F-1 Employment Options

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides F-1 students with an opportunity for hands-on work experience (work authorization) related to their academic field of study.

You are eligible to apply if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are currently in F-1 status.
  • You have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year (two semesters, including final exams weeks) or will complete one academic year by the date the OPT approval begins.
  • You have not exceeded 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization. (Part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility.)
  • You do not need a job offer first; you can apply for OPT without a job offer.

You are eligible for 12 months of full-time OPT per academic level. For example, you may apply for 12 months of OPT after completing a bachelor’s degree and then another 12 months after completing a master’s degree. You may apply for OPT authorization during your academic program, after your program completion, or a combination of both. You do not need to have a job offer before applying for the first 12 months of OPT. An additional 17-month extension may be possible depending on your field of study.

OPT authorization that begins after completion of your academic program is called “post-completion” OPT. This is the most common type of OPT. Post-completion OPT is full-time, and it can begin:

  • after you complete your degree or exchange program*
  • after you complete all course requirements for your degree, excluding thesis or equivalent**

* You must apply for OPT based on your last registered semester. If you are not able to complete your program as expected, contact the study abroad office immediately to review your options.

OPT used while you are still pursue course of study is called “pre-completion” OPT. Pre-completion OPT is rather uncommon. Usually current students are eligible for alternate employment authorization, such as Curricular Practical Training. Because pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 months of OPT eligibility, most students prefer to save OPT for after program completion. You may start the OPT application process up to 120 days before your requested employment start date. Pre-completion OPT can be approved for different rates:

  • Full-time (more than 20 hours per week) or part-time (20 hours per week or less) during your annual vacation period such as the summer.
  • Part-time (20 hours per week or less) while enrolled in a full course of study

While approved for OPT, you are still in F-1 status and must report address changes and employment information to Dr. Petoskey.