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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Is temporary employment authorization that is related to an F-1 student's academic program. The application process takes approximately three months.

OPT Employment Rule

With regard to all types of employment, it must relate to the student's program of study. In addition, in most, but not all cases, employment does not need to be full time. Students engaged in regular, paid employment; employment through an agency; or volunteer or unpaid internship should work at least 20 hours per week. Students in the performing arts may need to work for multiple, short-term employers and it may be difficult to document the exact number of hours worked. In such situations, students should keep a list of all engagements and the dates / durations of those engagements, and related proof, regardless of the exact number of hours worked, while on OPT.

Unemployment rule while on OPT

Under the new provisions, students who are on OPT may have no more than a total of 90 days of unemployment during the regular one-year post-completion OPT period.

Volunteering as Employment

Many students are able to obtain experience that is most appropriate to their line of work by engaging in volunteer work or unpaid internships. This is possible during the standard 12-month OPT period. Work as a volunteer or unpaid intern must not violate any labor laws and should not be for less than 20 hours per week. Students should provide a volunteer agreement with in 7 days of start of employment to the International Programs Office. While working as volunteer, students are not eligible for OPT Extension.

While on OPT:

You are still considered to be in F-1 student status while on OPT, so any questions or concerns can be addressed by an ISS advisor during this time.

Reporting Requirements While On OPT

There are new reporting requirements for students who are pursuing Optional Practical Training in the US.

All students on OPT must report to the office of International Student Services within 10 days of any change, the following:

  • Any change in name or address
  • Any change in immigration status
  • Any interruption of employment
  • Volunteer employment

NOTE: The ISS office has prepared a website with an e-form that is available for you to send us this information. Please go to this site immediately and update us with this information as per federal regulations.

For students who have applied for an H-1B, please send an email to and put H-1B Status in the subject line. Please tell us if your application is pending or if it has been approved.

Travel on OPT:

  • You may travel while on OPT. However, please keep in mind that you are still in F-1 status and that you will need the following in order to re-enter the United States:
  • A valid travel signature on your most current I-20 (within 5 months of re-entry)
  • Your unexpired EAD or I-797 receipt notice
  • A letter from your employer indicating that you currently hold a job in your field of study and will be returning to the U.S. to resume employment
  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 visa
If you are interested in applying for an OPT Extension, please click here.
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