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OPT Optional Practical Training for F-1 Students

Are you an international student on an F-1 visa who wants to gain work experience in your field of study? The Alcorn Immigration Law team can help. 

Optional Practical Training (OPT) enables F-1 students to work in their field of study.

Participation Requirements

F-1 visa holders can apply for OPT after completing their first academic year. F-1 visa holders can participate in training for up to 12 months at each educational level: undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate. For instance, a student may work a total of 12 months while earning a bachelor’s degree and another 12 months while earning a master’s degree.

Students may pursue OPT while attending school or after graduation. Students who participate in OPT while still attending school may not work more than 20 hours per week while school is in session. However, they may work full-time when school is not in session. Every two months of part-time OPT completion while attending school will reduce by one month the amount of OPT time that may be done after graduation.

Students who graduate with a qualified science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) degree and are approved for post-graduation OPT may apply for a 24-month extension. For more details click here.


Application Process

An F-1 student can apply for OPT after completing her/his first academic year by:

  • Asking the institution’s Designated School Official (DSO) endorsement by signing and dating a new Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status) and updating the student’s record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) as authorized for OPT.
  • Filing a completed Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization Document) along with the endorsed Form I-20 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and paying the filing fee within 30 days of the DSO’s endorsement. Form I-765 can be filed as early as 90 days before the student’s educational program ends, but no later than 60 days after the program ends.

After receiving a Form I-766 (Employment Authorization Document or EAD) from USCIS, the F-1 student may begin OPT.


Services for Students and Graduates

At Alcorn Immigration Law, we help international students obtain and extend visas, gain work experience, and figure out next steps once you graduate. If you have questions about your options, do not hesitate to contact us.


Form I-765 application fee: $410

Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status)

Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization Document)

  1. Obtain endorsement for OPT from your educational institution’s Designated School Official.
  2. File form I-765 with USCIS.
  3. Petition up to one year at each educational level (undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate).
  4. Extension of 24 months available to STEM graduates.

None. You must plan to return to your home country. At the airport, border, or other port of entry, you will need to satisfy the U.S. government officer that you have a residence in your home country and do not intend to abandon it. You must demonstrate that your visit to the U.S. will end after a specific amount of time.

Students on an F-1 visa

Petitions: Up to 1 year at each education level (undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate)

Extensions: 2 years for STEM graduates


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