OPT allows you to work in a field related to your major or course of study.
If you're an international student, you might be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT is real-world training that can help you gain valuable career experience and enhance your employment prospects in the US during and after your studies. There are different types of OPT:
Pre-completion OPT: You can use this before your program's end date.
Post-completion OPT: This is for after your program's end date and is full-time.
Cap-Gap OPT Extension: Available if your prospective employer submits a qualifying H-1B-cap subject petition.
24-month STEM OPT Extension: You need to complete 12 months of regular OPT and have a STEM degree to qualify.
Here's what you need to know:
You can apply for 12 months of OPT at each education level. For example, you can have 12 months at the bachelor's level and another 12 months at the master's level.
Your school's Designated School Official (DSO) will give you a new Form I-20, which confirms their recommendation for OPT.
To get work authorization, you need to send a completed Form I-765, "Application for Employment Authorization," to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and pay a fee. USCIS will send you a Form I-766, "Employment Authorization Document" (EAD), once your application is approved.
Make sure to start working only after you receive your EAD.
While school is in session, you can work a maximum of 20 hours per week.
To participate in OPT, you must meet certain requirements:
You must have been enrolled in a college or qualifying post-secondary educational program for at least one academic year.
OPT is only allowed in your major field of study, except for English as a Second Language (ESL) majors.
You can do 12 months of OPT per educational level. If you advance to a higher level of education, you can apply for another 12 months.
You can start OPT after your program's end date, and if you begin while school is in session, you can only work part-time (up to 20 hours per week).
Regardless of class schedules, you can only start OPT after the start date on your work permit.
If you did full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT), another type of practical training, you are ineligible for OPT for at least 12 months.
You can make use of OPT multiple times, as long as it's related to your education. However, you cannot participate in more than one OPT at the same time or have overlapping OPT periods.
The OPT authorization process involves several steps, with contributions from you, your Designated School Official (DSO), and USCIS:
You initiate the OPT request through your school's established procedures.
Your DSO recommends OPT for you in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and print, and sign a new Form I-20 to confirm the OPT recommendation.
After receiving your new Form I-20, the next steps involve completing Form I-765, the Application for Employment Authorization, and sending it to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with the required filing fee. You submit Form I-765 to USCIS, applying for OPT.
USCIS reviews and adjudicates your OPT application. USCIS will then grant you authorization for OPT and issue you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which is commonly referred to as a work permit.
Once approved, you receive your EAD, which allows you to report to your DSO and start working.
Within 21 days of receiving your EAD, your DSO must update SEVIS with your employer's information.
It's crucial to note that USCIS must receive your OPT application within 30 days of your DSO entering your OPT recommendation into SEVIS. Any applications received more than 30 days after your DSO's request in SEVIS will be denied.