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
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 ISSO 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
within the dates specified on the EAD.
How to Apply
Undergraduate students need to review the material above and contact The ISSO to schedule an OPT appointment when ready to apply.
Students in GSOM must attend an OPT Workshop or Open Hour 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 ISSO 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 ISSO 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
standard passport photographs
- Personal check for $380.00 made payable
to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Check or money order in the amount of $100 ($200 for STEM extensions) made out to Clark University. The OPT fee is in addition to the $380 application fee required by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Please note that this fee cannot be paid by cash.
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 ISSO in advance of your trip.
Sample Letters for Optional Practical Training