F-1 Optional Practical Training(OPT)
What is Optional Practical Training(OPT)?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a temporary employment benefit for practical training directly related to the major area of study. There are two types of OPT: Pre-completion and Post-completion.
Who are eligible for OPT?
- Must lawfully enrolled for one academic year on a full-time basis
- Employment must be directly related to your course of study
- Must be in valid F-1 status at the time of application
How long and how many OPTs can one receive?
In general, one can be granted maximum 12-month OPT per degree level. For example, after receiving your bachelor’s degree, you can be granted one 12-month OPT. You may obtain another 12-month OPT after you receive a master’s degree, and one more after your doctoral degree.
You may be granted an OPT extension beyond 12-month in two circumstances: H-1B CAP GAP OPT Extension and 17-Month STEM OPT Extension
You may use your 12-month OPT before graduation for off-campus employment in your field of study.You may only work part-time while school is in session and full-time during summer and winter breaks. The time you use will be deducted from your 12-month for Post-completion OPT.
To apply for Pre-completion OPT, download the OPT application packet and follow the instructions for Post-completion OPT.
When to apply for Post-completion OPT?
You may apply OPT within 90 days prior to your graduation date, and must apply within 60 days after graduation date.
For doctoral students, you may apply for OPT using course completion date, dissertation defense or submission date, and graduation date.
How to apply for OPT?
Step 1: Register for OPT on ISS web site
Step 2: Complete and print out the OPT packet and bring it to the OPT session. ISS adviser will answer your questions and check your application. If you don’t have any questions, you may complete and drop off your application during office hours.
Step 3: ISS will mail your application to USCIS and keep you updated of your application status.
Step 4: ISS will notify you to pick up your EAD after receiving it from USCIS or mail it to you if you move away from Lehigh
What should you do to maintain F-1 status while on OPT?
To maintain your F-1 OPT status, you must
- have a paid or non-paid, full-time or part-time job within 90 days from the start date of your Employment Authorization Card (EAD). In other words, while on OPT, you can’t be unemployed for more than 90 days.
- report your employment information and home address whenever the information is changed/
- not start working until you have your EAD in hand and on or after the start date on the card
Travel outside of the United States while on OPT
You may travel outside of the U.S. after graduation while on OPT. You must have the following documents to re-enter the U.S.
- A valid passport at least 6 months into future time when you re-enter
- I-20 with OPT recommendation and ISS adviser’s signature with 6 months on page 3
- Employment Authorization Document(EAD)
- A job offer if you have one
If you must travel while your application is pending, consult with ISS adviser before departing.