Immigration Frequently Asked Questions


Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization.

Pre-completion OPT: You may apply to participate in pre-completion OPT after you have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year. If you are authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT, you may work part time (20 hours or less per week) while school is in session. You may work full time when school is not in session.

Post-completion OPT: You may apply to participate in post-completion OPT after completing your studies. If you are authorized for post-completion OPT, you may work part time (20 hours or less per week) or full time.

If you participated in pre-completion OPT, USCIS will deduct that amount of time from your post-completion OPT authorization period. For example, if you participated in 10 months of pre-completion OPT, you would be eligible for only up to 2 months of post-completion OPT.


Application Process

USCIS predicts that it takes 3 to 5 months to get approved for Optional Practical Training, but often times the application process can be completed in 1 to 2 months.

While on OPT

24-Month STEM OPT Extension

The STEM Extension allows F-1 students who have received a degree in specific fields in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, to apply for a two-year extension following their regular OPT period.

You must have an employer that is E-verified to apply for STEM Extension. You must have maintained F-1 status while on OPT. Your employment must be full-time (at least 20 hours). You must have earned a STEM degree. A list of eligible degrees can be found here.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an F-1 off-campus authorization for paid and unpaid positions directly related to the major field of study. CPT can be used to authorize a variety of positions, including employment, internships, fellowships, practicums, etc.

To be eligible for CPT, F-1 Students must:

  • Have been in lawful, full-time status for one full academic year
  • Will not complete their degree requirements until after the position has ended
  • Are in good academic standing
  • Have been offered a position that is directly related to their major field of study
  • Are in a degree program in which off-campus experience is an integral part of the curriculum