Most F-1 students qualify for a benefit called Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT is a form of employment authorization that is available to F-1 students while they are still enrolled in their studies and/or upon completing their degree program. OPT is available for up to 12 months per higher degree level and is limited to college, university, conservatory, and seminary students. It is not available to students enrolled in English language training programs.
The rules for OPT eligibility differ slightly depending on whether you are applying for pre-completion or post-completion OPT.
Pre-completion OPT is granted while you are still a student enrolled in your academic program. You are eligible for pre-completion OPT only after you have completed one full academic year at your institution. Pre-completion OPT must be used for employment that is directly related to your field of study, and is available only if you are able to satisfy the following requirements:
If you choose to apply for pre-completion OPT, plan for the fact that the time you spend working during this period will be deducted from the 12-month total, with part-time work deducted at one-half the full time rate. For example, if you work part-time for four months on pre-completion OPT, two months will be deducted from the total and you will be eligible for only ten months of post-completion OPT.
Post-completion OPT is granted only after you have completed your degree requirements. Post-completion OPT must be used for employment that is directly related to your field of study. It is available only if you satisfy the following requirements:
There are some special issues to be aware of as you consider your eligibility for OPT. These include:
If you are not sure of your eligibility for either pre- or post-completion OPT, you should consult with your DSO. If you want to learn about other options for employment, see Can an F-1 Student Legally Work In The U.S.?