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Optional Practical Training (OPT) is designed to provide you with an opportunity to gain actual employment experience in your major field of study. Students may apply for pre-completion OPT while school is in session for a maximum of 20 hours per week, or full-time during the annual vacation period if intending to resume studies after vacation. After completion of course requirements for a degree program, OPT is only authorized on a full-time basis.

A student is entitled to a total of 12 months of full-time practical training per degree level. Every two months of pre-completion part-time OPT counts as one month of full-time OPT, and if time remains, the remaining time may be requested upon completion of the degree program. Students who were authorized less than 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) are still eligible for 12 months of post-completion OPT. There is also a 17-month extension of post-completion OPT limited to specific majors in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).

Am I eligible to apply for OPT?

You are eligible to apply for OPT if you meet the following criteria:

  • You have maintained F-1 student status at least one full academic year
  • You must currently be maintaining your F-1 student status and possess a valid passport
  • You do not have to have a job offer in order to apply for OPT

What are the requirements for OPT?

  • Applications can be filed up to 90 days before or 60 days after your completion of studies.
  • Your employment must be directly related to your major field of study and appropriate to your level of education.
  • The start date of your OPT can’t be more than 60 days past your completion of studies.
  • You can’t be unemployed for more than 90 days after the start date on your EAD card. Any job search undertaken after the start date of the EAD counts as part of the 12 month total.
  • You can’t begin working until the EAD card has been issued, the start date noted on it has passed and all requirements of your program of study are completed. If you have received your EAD card and have not fulfilled your program requirements by the start date on the EAD card, full-time employment is not authorized until your program requirements are met, but you may work part-time until the program is completed.
  • If you don’t complete your completion of studies by the I-20 end date, an I-20 extension or a reinstatement will be necessary. The 90-day limitation on unemployment is in effect during the time the program is being completed. SEVP recommends that students unsure about completion of program requirements should defer applying until after the program ends.

What type of employment is allowed for OPT?

All OPT must be a position that is related to your degree program. You may work part-time or full-time.

Paid Employment:

  • Multiple employers
    Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student’s degree program.
  • Short-term multiple employers (performing artists)
    Students, such as 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.
  • Work for hire
    This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. 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 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:

  • Self-employed, interning or volunteering
    Students in a position directly related to their major would be considered “employed” for the purposes of OPT where this does not violate labor laws. These must be reported to the DSO just as any paid position. The work must be at least 20 hours per week.

How can I apply for OPT?

To apply for OPT, you must set up an appointment with an International Student Services' advisor and bring the following items:

  • Application for Optional Practical Training (OPT) form. Be sure to meet with your faculty advisor to obtain his or her signature.
  • Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance.
  • Form I-765, Application For Employment Authorization.

Print the form but do not hit the submit button. If you do not type the application online, use black ink to fill out the information on the form attached. Be sure that you complete all sections required, and that names and numbers exactly match your immigration documents. Your signature should be in blue ink.

  • Obtain two, 2” x 2” full frontal face passport-style photographs. Photos must be in color, meet government standards and be no more than 30 days old when an application is filed. Please lightly write your SEVIS number on the back of each photograph.
  • Obtain a money order, cashier’s check or personal check for $410 payable to the “Department of Homeland Security.” Make sure checks are signed and correctly dated. Or, if paying by credit card, complete and sign Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions, and include the completed form with your application.
  • Your passport, I-94 card, student visa and all I-20’s issued, including those from prior schools, as well as any previous EAD cards.

What happens once I submit the paperwork?

  • After you have met with an international student services advisor and completed your application packet, your I-20 will be updated to reflect your new program end date so that OPT can be recommended.
  • Once your OPT is recommended in your SEVIS record, you will be asked to return to IPO to sign your new I-20 so your paperwork can be submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
  • Your international student services advisor will give you your new I-20 with the OPT recommendation and dates listed on Page 3.
  • Shortly after your application packet is received by USCIS, you will be notified by email or text that USCIS has accepted your application which should also include your SRC receipt number.
  • You will also receive an acknowledgment letter in the mail from USCIS with your SRC receipt number stating that they received your application. Save this letter in case you need to reference your application. You may then check the status of your application online.
  • After your OPT has been authorized by USCIS, your EAD card will be sent to the address you indicated on the I-765.

What are the regulations once I am approved for OPT?

