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Optional Practical Training Requirements

Preconditions

Before applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT), you must have been enrolled lawfully on a full-time basis for one full academic year. Optional Practical Training is available both before and after completion of your degree, but different rules apply to pre- and post-degree OPT. If you are a student in an English language training program, you are not eligible for OPT. If you are an F-1 or F-3 "border commuter student," you are only eligible for OPT after you complete your degree.

The Mandatory OPT workshop is required for DSO recommendation to OPT.

Location and Employers

You may engage in OPT for any employer for the duration of your OPT authorization as long as the employment qualifies under OPT standards. You may work for more than one employer and/or change employers during the period of authorized practical training as long as each position is related to your field of study and commensurate with your educational level.

Duration

You may engage in OPT for a cumulative maximum of 12 months per educational level. Part-time OPT is deducted from the 12 month limit at 50%.

Hours per week

Before you complete your degree, or while school is in session, you are limited to 20 hours OPT per week.
During school breaks and after you complete your coursework and while you are completing a thesis or dissertation, you may request more than 20 hours OPT per week.
Once you complete your degree, you may only request full-time OPT.

Field/level of work

Your work must be directly related to and commensurate with the level of your course of study.

Offer of employment

No offer of employment is required, but you are expected to work or actively seek employment after you receive your OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Effect on the work

If you previously use full-time Curricular Practical Training for 12 or more cumulative months, your lose eligibility for Optional Practical Training.

Approval process

You must apply for and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with assistance of Designated School Official (DSO) before work begins. EAD application must be properly filed with USCIS before your program completion date. You must begin application procedures sufficiently in advance to allow the DSO to update the SEVIS record with the recommendation, and to ensure that I-765 accepted by USCIS prior your program completion date.

Maintaining your course of study

If you are engaged in OPT, and not yet received your degree, you must maintain a full course of study during the period of employment, with the exception of school breaks. If you are a degree candidate and have completed all coursework, you must continue to make normal progress towards completing the thesis or dissertation required for their degree.