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What is OPT? Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 Status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees or certificates for more than nine months are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work for one year on a student visa towards getting practical training to complement their education.

F-1 students often want to work. However, employment opportunities are limited and strict rules apply.

What is Optional Practical Training?

Optional practical training is one type of work permission available for eligible F-1 students. It allows students to get real-world work experience related to their field of study.

While a Designated School Official (DSO) recommends OPT in SEVIS, it is the student who must apply for the work permit with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If the OPT is approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The student must not begin working before the start date on the EAD.

OPT Types

There are three general types of OPT, below are two that apply to LAPAC students:

OPT: For students engaged in post-secondary schools or at conservatories. Twelve months of Regular OPT is available for each higher level of study. (For example a student may have 12 months for a certificate and another 12 months for an Associate’s degree).

  • Pre-Completion OPT: Any portion of OPT used before the student’s Program End Date. It may be part-time or full-time.
  • Post-Completion OPT: Any portion of OPT used after the student’s Program End Date. It must be full-time.

OPT Eligibility

A student is eligible for OPT if:

  • The student has been a full-time student for one academic year in an SEVP-certified:
    • College
    • University
    • Conservatory
    • Seminary
  • The student is not studying English as a Second Language.
  • The student’s proposed employment relates to the student’s major area of study.
  • The student has not used all of the practical training available at the current level of study.
  • The student has not been authorized for 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT).