Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is practical work experience for F-1 students directly related to their field of study and commensurate with their level of study. OPT enhances or enriches an academic or curricular experience.
OPT can be authorized as pre-completion, before finishing program requirements, post-completion, or a combination of the two. Pre-completion OPT may only be part-time while school is in session, if the student has not yet completed all required course work.
F-1 students interested in acquiring OPT authorization are required to attend either the Off-Campus Employment Workshop (for Pre-completion OPT) or the Post-Completion OPT Workshop (for post-completion OPT) to learn the regulatory requirements and authorization procedure—see our employment workshops schedule.
F-1 students eligible for OPT are:
- In F-1 status for at least one academic year;
- In good academic standing
- Maintaining legal status;
- Have used less than 12 months of full time CPT. F-1 students who have used one year or more of full time CPT are longer eligible for OPT. Use of part-time CPT does not affect eligibility for OPT.
Please note that you do not need a job offer to apply for OPT.
Amount of Time Allowed on OPT +
F-1 students may be authorized for a maximum of 12 months of full time OPT during or following each advancing degree level. Part-time pre-completion OPT accrues at a rate of 50 percent (e.g., six months of part-time OPT counts as three months of the total).
Some students may be eligible for an OPT extension after completing the initial 12 months.
How to Apply for OPT +
Please review our tutorial, Preparing Your OPT Application.
When to Apply +
Pre-completion OPT applications can be submitted to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) up to 90 days before the proposed OPT start date. The application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date an international student adviser enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.
Post-completion OPT applications can be submitted to USCIS up to 90 days before the degree requirements completion date and up to 60 days after the degree requirements completion date. The application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the date an international student adviser enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.
Proof of Employment Authorization +
When approved for OPT, an F-1 student receives an EAD (employment authorization document) card displaying the relevant validity period. Employment is authorized only after you receive your EAD card, and you may begin work on the start date listed on your card.
OPT Reporting Requirements +
Using our OPT Data Update e-Form via the RGlobal portal, you are required by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to inform Rutgers Global–International Student and Scholar Services about:
- All changes of U.S. address, phone number, and email address
- Any legal name changes
- The name and address of every OPT employer you have
- If your employment with any OPT employer is terminated or interrupted, the date of such termination or interruption
There is a 10-day regulatory deadline for reporting each item on the list above. Schools are then required to report this information to DHS via the SEVIS database. Please use the OPT Data Update Form Tutorial for detailed OPT reporting instructions.
Every six months, you must work with Rutgers Global–International Student and Scholar Services to confirm that your record in SEVIS accurately reflects your current circumstance. This is a time sensitive reporting requirement. Please check your inbox for an email from our office requesting OPT verification for DHS reporting every six months and respond as soon as possible to confirm your address and employment information. We have been made aware that the USCIS is asking for students to provide proof of the verification when applying for H1-B or permanent residency.
Unemployment during OPT +
During the initial 12-month period of post-completion OPT, no student (including STEM students) may be unemployed for an aggregate of more than 90 days. If a STEM student receives a 24-month extension, the limit on unemployment is raised to an aggregate of 150 days, applied to the entire 36-month period during which the student is on post-completion OPT.
There is no unemployment limit for students authorized for pre-completion OPT.
International Travel during OPT +
- Traveling abroad between submitting an OPT application and receiving the USCIS receipt notice, or when waiting for a STEM extension EAD (after initial EAD has expired) could result in the loss of OPT and denial of readmission to the United States
- While on post-completion OPT or an extension, regulations allow F-1 students to re-enter the United States to resume employment
- While on OPT, please note that an F-1 visa application may be a high risk application and the chances of denial could be greater than normal
For more information on travel and visas, please visit our Travel and Visa Information page.
End of Post-Completion OPT Authorization +
Your OPT authorization ends when you start another degree program, when you change to another status, when your EAD card expires, if an a STEM extension request is denied, or if your H-1B cap-gap extension is denied. Learn more about OPT extensions.
After the completion of OPT, F-1 students have a grace period of 60 days within which to depart the United States, transfer to a new school or program, or apply to change your legal status (if eligible). If you are eligible for the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension, USCIS must receive your application before the expiration of your initial 12 months of OPT.