US student visa for Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a program that allows F-1 student visa holders to gain work experience in the United States related to their field of study.

OPT can be completed before or after graduation, and it can be extended for up to 24 months for students in certain STEM fields.

Am I eligible for OPT?

To be eligible for OPT, you must:

  • Be an F-1 student visa holder
  • Have maintained valid F-1 status for at least one academic year
  • Be enrolled in a full-time program of study leading to a degree
  • Have a job offer that is related to your field of study

How do I apply for OPT?

To apply for OPT, you must submit the following documents to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
  • Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status
  • Passport photo
  • Passport
  • Visa application fee
  • Evidence of financial support
  • Evidence of job offer

You can file your OPT application up to 90 days before your completion date on Form I-20.

Types of OPT

There are two types of OPT:

  • Pre-completion OPT: This type of OPT allows you to work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) during your studies. You can apply for pre-completion OPT after you have completed one academic year of full-time study.
  • Post-completion OPT: This type of OPT allows you to work full-time after you graduate. You can apply for post-completion OPT up to 90 days before your completion date on Form I-20.

STEM students may also be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT, for a total of up to 36 months of OPT.

Important regulations to keep in mind

  • You must maintain valid F-1 status throughout your OPT period.
  • You can only work in the job position that you were approved for.
  • You cannot work more than 40 hours per week.
  • You must report any changes to your job to your school’s designated school official (DSO).


OPT is a great way for international students to gain valuable work experience in the United States and to explore their career options.

By following the tips in this article, you can increase your chances of having a successful OPT experience.

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