- Hold (or have held) an F-1 Visa
- Proposed employment must be related to the student’s major area of study
- Student must complete one year of full-time study before OPT can begin
Typical Petition Filing Process:
- Applying for OPT is a multistep process involving the student, a designated school official (DSO) representing a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified institution, and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. A student wishing to work via OPT employment authorization submits a request to their DSO. The DSO then requests OPT through the appropriate online portal and assists the student with the necessary paperwork. If approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document to the student with an eligible start date for employment.
Typical Length of Employment Authorization:
- 12 months of Regular OPT (pre-completion or post-completion) for each level of study (e.g. 12 months for bachelor’s degree and another 12 months for master’s degree)
- Students in certain STEM fields are eligible for a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT employment authorization (additional requirements apply), allowing up to 36 months of total employment under OPT
- Students can apply for both pre-completion and post-completion OPT at the same level of study, but the length of OPT cannot total more than 12 months (e.g. a bachelor’s student that has completed 8 months of pre-employment OPT is eligible for 4 months of post-completion OPT)
- A student’s employment authorization will be terminated if they transfer to another school or begin studies at another educational level
- Information regarding the OPT application/petition process is available from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services; additional information is available from the Department of Homeland Security
- This content was last updated on 1/21/2021
This information is not meant to be regarded, interpreted, or relied upon as legal advice. While APS will work to keep this information up to date, be aware that visa and immigration policies are always subject to change and we recommend readers reference official government resources.
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