OPT Q&A

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

Am I eligible for OPT?

When can I apply?

How do I apply for OPT?

Do I need a job offer in order to apply?

When can I start work under OPT?

What are the reporting requirements for students and employers while on OPT?

What are the requirements while on OPT?

Can I change employers if I have OPT?

Can I travel outside of the US if I have OPT?

Can I return to school after completing OPT?

If I have OPT for one year and return to school, could I have another year of OPT?


What is Optional Practical Training?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined in the regulations as "temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study". You need to apply for OPT through Intercultural and International Student Services. To apply click HERE and contect Qiwei Zhang ([email protected]).

Am I eligible for OPT?

A person who has been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year is eligible for OPT. Eligible F-1 students may engage in optional training under any of the following conditions:

  • After completion of a course of study. OPT is approved for full-time employment only for a maximum of 12 months. The current 12-month limit on OPT will be extended by 24 months, for a total of 36 months for certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) degree holders ONLY. In order to qualify for the 24-month extension, you must be employed by an employer enrolled in E-Verify. Please see our office for details.
  • Before completion of studies if you are engaged in thesis or dissertation research; this is usually for graduate students.

When can I apply?

You are eligible to apply for OPT 90 days prior to your program end date, or within the 60 day grace period after graduation. Please see our office for details.

How do I apply for OPT?

You need to apply for OPT through Intercultural and International Student Services. For an application to apply and more information please contact our office.

Do I need a job offer in order to apply?

You do not need a job offer to apply, but you are expected to work or be seeking employment in your field of study. It is advisable to obtain a job offer before submitting your request for OPT. It is difficult to recover all or part of a period of OPT once an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card has been issued.

When can I start work under OPT?

When you receive the EAD and the beginning date of employment authorization (shown on the EAD) has arrived.

What are the reporting requirements for students and employers while on OPT?

All students on OPT must report to Intercultural and International Student Services at CSB/SJU:

  • Any change in name or address
  • The name and address of their employer
  • Any change to the name and address of the employer
  • Any interruption of such employment

What are the requirements while on OPT?

Students on post-completion OPT may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment under the initial 12-month period of OPT. Students granted a 24-month OPT extension may not accrue an aggregate of more than 120 days of unemployment during the total 36-month OPT period.

Can I change employers if I have OPT?

Yes. You may work for more than one employer and/or change employers as long as the work is related to your field of study and education level.

Can I travel outside of the US if I have OPT?

Yes, you may travel outside the USA and then be readmitted to resume your employment for the remainder of the period authorized on your EAD. Your I-20 must be endorsed within the preceding 6 months, you must have a valid F-1 visa, a valid passport or travel document and your EAD must be unexpired. It is also wise to carry a letter from your employer, confirming that you are working.

Can I return to school after completing OPT?

Yes. You will need a new I-20 for the next program of study, and complete the USCIS procedure for moving to a "new level of studies" or the procedure for school transfer. Please contact The Intercultural and International Student Services Office for more information.

If I have OPT for one year and return to school, could I have another year of OPT?

Yes, but it must be a different degree level.