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Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit available to international students who have maintained F-1 status and have been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year. OPT is a period when students can work in fields directly related to their studies.

OPT may be used either before or after a student completes a program of study.

When can I participate in OPT?

International students have 12 months of OPT which may be used in a series of combinations permitted by the regulations, as follows:

  • Pre-Completion: During summer vacation (part-time or full-time)
  • Pre-Completion: During a regular term (part-time only)
  • Pre-Completion: After completion of all coursework with only thesis or dissertation left for completion (full-time only)
  • Post-Completion: After completion of a degree program (full-time only)
  • Post-Completion STEM: Students in specific Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics majors may have a 1-time 17-month extension of their Post-Completion OPT, provided that they employed by an E-Verify employer.

Please note that:

  • Students must apply for OPT no later than 60 days after graduation or completion of studies.
  • OPT must not end more than 14 months after completion of studies or graduation.
  • Pre-Completion OPT can be part-time or full-time. Part time OPT will count half against the 12 months limit, i.e., two months of part-time OPT equals one month full-time.
  • A student who has used 12 months of OPT is eligible for another 12 months after changing to a higher education level.

When should I apply for OPT?

You must plan ahead when applying for OPT:

  • You may apply up to 90 days before you graduate or complete studies, or up to 60 days after completing your studies or graduating. Please note that it takes up to 90 days to process the application.
  • Students are not required to have a job offer in order to apply for this benefit.
  • OPT time counts whether the student has a job or not, and cumulative unemployment is limited to only 90 days.
  • STEM OPT has a cumulative unemployment period of only 30 days during the 17-month extension.
  • Once it has been granted by the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) OPT cannot be canceled.
  • Graduate students who complete all the degree requirements early in their graduating semester must apply for OPT before completing degree requirements.
  • No employment (e.g., work, job, internship, training, volunteering) should commence before having their employment card in hand, nor should students depart from the United States without consulting with a Designated School Official.
  • Students who depart the United States during OPT can reenter the United States to resume employment only. Students on OPT who do not have a job may not be able to reenter the United States.

What do I need to apply for OPT?

You will need:

  1. All previous Form I-20s
  2. Passport - must be valid for at least 6 months into the future & most recent visa page
  3. I-765: Question 16 should be coded (c) (3) (B) for Post-Completion OPT
    [Pre-Completion = (c) (3) (A); STEM OPT = (c) (3) (C)]
  4. STEM Applicants MUST also have original degree, original transcripts, employer name & E-Verify number in Q17.
  5. OPT Certification Form signed by your academic advisor
  6. Two passport type pictures with small envelope
  7. Any previously issued EAD (Employment Authorization Document Card, I-766)
  8. $380 personal check made payable to: US Department of Homeland Security

F-1 Employment Forms

Employment Resource

ETSU University Career Services - Provides ETSU students and alumni with information, resources and support in setting personally meaningful career goals, developing effective search skills and materials, and generating contacts with employers or graduate schools.

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