Post-Completion OPT

Post-Completion OPT

Post-Completion OPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is off-campus employment authorization that allows F-1 students to gain work experience directly related to their major field of study. Please be aware of the following conditions:

  • Your OPT employment must be directly related to your major field of study.
  • You are permitted a maximum of 12 months of full-time employment for each higher educational level you pursue in the U.S. (eg. bachelor’s or master’s degree)
  • No specific job offer is required to apply for OPT. However, you MUST find employment within 90 days of being approved for OPT to maintain legal F-1 status. 
  • You cannot begin your employment until you have received your approved EAD card.

If you have used full-time CPT for one year or more, you are no longer eligible for OPT. Use of part-time CPT does not affect eligibility for OPT.

Post-Completion OPT Requirements

  • Post-Completion OPT: Start date after coursework completion or after degree requirement completion
  • You may work part-time or full-time after completion of coursework requirements, excluding the thesis or dissertation.
  • You must work at least 20 hours per week after completion of ALL requirements for your major program of study.
  • If you decide to work all of your available 12 months of OPT time on post-completion OPT, you must request all of it at once. You cannot use it in separate periods of time.
  • 24-month extensions of post-completion OPT for certain STEM degree holders

When to Apply

For post-completion OPT, the OPT application can be filed up to 90 days before the degree completion date and up to 60 days after your program completion date. It should be received by USCIS during this time frame. It is your responsibility to plan accordingly to allow enough time for the International Center to review and submit your application to USCIS. Complete OPT applications should be submitted to USCIS no later than 30 days after the issuance of your Form I-20.

If you leave the U.S. during the 60-day grace period after completing your degree program and did not apply for OPT, your OPT eligibility will end.

Travel Warnings: Traveling abroad between the time you submit your OPT application and the time you receive the USCIS receipt notice, or if your OPT has expired and you are waiting for a STEM extension EAD could result in the loss of OPT and denial of readmission to the U.S., (2) while on post-completion OPT or an extension, regulations allow you to re-enter the U.S. to resume employment, (3) if you will need to apply for an F-1 visa to return to the U.S. while on OPT, please note that this may be a high-risk visa application and the chances of denial could be greater than normal.

OPT Termination: Your OPT authorization ends when you commence another degree program, change to another status, the expiration date of your EAD, if an extension request is denied, or if on H-1B cap-gap extension – if the H-1B petition is rejected.


OPT Employment Requirements and Reporting via Terra Dotta

You are expected to be employed in your field of study during OPT, and you are required to submit employer information to the International Center to update your SEVIS record and provide you with a new I-20. The maximum period of unemployment is 90 days.

Documenting OPT Employment: It is recommended that you keep documentation of all your employment. In the future, you may be asked to provide proof that your employment during OPT was in your field of study.

The employer offer letter needs to have the following information:

  • Description of your work and how your degree is related to the work you performed.
    * The job title
    * Number of hours per week. Is it a full-time or part-time job?
    * Physical Location of the company
    * Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can get this number from your employer's HR Department. It’s a 9-digit number.
    * The duration of that position – Start and End date.
    * Contact information for your supervisor or manager

If it is not clear from the job description that the work is related to your degree, we highly recommend that you obtain a signed letter from the employer's hiring official, supervisor, or manager stating how your degree is related to the work you performed. Keep this in your personal records.

CPT Vs. OPT Summary

Please log in to Terra Dotta to view step-by-step instructions for the application process and to submit your Post-Completion OPT request.