Requirements and application process of OPT

The legal requirements of OPT:

Optional practical training (referred to as OPT) is the opportunity to gain practical experience in your field of study (your major). OPT is for a period of 12 months after you have been in full-time student status for one academic year.During this period, foreign students have a work permit and can serve any company, but the job must be related to their major. This period of time is basically unrestricted, and you can stay in the United States. If international students do not apply for OPT within 60 days after graduation, they must leave the United States.


STEM OPT is a 24-month extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization available to F-1 students who graduated with U.S. degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics and will be working for an employer who is part of the E-Verify program.Starting from 10 May 2016,STEM OPT Extension Increases from 17 to 24 Months. The new STEM OPT regulations increase the duration of STEM OPT from 17-months to 24-months. The standard 12-month OPT period is unchanged.
Professional attorney analysis: This means that STEM majors can work and stay in the United States for three years after graduation. They can apply for H-1B for three years.

Application process of OPT

1)Application time: You may apply for OPT no sooner than 90 days before graduation/completion of your program, and as late as 60 days following graduation/program completion (Homeland Security must receive your OPT application before the 60 day period is over).Otherwise, foreign students will lose the opportunity to apply for OPT and need to return to their original country of residence immediately.

2)Application steps

Step 1:  Contact Designated School Officials (DSO) of the school  – Foreign students need to contact the International Student Department of the school to apply for OPT. The application time is from 90 days before graduation to 60 days after graduation.

Step 2: Foreign students get a new I-20. EAD will be mailed to the address of foreign students.But they can’t start work until they get EAD.

Types of OPT

  • Pre-Completion OPT
    After you have been in full-time student status for one academic year, you can apply for Pre-Completion OPT.
    1) during the semester (up to 20 hours per week of work)
    2) during annual vacation periods (summer and winter breaks, full-time employment allowed)
    1) Unemployment is not counted
    2) Cannot apply for the 24-Month STEM Extension
    3) Not eligible for the Cap Gap Extension
    4) May extend I-20 if extra time is needed to complete degree requirements
    5) Must apply for Post-Completion OPT if employment will continue after the degree conferral date
  • Post-Completion OPT
    1) while working on one’s thesis or dissertation (full-time employment allowed)
    2) after completion of study (full-time employment allowed)
    1) Unemployment is counted. (You must not exceed 90 calendar days of unemployment during your 12 months of Post-Completion OPT.)
    2) Full-time employment authorized.  Must work a minimum of 20 hours per week
    3) May apply for the 24-Month STEM Extension (if eligible)
    4) Eligible for the Cap Gap Extension 
  • Professional attorney analysis: According to SEVP Policy Guidance, applicants cannot apply for  Pre-Completion OPT and Post Completion OPT at the same time. Time for pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12-months standard OPT eligibility at half (½) the full-time rate.