Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit for students in F-1 immigration status that permits up to 12 months of off-campus employment for the purpose of gaining practical experience in the student's chosen field. There are two types of OPT: Pre-completion and Post-completion OPT.
Pre-completion OPT is intended for continuing students. Post-Completion OPT is for students who will be completing their program and are applying for work authorization post-graduation.
While the student may work for any employer in the U.S., the job duties must be directly related to the student’s area of study and commensurate with the student’s educational level.
Who Needs OPT?
Any student seeking off-campus employment must obtain OPT. Students must have employment authorization to receive any kind of compensation from an off-campus employer. If you have a paid experience that does not qualify for Curricular Practical Training (CPT), then a student will need to apply for OPT. Examples of compensation may include:
- travel allowance
- food stipend
- room and board
Accepting any kind of compensation from an off-campus employer without OPT employment authorization is a violation to a student's non-immigrant status, and can lead to the loss of visa status.
- Must have been enrolled as a student for at least one academic year by the requested start date;
- Pre-completion OPT counts towards the 12 months of standard work authorization;
- Part-time Pre-completion counts at a half rate against 12 months
- Must have been enrolled as a student for at least one academic year prior to degree completion
- Must not have used full-time Pre-completion OPT for 12 months during program, or full-time CPT for 12 months
*Please note that you must be in the United States to apply for OPT. You cannot apply from overseas.
OPT Application & Timeline
To apply for OPT, please complete the OPT Application and review the OPT Application Instructions. It is also recommended that you attend an OPT Workshop prior to applying for OPT. Workshops will be held year round and information about dates and times will be sent to your MIIS email address.
Timeline: A student should apply at least 3 months before the anticipated start date, as it can take up to 90 days to receive OPT employment authorization. A secured job is not a requirement to apply for OPT, as OPT is not employer specific.