OPT (Optional Practical Training ) for F-1 Students

Optional Practical Training is defined as temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student’s major area of study (8 C.F.R. 214.2 (f)(10)(ii).

General Information about OPT

  • Available to students who have been enrolled in a full course of study in the U.S. and have maintained F-1 status for at least one academic year, prior to the start date of OPT

  • Available to students who have not exceeded 12 months of full-time CPT

  • Does not require an employment offer at the time of application

  • Can be submitted up to 90 days prior to the desired OPT start date

  • Requires recommendation from an ISSS Advisor (DSO) and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)

  • Authorized once for each degree level (bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate) for up to 12 months

  • Must be received at USCIS within 30 days of the date DSO enters OPT recommendation in SEVIS

  • Employment can begin only on or after the start date on the EAD card

  • Allows for no more than 90 days of unemployment during the 12-month employment period. Thus, employment must begin no later than 90 days after the start date of the EAD card

Types of OPT

A) Pre-completion OPT (Code: (c) (3) (A))

  • Can be applied for at any time during program of study (after completing at least one academic year)

  • Granted prior to degree completion; cannot exceed program completion date listed on the I-20

  • Authorized part-time (20 hours per week or less) while school is in session, or full-time during the summer semester (if not enrolled full-time) and other official breaks and holidays, if currently enrolled and expecting to enroll for the next available semester

  • Deducted from the 12-month period of OPT eligibility (students must apply separately for post-completion OPT for the period not used as pre-completion OPT-90-day unemployment period does’t apply)

B) Post-completion OPT (Code: (c) (3) (B))

  • Should be applied for during the semester in which student expects to receive the degree and up to 90 days prior to the desired OPT start date

  • Must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after the program completion date listed on the I-20

  • Authorization granted for full-time OPT up to 12 months (less any period of authorized pre-completion OPT)

C) Extension OPT (STEM) for eligible student in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Fields (Code: (c) (3) (C)) (please see below)

Graduate students who have completed all degree requirements except for thesis/dissertation may apply for either pre-completion or post-completion OPT. Students are eligible for the post-completion option only if all program requirements are completed prior to the desired OPT start date (coursework, qualifying examinations, proposal) except for thesis or dissertation hours.

Travel during OPT

  • Students engaged in Pre-completion OPT must follow the same travel requirements that apply to all F-1 students who are currently enrolled

  • Students engaged in Post-completion OPT should consult with ISSS prior to making travel arrangements

    • Traveling before receiving EAD card and an employment offer should be avoided. When traveling, page 3 of the I-20 must have the DSO’s travel endorsement (valid for six months).

    • Traveling with a pending OPT application is not recommended.

    • Obtaining a new F-1 visa while on OPT can be risky.

    • Consulting with an ISSS advisor before making plans to travel outside the U.S. is recommended - each travel situation is different and may require individual advising.

Reporting Requirements during Post-Completion OPT


The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will upgrade SEVIS with new functionalities on December 4th, 2015. These new functionalities will enable the option of automatic SEVIS termination of any OPT record which does not contain the employment information by day 90 of the OPT authorization (calculated from the start date listed on the Employment Authorization Document your receive from USCIS in order to begin your OPT employment).

In order to ensure that all records are properly updated, we ask that you report your OPT employment to our office by submitting the OPT Employment Update Form to isss@fau.edu at your earliest convenience. If this information is new or different from the information currently stored in your SEVIS record, we will print a new OPT I-20 for you and contact you for pickup or mailing arrangements.

FAU is responsible for the F-1 SEVIS record and I-20 for the duration of OPT. Students must keep ISSS informed of the following:

  • Initial employment information within 90 days of the OPT start date (employer name, location, address, contact information, including email) as well as any subsequent changes in employment.

  • Completion of OPT prior to OPT end date due to change of status or return to the home country

  • Acceptance to another degree program in F-1 status (will require SEVIS transfer if going to another school in the U.S.

  • Student’s current address and contact information (including a non-FAU email address); change of address information must be provided within 10 days.

ISSS Notification Requirements during OPT

Persons engaged in OPT continue to be in F-1 status, and ISSS continues to have responsibility for maintaining these records throughout the duration of OPT. Students engaged in OPT must provide ISSS with the following information:

  • Initial employment information within the 90 days of the OPT start date.

  • Report to ISSS every six months (confirm employment and current address).

  • Consequent changes in employment.

  • Changes of address (within 10 days of occurrence).

  • Change of status to another category.

  • Departure from the U.S. prior to the end date of OPT.

  • Transfer of schools to begin a new academic program prior to OPT completion.

  • Plans to travel outside the U.S. to renew F-1 visa.

STEM Extension OPT


Many of you have heard that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a new proposed rule on STEM OPT. Our office is monitoring updates and will provide information about the implementation of a final rule. Please note that, until an interim final rule is published, we will continue to operate under existing rules pertaining to STEM OPT until February 12, 2016 until its expiration date of February 12, 2016. Here are a few highlights of the proposed rule:

  • STEM OPT benefit will be extended to 24 months.
  • Current STEM OPT beneficiaries will be eligible to apply for extensions of the 17-month benefit for an additional 7 months.
  • Employers will be required to implement a Mentoring and Training Plan for STEM OPT employees (form I910) and periodic evaluations of the student’s work, and will be subject to employer site visits by DHS.
  • The period of unemployment during the STEM extension will increase from 30 to 60 days, therefore allowing an aggregate of up to 150 days of unemployment between OPT (90 days) and STEM OPT (60 days).

For a thorough review of the proposed rule, please visit the NAFSA Resource on STEM OPT Rulemaking . Once the rule becomes final, ISSS will provide an updated protocol for STEM OPT applications.

General Information about STEM extension: a 17-months extension of Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 visa holders who are currently engaged in approved 12-months Post-completion OPT based on specific Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degree programs as designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

E-Verify (list of employers) (LINK) is an Internet based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration that allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees. It is currently free and employers may register online at E-Verify Enrollment Page

STEM extension qualifications criteria

  • Completed a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a field on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List, (Refer to FAU STEM Degrees list).

  • Currently engaged in post-completion OPT, working for a U.S. employer in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study.

  • Be employed by or have a job offer from an E-Verify employer.

  • Have not accrued more than 90 days of unemployment during approved OPT period.

  • Have never received a 17-month OPT extension after earning a STEM degree.

STEM extension application

An application for STEM OPT extension may be filed anytime after the approval and before expiration of initial post-completion OPT. The F-1 individual must ensure the Form I-765, the required supporting evidence, and the fee payment reaches the proper USCIS Service Center before his or her current OPT expires. USCIS recommends that students file within 90-120 days of the expiration date of the current OPT.

Students who timely file an application for the 17-month STEM OPT extension will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending, until the I-765 application is adjudicated or for up to 180 days, whichever comes first. However, regardless of when the STEM OPT authorization is received, the STEM OPT extension period will expire 17 months after the end of the initial post-completion OPT authorization. The total post-completion OPT period (initial and STEM OPT) combined cannot exceed 29 months.

Please review the new STEM list.

 Last Modified 11/3/15