Optional Practical Training: F-1 Students
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is work experience directly related to a student’s field of study. An F-1 visa holder who has maintained status and who has been in the United States as a full-time student for one academic year or more is eligible for up to 12 months of OPT. OPT may be pursued full-time before the completion of a degree during vacation periods or after completion of required coursework but prior to completion of a required thesis. OPT may also be pursued during the school year provided the practical training does not exceed 20 hours per week. OPT granted upon completion of all degree requirements must be full-time.
You are limited to a total of 12 months of full-time employment. You have the option of using OPT before completion of the degree, after completion of the degree, or a combination of both. Any OPT authorized is deducted from the 12 months total that is allowed. For example, if you are authorized for 3 months of full-time summer OPT (before the completion of a degree); you will only be eligible for 9 months upon completion of the degree. Any part-time OPT authorized is deducted from the 12 months at one-half the full-time rate. The employment must be directly related to your field of study.
Once you receive the recommendation for the OPT from the OIA you must seek authorization by mail from the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS). You can apply for OPT up to 90 days before and 60 days after your official completion date.
You do not need to have a job to apply for OPT. However, any OPT authorized will be deducted from the 12 months allowed whether or not a student actually works. Students interested in pursuing OPT before completion are advised to apply only if they are fairly sure they will have a job.
Once optional practical training is authorized, there is no way to cancel it.
You may not begin working until you have received the employment authorization document (EAD) from the USCIS and may only work within the dates specified on the EAD.
How to Apply
Undergraduate students need to review the material above and contact the OIA to schedule an OPT appointment when ready to apply.
Students in GSOM must attend an OPT Workshop before scheduling their appointment with Patty Doherty to apply for OPT. At this workshop you will learn all about OPT. Once you have attended a workshop you can call the OIA at 508-793-7362 and schedule an OPT appointment.
All Other Graduate Students
Students in other graduate programs must obtain a letter from their department chair confirming their completion date. This date is not necessarily the actual graduation date but is usually the last day of classes in the final semester or for doctoral students, the date of thesis defense. Once you have that letter call the OIA at 508-793-7362 to set up an OPT appointment.
Bring the following items to your OPT appointment.
If applicable - letter from your academic advisor or departmental chairperson (see samples below). This letter must be on departmental letterhead and signed by the advisor or chairperson
All Forms I-20 issued to you
Passport and I-94 card (white card in passport)
Personal check for $380.00 made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
If you move, you must inform USCIS of your change of address. The U.S. Postal Service will not forward mail from U.S. government agencies. You should not leave the United States before you receive your EAD. If you plan to leave the U.S. prior to the receipt of the EAD, you must consult with the OIA in advance of your trip.