Your F-1 student status allows up to one full-year (12 months) of off-campus employment authorization to gain practical experience related to your major field of study. This year of U.S. work permission is called Optional Practical Training (OPT).
As an F-1 student you are eligible for up to 12 months of OPT authorization per academic level. You can choose to start using your OPT time after you have been enrolled for one full academic year, but many students choose to save your OPT year for after graduation.
You may earn a new year of OPT eligibility if you move to a higher level of education in the U.S. (for instance, from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s degree).
Keep in mind that an International Student Advisor will review your academic record and your immigration history to evaluate whether we can recommend you for a period of OPT. The final decision on whether to approve your case is made by USCIS.
When you apply for OPT, you must indicate if you are requesting permission for part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (anything over 20 hours) OPT. Part-time authorization allows you to work up to 20 hours per week, while full-time authorization is required if you will work over 20 hours per week.
You can apply for periods of OPT authorization as follows:
Part-time authorization allows you to work up to 20 hours per week, while full-time authorization is required if you will work over 20 hours per week.
If you apply for part-time authorization, it will be deducted from your 12 month total at half the rate. For instance, if you apply for 4 months of part-time OPT, you have used the equivalent of 2 months of full-time OPT and are still eligible to apply for your remaining 10 months.
Pre-completion OPT is available part-time only during semesters of required study, but you can choose either part-time or full-time during summer vacation periods or if you are in the thesis or dissertation stage of a graduate degree.
You may wish to save all or most of your 12 months of OPT eligibility to use after your completion of your program of study.
You must be registered for graduation or have a letter from your academic department verifying the date of expected completion of the program of study when applying for OPT.
We recommend that students apply 90 days before their requested OPT start date as it can take this long for the USCIS to reach a decision on the application. The timing of submitting your OPT application differs depending on whether they are applying for the OPT to begin prior to completion of studies, or after.