Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization that allows F-1 visa students to secure practical training related to their major area of study.

Three types of OPT: 

  1. Pre-completion OPT (before fulfilling all graduation requirements and while enrolled full-time);
  2. Post-completion OPT (OPT completed after all requirements for graduation have been met) and
  3. 17-month STEM OPT (associate degree students are ineligible for STEM OPT).

All OPT requests must be submitted in writing and approved and recommended by the DSO in SEVIS.

OPT Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for OPT, an F-1 student must have completed at least one full academic year of study (full-time enrollment in the fall and spring semesters) and work in a position directly related to their course of study. A student studying English in an intensive English language training program is not eligible for practical training. Students applying for pre-completion OPT must be in good academic standing per SOAP (Standards of Academic Progress) guidelines. F-1 students are allowed 12 months of full-time OPT at each educational level (associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctorate). OPT may be granted for either part-time (maximum of 20 hours per week) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week) employment and may be used during the following time periods as indicated:

  • During the summer semester (or annual vacation) – part-time or full-time
  • During the academic year – part-time only
  • After completion of all degree requirements – full-time only.

F-1 students do not need to have a job before applying for OPT but are required to be employed within 90 calendar days of the OPT start date. Application for OPT may be submitted up to 90 days before graduation or completion date, including 60 days after graduation (also known as the 60-day grace period). The OPT start date is chosen by the applicant, but the dates cannot be changed once the application is processed by USCIS. OPT is obtained through USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services); a filing fee and Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) are required.  

If you have been authorized for OPT, see details about getting a social security card.

Important reminders about OPT:

  • Terminate all on-campus employment:
    • You may only work until the last day of the semester, in which you complete your degree requirements. You cannot be engaged in on-campus employment and OPT at the same time.
  • Verify completion of all degree requirements:
    • All degree requirements need to be completed before beginning post-completion OPT.
    • If degree requirements are not finished, post-completion OPT employment cannot begin until the degree requirements are completed. Any OPT employment time already granted by USCIS will be lost.
  • Verify your mailing address:
    • Your home address needs to be valid for at least 90 days after filing the application to avoid the return of the application by USCIS. The college address may be used if you are unsure of an address change. You are required to inform ECC of any address or phone number changes within 10 days. USCIS requires you to update this information with the Center for Global Engagement to maintain your immigration status while on OPT.
  • Be aware of travel risks:
    • You should not travel outside the United States (U.S.) until receiving the EAD card from USCIS. USCIS may consider pending applications to be abandoned if the applicant departs the U.S. before receiving the EAD card.  
    • For travel outside the U.S. after receiving the EAD card, you must have the following documents in your possession to be granted re-entry to the U.S.: a letter from your employer verifying employment, latest pay stub, a valid passport, valid F-1 visa, and a valid I-20 document with a travel signature that is less than one year old. Note you cannot travel outside the U.S. without a job offer that is verifiable through your employer. 
    • If you travel outside the U.S. and your F-1 visa is not valid, you must apply for one at the U.S. