Optional Practical Training
for F-1 Students
University of Oklahoma International Student Services
640 Parrington Oval, Room #220
Norman, OK 73019
DSO: Designated School Official – OU
International Student Advisor
USCIS: US Citizenship and Immigration
OPT: optional practical training
CPT: curricular practical training
EAD: employment authorization document
Practical Training: Two Types
An F-1 student may wish to find an
internship (CPT) or temporary employment
(OPT) to gain practical experience in the
field of study.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Internship offered by sponsoring employers
through agreements with the university that is
required as an integral part of an established
curriculum, or will count toward degree
requirements. CPT is recommended by the
academic advisor and authorized by the
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Temporary employment authorization granted
by USCIS for practical training that is directly
related to the student’s major area of study.
OPT can be taken during annual summer
vacation, part-time during regular school
session, after completion of course
requirements or after completion of course of
Optional Practical Training
Preconditions Location Duration Hours/Week
Lawfully enrolled as May be employed Initial 12 months of After degree completion,
full-time student for anywhere by any full-time employment all OPT must be full-time.
one academic year employer , but all authorization. Up to 29 Full-time pre-completion
(fall and spring). employment must be in months for qualifying OPT during summer
field of study. You must STEM graduates. OPT breaks. Part-time pre-
update ISS of your extension to October 1 completion OPT during
personal address and now possible to meet semesters.
employer address while cap gap if H-1B is
on OPT. approved. Part-time
pre-completion OPT is
deducted from 12-
month limit at 50%.
Field Offer of Employment Enrollment Approval
Must be directly No offer letter required to If pre-completion OPT, Recommendation: apply
related to major apply. Student must work, maintain full course to USCIS before degree
field of study or actively seek work. 90+ load during completion (post-
indicated on I-20. days of unemployment = employment (unless completion OPT).
Burden of proof is loss of F-1 status (120 summer). Post- Possible: apply 60 days
on the student to days if unemployment completion= no after degree completion.
ensure this! occurs during 17-month requirement. For pre-completion OPT,
extension) must apply before work
OPT can be authorized in the
After completion of the degree program
(undergraduates: last day of semester; graduate
students: defense date, or last day of semester in which
defense took place)
After completion of all course requirements for the
degree, excluding thesis or dissertation (I-20 CANNOT
be extended after graduation)
Full-time (20+ hours per week) as pre-completion OPT
during summer break
Part-time while school is in session (20 hours or less per
week). Minimum enrollment requirements apply!
Post-completion OPT? Determine your
Apply for post-completion OPT either before you
graduate – beginning 90 days prior to degree completion
or in the 60-day grace period after graduation
Post-completion OPT begins after you graduate (60-day
window following graduation)
Applying for OPT after graduation may cause you to
lose weeks of work authorization
You must choose your preferred OPT start date when
you submit your application to OU ISS
Last possible date to start OPT: 60 days after end of
What are the OPT reporting
Student must routinely report your US employer work
address and personal address
Student must report start and end dates of any period of
Information is reported in SEVIS by OU ISS
90+ days of unemployment = loss of F-1 status
US employer must report to OU ISS the departure of F-1
student within 48 hours
FOR GRADUATE ASSISTANTS
If you choose a completion date that is mid-semester or NOT the end of the regular
You must not continue any employment, paid or unpaid, on campus after you
You will no longer be eligible for tuition waiver as of your completion date. You may
be required to pay back your tuition waiver
Not eligible for on-campus employment after that date
Not eligible to continue graduate assistant appointments after that date
The only way to avoid these complications is to SELECT THE PROGRAM
COMPLETION DATE THAT IS THE END OF THE SEMESTER
F-1 to H-1B status
2/17/2011 = F-1 status
For-profit US Approved H-1Bs
employers can with for-profit
H-1B submit H-1B
employers have a
start date of
April 1 October 1
“Cap Request cap gap
extension of OPT
from OU ISS as
soon as you have authorization to
H-1B receipt notice!
OU charges work authorization extension processing fee of $100 for OPT “cap
gap” extensions and OPT STEM extensions– payable at time documents are
submitted for work authorization extension request
What is the “cap gap”?
