OPT is employment authorization for work experience that is directly related to your major field of study. You may use OPT for unpaid or paid work experience. Eligible F-1 students may engage in OPT in the following ways: • Full-time (20 or more hours per week) as pre-completion OPT during summer break. • Part-time (20 or fewer hours per week) as pre-completion OPT while school is in session and students must maintain full-time enrollment. • After completion of a degree program (undergraduates: after graduation date; graduate students: after defense or graduation date of semester in which defense took place) as post-completion OPT. • Graduate students after completion of all course requirements, excluding thesis or dissertation, as pre- or post-completion OPT.
Eligibility requirements for OPT include: • Lawful F-1 status for one full academic year prior to applying for OPT. • Passport which will not expire for at least six months after you apply for OPT. • No more than 364 (less than one year) days of full-time CPT.
The filing window for OPT is between 3 months before your program end date and 2 months after your program end date. Students will be granted 12 months of OPT to end no later than 14 months after their program end dates. As USCIS processing typically takes about 3 months, we recommend students apply for OPT 3 months before they want to begin the OPT in order to maximize the 12 months available.
Curricular practical training (CPT) is an employment authorization that allows F-1 students to work off campus in a work/study program such as a internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.
Students can apply for off-campus employment if they are able to demonstrate severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen factors. These circumstances may include any of the following: • Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment, without the fault of the student. • Substantial fluctuations in the value of exchanges rates or national currency. • Inordinate increase in tuition and/or living expenses. • Unexpected and substantial change in the financial conditions of the student's source of support, medical bills, or other expenses.
Students are eligible to apply for off-campus employment authorization if they meet all of the following conditions: • Must have been in F-1 status for nine months. • Must be in good academic standing. • Employment opportunities on campus are unavailable or insufficient. • Can demonstrate that acceptance of employment will not interfere with their ability to carry a full course of study.
Students may work a total of twenty hours per week when school is in session. • All on and off-campus employment is counted toward this twenty-hour limit. • Students may work full-time (up to 40 hours per week) during vacation and summer periods, provided they intend to and are eligible to register for the next school term.
Employment authorization is granted in one-year intervals. The USCIS will only authorize renewals if the student is maintaining good academic standing. Employment authorization is automatically terminated if students fail to maintain status.