Optional Practical Training

Overview of OPT

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an opportunity for F-1 students to gain practical experience in their field of study. It is recommended in SEVIS by ISAP and then students apply for it through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If granted by USCIS, the authorization is full- or part-time employment for a maximum of 12 months. OPT is not a different visa status or “change of status”; it is a benefit linked to your F-1 status, and extends your F-1 status for the time you are on OPT.

Who Is Eligible to Apply

In order to be eligible for post-completion OPT, you must:

  • Be within 90 days of completing your degree requirements (i.e., within 90 days of the end of the semester during which you will graduate).
  • Have been in F-1 status for at least two consecutive semesters immediately prior to finishing your degree.
  • Have not previously had OPT authorized at the same degree level (e.g., if you are completing a second bachelor’s degree and had previously been authorized for OPT after your first bachelor's, you would not be eligible for OPT again until you completed a higher degree level -- either a masters or doctorate).
  • Have not previously been authorized for 365 or more days of full-time CPT cumulatively at the same degree level.

For more information, please visit the Portal. 

OPT Information for Employers

Employers have different levels of familiarity with hiring international students and OPT. The OPT Information for Employers handout is meant as an overview of OPT for employers who might not be familiar with it.

It is also a resource for students to help discuss your work authorization with potential employers.

STEM Extension

On March 11, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a new STEM Final Rule, with an effective date of May 10, 2016.

What is a STEM extension?

It is an extension of post-completion OPT available to students who graduate with a qualifying science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) degree and who meet other, additional requirements. Qualifying students may apply to extend their 12-month post-completion OPT for an additional 24 months.

Who is eligible to apply?

To be eligible for the STEM extension, an F-1 student must hold a degree (bachelor's or higher) that has a STEM-eligible CIP code and meet the requirements for the STEM OPT Extension. This means that the CIP code for the degree must be listed in the revised DHS STEM OPT Designated Programs List. If you earned a degree in a field that that appears on the US government's official list of STEM fields, you may be eligible for the 24-month OPT extension. To check if your degree is on the list, look at the "Program of Study" field on page 1 of your I-20 to find the 6-digit code listed under "Major 1" and then look for that code in the CIP code column of the DHS STEM OPT Designated Programs List

Currently, Animation (BFA), Interaction Design (BFA), Master of Design in Interaction Design (MDes) and Architecture (B'Arch, M'Arch and MAAD) are the only STEM-designated degrees at CCA.