Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a temporary employment opportunity, authorized by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), that allows F1 international students to gain practical work experience (on- or off-campus) by applying their academic knowledge to a position directly related to their field of study.
To learn more about OPT, including how to apply, please click on the topics below.
- Types of OPT
- Post-Completion OPT* (most popular option): Work authorization after completion of your studies
Pre-Completion OPT: Work authorization before completion of your studies, in one of the following three situations:
- Part-time (20 hours/week or less) during the fall or spring semesters
- Part-time or full-time during summer vacation if you are currently enrolled and intend to register for the following semester
- Full-time during fall or spring if you are a graduate student who has completed all coursework and is in the thesis, dissertation, or comprehensive exams-only phase of your degree
*Because Post-Completion OPT is the most common form of OPT, this page will focus on Post-Completion OPT.
Confused about if you should apply for CPT, Pre-Completion OPT, or Post-Completion OPT? Schedule a meeting with an international student advisor.
- To be eligible for Post-Completion OPT, you must meet the following requirements:
- You have completed of at least one full year of academic study at SHSU
- You intend to graduate/complete your program before you begin work
- You have not engaged in full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for more than 12 months
You are eligible for 12 months of full-time OPT for each higher degree level earned. Your 12 months will begin with the start date listed on your EAD card. STEM majors may be eligible for an OPT extension (please see OPT STEM Extension tab below).
- Rules and Regulations
- Field of work: Must be directly related to your program of study. (For example, if you are studying accounting, it should be an accounting position.)
Employer: You may engage in OPT for any employer for the duration of the OPT authorization period, as long as the employment qualifies under OPT standards. You must report new employers to the Office of International Programs.
Duration: Standard OPT is for a period of 12 months. Your 12 months will begin with the start date listed on your EAD card. STEM majors may be eligible for an OPT extension (please see OPT STEM Extension tab below).
Hours per week: Post-completion OPT must be full-time (20+ hours/week)
Offer of employment: No offer of employment is needed to apply for OPT. You may begin to apply for jobs before your OPT is approved, but you cannot begin working until it is approved. Need help with your job search? Set up an appointment with a career counselor in Career Services.
Unemployment: Students are limited to 90 days of unemployment during their 12-month OPT period. Can’t find a job? Some volunteer opportunities can be approved for OPT. Contact your international student advisor at email@example.com for more information.
- OPT Timeline
- Students completing their program have a 5-month window in which to apply for OPT- You can apply up to 90 days before, and 60 days after, your I-20 program end date.
See the timeline below:
“How long does OPT processing take?” OPT processing takes 3-4 months on average, so you are strongly encouraged to apply early.
“What is the earliest I can apply?” 90 days before your degree completion (I-20 program end date).
“What is the latest I can apply?” 60 days after your degree completion (I-20 program end date), BUT don’t wait till the last minute!
“How will I know that my application has been received?” You will receive a receipt called a I-797C Notice of Action. This is an official notice that your OPT application has been received by USCIS.
“When can I start working?” You can start working when you receive your EAD (Employment Authorization Document). This card lists your start date (typically the date you requested in your application).
- How to Apply + OPT Checklist
- Ready to apply for OPT? Great! Please gather and complete the items in the checklist below. Once you have all items complete, schedule an appointment [hyperlink to Campus Connect instruction page] or email firstname.lastname@example.org to meet with an international student advisor. It is very important to prepare all checklist items- incomplete application packets will not be processed.
- OPT Application with:
- Statement of Responsibility (p. 3) signed by you
- Completion of Degree form (p. 4) signed by your department
- A copy of the receipt showing the OIP OPT fee ($75) has been paid
- Pay your OIP OPT fee HERE
- A completed Form I-765. Notes:
- Do not leave any questions unanswered. Write “None” or “N/A (Not Applicable)” as needed.
- Question #3: Do not fill in your address. We will use our office address.
- Question #16 should be coded:
- Pre-Completion OPT: (c)(3)(A)
- Post-Completion OPT: (c)(3)(B)
- STEM Extension OPT: (c)(3)(C)
- A copy of your passport and F1 visa (Your passport must be valid for at least six months)
- Original entry I-94 (Get your I-94 HERE)
- Photocopies of all previous I-20s
- Money order made payable to “US Department of Homeland Security” for $410
- You can request a money order at any bank, credit union, or grocery store (like HEB or Kroger)
- The money order must be for $410 exactly. Applications with under- or over-payments will be rejected.
- Two passport photos
- Get your passport photos for free in the Bearkat OneCard Office (Estill Building)
- A copy of any previously issued OPT EAD card (if applicable)
- A completed Form G-1145
OPT Application Checklist:
The Office of International Programs will mail your OPT application packet for you, however, if you prefer to mail it yourself, mail to:
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
Use this address to mail your application using a courier service (FedEx, DHL, UPS):
2501 S. State Hwy 121, Business
Lewisville, TX 75067
- OPT Application with:
- OPT STEM Extension
- F1 international students majoring in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields may be eligible for a 24-month OPT extension following their standard 12-month OPT period (for a total of 36 months of work authorization). Eligibility depends on your field of study and your employer’s ability to register in the E-Verify system. Please check with your international student advisor (email@example.com) to see if your field study qualifies for OPT STEM Extension.
- Your application packet must be submitted prior to the end date on your 12-month OPT EAD card
- You can continue working once your receive your receipt (I-797C), even if your OPT EAD card has expired
- You are allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment (for a total of 150 days over the course of 36 months)
Please see the checklist for OPT STEM Extension HERE.
Questions? Schedule an appointment with an international student advisor or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
F1 international students are encouraged to meet with their international student advisor early in their final semester to learn about the OPT application process. You can schedule an appointment with an international student advisor or email email@example.com.
At least twice a semester, the Office of International Programs hosts OPT workshops. Please look out for workshop announcements via email and social media. You can view the workshop PowerPoint presentation HERE.