Optional Practical Training
(For practical training in your field of study.)
The information below relates to post-completion OPT. For information about pre-completion OPT please speak with International Education staff.
Please also review the OPT handout on our Resources page.
After attending school full time for at least two consecutive semesters as an F-1 student in good academic standing, you may apply for OPT. (Semester exchange students are not eligible.)
Type of Work
- OPT jobs must be in your field of study and require your level of education.
- You may work for more than one employer on OPT. Self employment is permitted, but note that you must carefully follow all appropriate business and tax laws related to self employment.
Unemployment During OPT
- Those approved for OPT are permitted to be unemployed for a total of 90 days during their entire OPT term.
- Days unemployed add up in between positions worked and before you start working.
- Days that count toward unemployment accrual include those wherein you have been working part time, i.e. under 20 hours/week
- You are encouraged to keep track of your days unemployed.
- As soon as you reach 90 days of unemployment, you are expected to either leave the USA or otherwise change your immigration status.
Amount of Work
- OPT is limited to a total of 12 months for each degree level (BFA, MFA, MA, or MAT). You will receive an additional 12 months if you begin a new degree program at a higher level (for example, if you complete a BFA and begin an MFA).
- Your F-1 status and OPT employment authorization will automatically be extended if you are the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition requesting change of status and an employment start date of October 1 of the following fiscal year. This benefit applies to all students on OPT.
- OPT authorization is granted by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). MICA's Office of International Education will help you to apply. Authorization is usually given, but is not guaranteed. The government usually takes two or three months to process OPT applications, so be sure to apply early.
- OPT applications require an application fee (currently $380).
- You are not eligible to work until you receive notification of your OPT authorization card and the authorized start date on the card is reached.
- The government must receive your OPT application before the end of the 60-day grace period following your last day of class or exams.
- You must send your application to USCIS within 30 days of the International Education OPT recommendation. You should make an appointment with International Education. Please bring your completed application and all required documents with you to this appointment. International Education will create your new I-20 that will include the OPT recommendation. Please note that you cannot apply more than 90 days before your program completion date (listed on your I-20). If you do, your application will be denied.
- Overseas travel while waiting for OPT authorization is not recommended.
Students must report the following information to International Education via email within 10 days of any changes:
- Your U.S. address
- Name of employer
- Address of employer
- Start date
- Hours worked per week
- End date of employment
- Your decision to depart the USA and end your OPT early
Students who work throughout OPT (without reaching their 90 days of unemployment threshold) have several options at the end of their OPT authorization period.
- Plan to leave the USA? Students on OPT are permitted to remain in the USA for 60 days following their OPT end date. They will not be permitted to work or study during this time.
- Planning further study in the USA? Please arrange to transfer your SEVIS record within 60 days after the end of OPT to your new degree program.
- Employer sponsoring your US work visa? Work with your employer and immigration lawyers to change your immigration status.
This page was last updated on 07/14/2016.