H-1B visa = most common employment-based visa in the US
65,000 H-1B visas available each year (the “cap”) – limited by US
For-profit companies may submit H-1B visa applications on April 1
H-1B visas begin on October 1 (for-profit companies)
The H-1B “cap gap” eliminated by extending OPT employment and
status for those who are beneficiaries of an H-1B petition with an
October 1 start date
Non-profit companies not subject to the H-1B cap (hospitals,
OPT frequently ends before October 1, creating a “gap” in the work
authorization and visa status
Transition from [F-1 student] to
[H-1B employee] – typical timeline
H-1B receipt Cap gap extension
notice issued of OPT 9 July 2011
3 Jun 2011 to 30 Sep 2011
15 May 2010
F-1 status H-1B status
OPT starts H-1B petition Initial OPT
10 Jul 2010 submitted ends
1 Apr 2011 9 July 2011
10 Jun 2011 – H-1B starts
student contacts 1 Oct 2011
Student wows OU ISS for cap
employer with gap extension
What are STEM degrees?
STEM Fields include:12-month limit on OPT extended by 17 months, for a total of 29 months for
certain students who have completed STEM degrees in the US ONLY
Computer Science Applications
Engineering, including Chemical Engineering
Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Mathematics and Statistics
Medical Scientist (MS, PhD)
Many fields are not included in the STEM list, including Business, Architecture, Human Relations, and
Students are eligible to apply for the 17-month STEM extension 90 days prior to their EAD expiration
date. Go to www.ou.edu/iss for complete information and application materials.
120+ days of unemployment during STEM extension period = loss of F-1 status
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I get more OPT at a later date?
2. Can my OPT be cancelled?
3. Can I study while on OPT?
4. Can I change employers during OPT?
5. Can I travel out of the US while on OPT?
6. Do I get a grace period after OPT?
Can I get more OPT at a later date?
Yes, in some cases.
12 full months of full-time OPT per degree;
subsequent degrees must be at higher
STEM-qualifying graduates working for
employers enrolled in E-Verify – 17 additional
months of OPT
F-1 students with H-1B cap gap may apply for
an extension to October 1 to bridge the cap
FAQ 2: Can I withdraw or change my
difficult to change start date of the OPT application after
difficult to cancel all or part of a period of OPT once EAD card
If you choose to withdraw your OPT application, your I-20
must be extended to a new program completion date.
Months to resolve on-campus employment and status issues
Must pay OPT application fee again if you reapply later
Due to F-1 status issues and cost to student, we urge
students to choose a firm degree completion date and OPT
Can I study while on OPT?
Remaining requirements, such as a thesis or
dissertation, for a current degree program
A required course that you were unable to take in your
final semester of your degree program
Post-degree certification/licensure programs (examples:
Human Relations, Accounting)
You begin a new degree program (start date of new I-20
You earn credit that COULD COUNT toward a new
Can I change employers during OPT?
ALL employment must be directly related to the
field of study on the I-20
You must routinely report your US employer and
work address to OU ISS. Failure to report could
result in a loss of F-1 status.
FAQ 5: Can I travel out of the US
while on OPT?
OPT = F-1 status.
Travel abroad with:
I-20 signed for travel by OU DSO
Valid passport and valid F-1 visa
employment confirmation letter.
Departure from the US without the EAD is fine. You must have
the above documents to reenter the US.
It may be more difficult to renew an F-1 visa while on OPT.
Do I get a grace period after I
60-day grace period following the completion date of
OPT if you applied for OPT BEFORE graduating.
The time the OPT application was pending does NOT
count against the grace period if you applied for OPT
You may change immigration status during the grace
period, obtain an I-20 for a new degree program, or
depart the US.
You are NOT work-authorized during the grace
OPT application procedures
Submit to OU ISS (no appointment necessary to submit):
•$380 check or money order processing fee
•2 passport-size photos
•Completed I-765 (OU ISS office address - pre-filled in #3;
address where EAD will be sent)
•2 copies of all immigration documents (passport bio page, visa,
I-94, I-20s for current degree level if you used CPT or pre-
completion OPT, former EADs) – DO NOT STAPLE
• Academic Advisor recommendation form and personal contact
•Make OPT processing appointment with OU DSO
Meet with OU DSO to finalize OPT application prior to submission to
Notes on OPT application procedure
USCIS receipt notice
Receipt number - track application status on
OU ISS office will notify you via email when we
receive your receipt notice and EAD
DO NOT begin employment until you have the EAD
and the start date is current (pre-completion and
OPT employment authorization is strictly regulated
under US federal immigration law. Working before
the OPT start date on your EAD IS A SERIOUS VISA
VIOLATION AND CAN RESULT IN A LOSS OF
YOUR F-1 VISA STATUS.