Optional Practical Training (OPT)

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Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a type of work authorization for F-1 students, defined in the federal regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study." It is intended to provide students with practical experience in their field of study during or, more commonly, upon completion of a degree program.

An F-1 student may be authorized to receive up to a total of 12 months of OPT either before (pre-) and/or after (post-) completion of studies. However, students who have accumulated 12 months or more of full-time curricular practical training (CPT) are ineligible to apply for OPT.

An F-1 student is eligible for 12 months of OPT for each degree level. However, a student cannot apply for OPT at a degree level lower than one for which they have already been approved for OPT in the past.

Types of OPT

  • Eligibility Criteria

    • You must have maintained your F-1 status for at least one academic year.
    • You must not have used more than 12 months of OPT in the past at your current degree level.
    • You do not need a job offer in order to apply for OPT, although once you are approved for OPT, you must find employment within 90 days of OPT start date.

    Application Deadlines

    • Application can be submitted as early as 90 days before and 60 days after the completion date.

    OPT requires an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS takes at least 3 months to process an application for OPT. Please plan accordingly - we recommend that you apply as early as possible.

    Application Procedure

    "Please do not submit your online OPT Application without first receiving and uploading a new I-20 from OISS recommendation OPT"

    Optional Practical Training (OPT) Fee 
    Effective Fall Semester of 2023, F-1 International students are charged the international student fee for the period of OPT, for a one-time payment in the amount of $150. This fee covers the cost of document review, regulatory advising, record-keeping and compliance, MyStatus online portal usage and programming including webinars to support services for growing population of international students applying for OPT.

    As of 4/12/2021, USCIS has made the online filing of the I-765 Form available to F-1 students applying for OPT. Please follow the instructions provided by USCIS.

    To file your application online, please visit https://www.uscis.gov/i-765 and click on the blue ‘File Online’ button. The link will redirect you to a new page with instructions on how to create a USCIS account.        

    Once you have created a USCIS account, please select that you would like to file the I-765 Form to apply for OPT – this will redirect you to the online I-765 Form. The questions on the online I-765 form will match the questions on the PDF I-765 Form, but will appear in a different order. It is recommended that you review the I-765 Instructions to prepare your I-765 Form, even if you will be submitting your application online.    

    You will see that you must upload supporting documents to complete your online application. You MUST Wait until you receive your OPT I-20 from OISS before submitting your OPT application online, since the OPT I-20 is a required supporting document. Incomplete applications will be denied by USCIS.    

    Once you submit your completed OPT application online, you will be issued an application receipt number and will be able to access your application receipt notice through your USCIS account. Your EAD card will be mailed to the U.S. mailing address provided on your I-765 Form.

    After the OISS reviews the OPT application and recommends OPT, you must submit your OPT application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 30 days of OISS OPT Recommendation (see page 2 of I-20).

    Processing Times

    Processing times vary widely depending on the time of year, but USCIS takes at least 90 to 120 days to process this type of application. Approval is not guaranteed, and you may not begin employment unless you have received written approval from the USCIS. Written approval will come in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.

    During OPT

    During your OPT period, you are responsible for abiding by all regulations pertaining to your status. Please review the following requirements.

    Reporting Requirement

    Please report using MyStatus.

    Students must report to confirm information listed below every 6 months, even if there are no changes.
    For Student to DSO (Designated School Official) within 10 days of change:

    • Legal name
    • Residential/mailing address
    • Employer name & address
    • Start date of employment
    • Job relevance to the student's course of study
    • Termination of employment (either by choice or employer)
    • Periods of unemployment
    • Date of permanent departure from the U.S., if departing before the OPT expiration date

    Please upload your EAD using the OPT Reporting link.

    Travel Issues

    Under OPT, you may leave the U.S. for brief periods. Please ensure that you have the following documents for your re-entry:

    • OPT I-20 with a travel signature endorsed no more than 6 months (on page 3)
    • Valid F-1 visa stamp
    • Valid Passport
    • Valid EAD
    • Offer of employment or documentation of your job search

    Please do not hesitate to call OISS if you have questions.

  • SEVIS record reporting and maintenance by the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS) is supported by enrolled students through their LMU/LLS tuition and fees.  Alumni who are no longer enrolled during OPT and who intend to apply for STEM OPT extension are charged the international student fee for a one-time payment. This fee covers the cost of document review, regulatory advising, record-keeping and compliance, MyStatus online portal usage and programming including webinars to support services for the growing population of international students on STEM OPT extension.


    Consistent with other universities in the United States, effective immediately, OISS is implementing a STEM OPT Processing fee in the amount of $300.

    Fees are payable through the OISS Marketplace account and are to be paid prior to OISS processing the STEM OPT Extension eform

    Final STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) OPT (Optional Practical Training) Rule Update Summary, effective as of 5/10/2016  

    • A total of 24 months of STEM OPT, if a STEM degree obtained is found in the DHS STEM Designated Degree List
    • F-1 students who had already obtained one STEM OPT extension become eligible for a second STEM OPT extension (i.e., a total of two lifetime STEM OPT extensions) after:
      • Earning another qualifying STEM degree at a "higher degree level" and
      • Obtaining a new initial grant of standard 12-month post-completion optional practical training based on that higher degree
    • 24-month STEM OPT on a previously obtained U.S. STEM degree in the past 10 years; AND currently on post-completion OPT, may be eligible to apply for a STEM OPT extension based on that prior degree if they meet all other required criteria
    • Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students” required for E-verify employers to submit as part of STEM OPT application
    • Increased reporting requirements for F-1 student and employer
    • Maximum of 150 days of unemployment period (90 days during the initial 12 month of post-completion OPT plus an additional 60 days during the STEM OPT extension period)

    DHS has a great STEM OPT Hub which details the regulation -  please review the links below:

  • Cap Gap

    As of April 8, 2008, Department of Homeland Security published an interim final rule concerning F-1 Optional Practical Training. Cap Gap refers to the period of time between the time a non-immigrant’s F-1 student status under OPT would ordinarily end and his or her H-1B status begins.  The new rule allows students with Cap Gap limitation to continue employment if H-1B petition is filed on student’s behalf.  Duration of status and work authorization will be automatically extended for a student on OPT, who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition requesting change of status and an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. The extension of duration of status and work authorization would automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf.

    Eligibility Criteria

    •  All students under OPT whose OPT is valid at the time of H-1B petition filing
    •  H-1B petition is selected by USCIS

    Documents Required for Cap Gap Extension

    •  Student’s written request for Cap Gap Extension
    •  Copy of I-797, Notice of Action for H-1B petition

    Travel Issues under Cap Gap

    • If you travel overseas during the Cap Gap period, you must re-enter under H-1B status, not F-1.  Cap Gap is no longer available upon entry under H-1B.

    There are various scenarios depending on the status of your H-1B petition. Please consult OISS staff for more information.  Once your Cap Gap Extension is approved, OISS will provide a new I-20 form with Cap Gap Extension notation.

    Please do not hesitate to call the OISS if you have questions.