  • Once you have submitted your application for OPT, the start and end dates can’t be changed.
  • You may not be unemployed more than 90 days while on OPT or you will be considered out of status. Unless: departing the U.S., applying to continue your education with a change of level or transfer to another school, or taking action to otherwise maintain legal status (such as a change of status to a different visa type).
  • Unemployment of fewer than 10 days between jobs will not be counted in the 90-day total period. If you are unemployed, travel outside the U.S. counts toward your 90 days, but authorized vacation by an employer does not. You may be denied future immigration benefits that rely on your valid F-1 student status if DHS determines that you exceeded the limitations on unemployment, and additionally, ICE/SEVP may terminate your SEVIS record.
  • You are required to report your employer, the employer’s address, and the start and end date of any employment to the Office of International Programs so it may be entered in SEVIS. You must also report that you are actively seeking employment if not employed by the start date on your EAD card.
  • You must provide the Office of International Programs a copy of your EAD card upon receiving it.
  • You are required to always have your local address on file with the Office of International Programs and must notify them anytime you move or change your address. This must be reported to SEVIS within 10 days of the change.
  • Authorization to engage in OPT is automatically terminated if you transfer to another school or begin study at another educational level.
  • You may begin to search for employment prior to receiving OPT authorization, but you may not begin to work until you receive your EAD card.
  • It is recommended that you document each job or position held, proof of the duration, the job title, contact information for the supervisor and a description of the work to show relation to the major field.
  • You may travel outside the U.S. and re-enter on OPT as long as your I-20 is signed by an international student services advisor within six months. You will also need your valid F-1 student visa, your EAD card (or Notice of Action for a pending EAD) for re-entry. A letter from an employer saying you have a job offer or will resume employment is strongly recommended. If your visa has expired and you travel outside the U.S, you will need to present all of these documents to a U.S. embassy or consulate to renew your F-1 student visa. DO NOT RE-ENTER ON ANY OTHER VISA TYPE OR YOUR OPT WILL BE VOID.
  • You may obtain employment anywhere in the U.S. The Office of International Programs at UT is still responsible for monitoring your status of OPT in SEVIS.
  • You should always update the Office of International Programs with an alternate email address where you may be reached as there are often updates and changes to regulations that we must notify you of.

What is the STEM extension?

F-1 student visa holders who have completed a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field and are currently engaged in post-completion OPT may apply for the 17-month OPT STEM extension if you have a job or job offer from an E-Verify employer. The STEM Designated Degree Program List is on the SEVP website.

You are only eligible to apply for STEM extensions for jobs in a major field of your current program degree; no minor fields or majors in previous degree programs are eligible to use for this extension. The 17-month extension is only possible one time per lifetime regardless of degree level.

* On March 11, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its final rule to strengthen and enhance the optional practical training (OPT) program for F-1 international students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The new STEM OPT extension is a 24-month period of temporary training that directly relates to an F-1 student’s program of study in an approved STEM field and effectively replaces the 17‑month STEM OPT extension. The 17-month STEM OPT regulations remain in effect through May 9, 2016. The 2016 STEM OPT 24-month extension final rule is effective beginning May 10, 2016. Study in the States launched the STEM OPT Hub in coordination with this new rule to help school officials, F-1 students and interested employers understand the new regulation. 

STEM Extension Application Procedure:

  • Your application must be received before your current OPT expires. USCIS recommends filing within 90-120 days of your OPT end date.
  • Follow the application procedures listed above, and also provide your unofficial or official transcripts or a copy of your diploma showing your level and program of study.
  • In Item 17 of the I-765 form, list the name of the degree as shown on your I-20. If you have a dual major and the STEM degree is listed as your secondary major in SEVIS, we will note this on your new I-20 to be submitted to USCIS. You should provide the CIP Code for the secondary major on the I-765 form.
  • Set up an appointment with an international student services advisor to complete your application. We will confirm your education level, that your major is on the STEM list, that you are still on an approved period of OPT that has not expired, and that the employer name and address are entered into SEVIS. We will then make the recommendation in SEVIS for the extension and print you a new I-20.
  • We are not responsible for verifying an employer’s registration with E-Verify; that is your responsibility. There is no public list of E-Verify Employers, so you must work with the employer to get the employer E-Verify company identification number to list in item 17 of the I-765 form.

Once approved, regulations include the following:

  • If you have properly filed for the STEM extension, the period starts the day after your original EAD expiration. You may work while your application is pending until adjudication is made or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
  • You can change employers with the STEM extension, however, the E-Verify stipulation still applies and you must report the change to the Office of International Programs. The employer must also agree to report directly to the Office of International Programs that your employment has ended.
  • If your EAD card has expired and your STEM extension request is pending, you may NOT travel outside the U.S. until the new employment authorization is received.
  • You must work at least 20 hours per week and hold a position related to your STEM degree.
  • You are required to report your employer, the employer’s address, and the start and end date of any employment to the Office of International Programs so it may be entered in SEVIS.
  • You are required to always have your local address on file with the Office of International Programs and must notify them anytime you move or change your address. This must be reported to SEVIS within 10 days of the change.
  • You must send a validation report to an international student services advisor every six months starting from the date your STEM extension starts and ending when your F-1 student status ends or your STEM extension ends, whichever comes first. The validation report must include your name, SEVIS ID, current residential address, name and address of employer, and the date the employment began.
  • You may not work in a paid position for any employer who is not an E-Verify Employer.
  • You can’t have more than 120 days of total unemployment time during the entire period of OPT, which includes the original 12 months and the 17-month STEM extension.

For more information please contact:
The Office of International Programs
Plant Hall Room 300
(813) 258-7433