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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a temporary work authorization available to international students to gain practical experience in their field.

OPT is an option for students who have been in valid F-1 status for at least one full academic year and who plan to seek employment in the U.S. in their field of study. OPT is recommended by the Office of International Student Services, but final approval is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

To help us keep your information up to date (and stay in USCIS compliance!), please use the Update Information Form.

Types of Optional Practical Training

Pre-completion OPT

Pre-completion OPT allows students who have not yet completed a degree program to be authorized for off-campus employment. The application process for pre-completion OPT is the same as for other types of OPT and requires 2-3 months processing by USCIS.


Post-Completion OPT

Post-completion OPT allows up to one year of employment authorization after completion of studies. Students can apply up to 90 days before and up to 60 days after program end date. 


STEM OPT Extension

Students who have received a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields may be eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT.

Applying for Optional Practical Training


Application Process

  1. Read the information about OPT.
  2. Attend an OPT Workshop (optional).
  3. Request the OPT I-20 by completing the APSU OPT request form (pages 5 and 6). Allow up to 10 business days for processing.
  4. Prepare the other USCIS I-765 application materials (below)
  5. If desired, set an appointment with OISS to file your OPT application, or wait for the new I-20 to file on your own.
  6. Go to the USCIS website.
    1. Click "Sign in" on the top right, then click "Create an Account".
    2. Create an Account. 
  7. Come to your OPT appointment to file I-765, or file I-765 on your own.



USCIS I-765 Application Materials

Please check the USCIS website for updates.

For STEM Extensions:

USCIS Application Deadlines

Additional Info

In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for no more than five different calendar years are exempt from Social Security taxes. You should be sure to bring this to the attention of your employer because many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax laws. Students in F-1 status are subject to all other taxes that may apply, including federal, state and local. For more information, please consult with a tax professional and/or Publication 519 of the Internal Revenue Service.


F-1 students are responsible for complying with all immigration regulations, including employment regulations. Working without the proper authorization is a serious violation of nonimmigrant status in the U.S. If a student fails to comply, he or she may not be eligible for benefits normally granted to F-1 students and may jeopardize his or her stay in the U.S. Prior to accepting any employment in the US, students should consult with the Office of International Student Services.

  • Employment Related to Major. OPT is intended to enhance an F-1 student academic program by providing a means to gain experience in his or her field of study. The USCIS considers working in a job that is not related to his or her major a violation of F-1 status.
  • Periods of Employment. Once an F-1 student completes his or her degree, he or she cannot work on-campus or off-campus until he or she has the EAD and the start date has arrived.
  • Periods of Unemployment. During post completion OPT, students may not accrue an aggregate total of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT carried out under the initial post-completion OPT authorization. No special permission is required to change employers or terminate employment.
  • Reporting Changes Employment. An F-1 student authorized by USCIS to engage in Optional Practical Training is required to report within 10 days of any change in the following: employer name, employer address and/or, periods of employment and/or unemployment. Update your employment information with the Update Information Form
  • Update Local Address. An F-1 student authorized by USCIS to engage in Optional Practical Training is required to report within 10 days of any change in the following: legal name, residential including changes from one residence hall to another or mailing address. Update your address with the Update Information Form
  • Maintain the validity of your immigration documents. F-1 students should keep his or her passport valid for at least six months in to the future. F-1 students should keep his or her visa valid if traveling outside the U.S.
  • Copies of Immigration Documents. F-1 students should keep copies of all immigration documents including: passport photo page, visa in passport, I-94 Form, current I-20, all copies of any I-20 issued.
  • International travel before the completion of an F-1 student’s academic program.  F-1 students must have the second page of your I-20 form signed by a university DSO before traveling. The signature date on your I-20 is valid for only one year of travel; check to make sure the signature is and will be valid upon return. Before leaving you must check to make sure that your student visa will still be valid upon re-entry into the U.S. If not, a new visa will need to be applied for prior to your return to the U.S.
  • International travel after completion of an F-1 student’s academic program. The guidance for travel of students who have a valid visa is related to whether OPT has been approved or not yet.
      • If post-completion OPT has not been approved yet -Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card still not yet issued by USCIS, and there is not a job or a job offer, an F-1 student may leave and then re-enter the U.S. to continue to look for employment with a valid travel signature on page 2 of the OPT I-20.
      • If post-completion OPT has been approved -EAD card has been issued by USCIS and there is a job or a job offer, an F-1 student may leave and re-enter the U.S. in order to begin or resume employment with a valid travel signature on page 2 of the OPT I-20.
      • If your post-completion OPT has been approved and an F-1 student leaves the U.S. before getting a job or a job offer, OPT ends and the student may not re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student.
  • Applying for:
    • Pre/Post complete OPT—use “permission to accept employment”
    • STEM OPT Extension—use “renewal of my permission to accept employment”
  • #1: Be sure to write name in correct order (Family, First, Middle)—this is what will be written on your EAD. Write family name in ALL CAPS. First (and middle, if have) name should not be all caps; only first letter should be capitalized. This name should match your OPT I-20 and passport.
  • #3: Use an address that will be valid for the entire next 3 months. If address is not known or there is possibility of change, use the Office of International Student Services (see below). Any requests for evidence, communication, or EAD card, if approved, will be sent to this address so it needs to be an address that will be regularly checked.
      • APSU ISS PO Box 4664; Clarksville TN 37044
  • #4, 5, 6: Should match the information on your passport
  • #9: If do not have, write “none”
  • #10, 12, 13, and 14: This is information from most recent entry on I-94/passport stamp.
  • #11: If have never applied: check “No”

               If have applied: check “Yes”

  • USCIS office: see EAD card number for office code: YSC-Potomac, LIN-Nebraska, WAC-California, EAC-Vermont, SRC-Texas, MSC-Missouri
  • Dates: start date on EAD card
  • Results:
    • if approved—Granted (include copy of front/back of EAD card with application)
    • if not approved—Denied
  • #15: Current status: F-1 Student
  • #16: If pre-completion OPT, use: (c)(3)(A).
    • If post-completion OPT, use: (c)(3)(B).
    • If STEM extension, use: (c)(3)(C).
  • #17: only needed if STEM extension
    • Degree: write level of degree (i.e. Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD, etc.)
    • Employer’s name: as listed in E-Verify
    • Employer’s E-Verify number—should be able to get from company’s HR department

Some additional helpful websites: