F-1 Optional Practical Training

NOTE: STEM OPT could end in February 2015 - view this document for more information for those on an F-1 STEM OPT.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is authorized to an F-1 student who has been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis in college, university or seminary for one full academic year. An F-1 student on OPT is authorized for temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study.

There are two types of practical training: pre-graduation and post graduation.

Pre-graduation practical training is permitted:

  • During annual vacation and other times when school is not in session, if the student is in college, university, seminary and is eligible for registration and intends to register for the next semester or term; or
  • While school is in session, provided that practical training (employment) does not exceed 20 hours a week while school is in session.

Post-graduation practical training is permitted:

  • When the student is in a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree program and has completed all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent); or
  • When the student has completed his/her course of study

Length of Status 

The student must complete all practical training within 14-month period following the completion of study. A student is eligible for a total of 12 months of optional practical training. A student who has used 12 month of OPT is eligible for another 12 months after changing to a higher educational level.

Part-time practical training (20 hours per week or less) will be deducted from the available practical training at one-half the full time rate.

Authorization to engage in practical training employment is automatically terminated when the student transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level.

Foreign nationals in the United States (an employee transfer) must also complete the following:

If presently in F-1 status, a copy of both sides of the most recent Form I-20, along with a copy of the employment authorization document (EAD) if on optional practical training (OPT).