Reference : Wikipedia


Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for one academic year are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work for one year on a student visa towards getting practical training to complement their education.

On April 2, 2008, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff announced a 17-month extension to the OPT for students in qualifying STEM fields. To be eligible for the 12-month permit, any degree in any field of studies is valid. For the 17-month OPT extension, a student must have received a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics degree as defined by USCIS.

On May 31, 2008, the Immigration Reform Law Institute filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of various organizations and individuals challenging the validity of the 17-month OPT extension. A similar lawsuit in November 2014 challenging the STEM extension was successful, with the court giving the U.S. government up to February 12, 2016, to formulate new rules.  The deadline was subsequently extended by three months.


On March 11, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security published a final rule allowing certain F-1 students who receive STEM degrees and who meet other specified requirements to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT, giving STEM graduates a total of 36 months of OPT. The 24-month extension replaces the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to STEM students (see 73 FR 18944). Eligible students could apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension starting on May 10, 2016

There also exists a post-completion Optional Practical Training option for students on M-1 visas, but it is significantly more restrictive than that for F-1 students.  Unless otherwise specified, Optional Practical Training is understood to refer to Optional Practical Training for F-1 students.

OPT must relate to your major or course of study.

You can apply for 12 months of OPT at each education level, (i.e., you may have 12 months of OPT at the bachelor’s level and another 12 months of OPT at the master’s level)

Your DSO will provide you with a new Form I-20 that shows the DSO recommendation for this employment

For work authorization, you must mail a completed Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization,” to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and pay a filing fee. USCIS will send you a Form I-766, “Employment Authorization Document,” (EAD) upon approving your Form I-765

Wait to start work until after you receive your EAD

While school is in session, you may only work 20 hours per week

All F-1 students who are currently on a regular period of OPT and are eligible for a STEM OPT extension must apply for the 24-month STEM OPT extension.

You may qualify for an additional 24 months of OPT under the following circumstances

You are currently participating in a regular period of OPT

You received a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) degree at an undergraduate level or higher and seek a training opportunity related to this degree

You received your qualifying STEM degree from a currently accredited SEVP-certified college or university

The employer from which you are seeking employment uses the E-Verify program.

You and your prospective employer have completed and signed the Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.”

For more information about the specific eligibility requirements for the 24-month STEM OPT extension, please visit the STEM OPT Hub on Study in the States.

Once your DSO verifies that your Form I-983 is complete and keeps it in your student record, they will provide you with a new Form I-20 that shows their recommendation for this training opportunity.

You must apply for work authorization by filing a Form I-765 with USCIS and paying a filing fee. USCIS will send you an EAD upon approving your petition

You may continue to work on your expired EAD for OPT up to 180 days while your 24-month extension petition is pending if you meet the following conditions

  1. You are currently in a period of post-completion OPT.
  2. You properly and in a timely manner filed your application for the 24-month extension with USCIS

 You must report changes in name, address, employer and loss of employment to your DSO within 10 days of any change.