All You Need to Know About OPT

Optional Practical Training or OPT is an opportunity to work for international students. It allows them additional training in their selected discipline of the student through paid employment, which can be either part-time or full-time.

International students with a valid F-1 status and have completed a full academic year eligible for the OPT. It is different from campus jobs, and the employment needs to be relevant to the student’s course. Certain courses and field of studies require some form of practical experience towards enhancing the probability of success as a professional.

However, OPT involves quite a lot of paperwork. A designation official from your school needs to formally recommend the international student for an OPT and issue a new Form I-20, which needs to contain the recommendation. The international student receives a “Notice of Action” from the USCIS which confirms the receipt of the application while the international student waits for their updated employment authorization documents.

Here are some things you need to keep in mind before applying for your OPT:

Timing Is Important

Timing is very important when applying for an OPT and you will not want to apply too early or too late. Once your DSO approves your application, you need to apply with the USCIS within 30 days for your updated employment authorization documents. You need to file your paperwork up to 90 days before you graduate but not more than after 60 days of the completion of your course.

Before or After?

You can commence with your OPT before the completion of your course. However, during this period, you will require to work part-time and limit yourself from working only for 20 hours per week.

You also stand to lose one month of your post-completion OPT period for every 2 months of pre-completion OPT completed. It can be advisable to wait till you complete your studies before applying for your OPT.

Extend with STEM

International students can apply for a 17-month extension if they are studying in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


Here is a list of paperwork you need to complete for applying for an OPT.

  • Form I-20 with the approval and recommendation of your DSO.
  • A valid passport.
  • Form I-765
  • Money Order of $ 410 made in favour of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • 2 photos.

You can consult with your DSO towards confirming if any additional documentation and paperwork is required. It also can be noted that an employment period exceeding the maximum permitted 29 months will need your employer to sponsor your H-1B work visa. You can consult your campus officials in case you have any doubts or queries about the OPT program.