application is pending and after you receive OPT approval, your non-immigrant status remains F-1.
Can I travel while my OPT is pending?
If you have completed your studies and your OPT application has not been approved (if you have not received your EAD), it is not advisable to travel outside the United States. USCIS may request additional information regarding your application, which may be difficult to provide from abroad. If you have an emergency and need to travel before your OPT is approved, please consult the IAP office before leaving the U. S.
Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT)
On March 11, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security published a final rule allowing certain F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees, and who meet other specified requirements, to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT. The 24-month extension will replace the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to STEM students (see 73 FR 18944). Eligible students may begin applying for a 24-month STEM OPT extension on May 10, 2016. For more information visit the USCIS STEM OPT site.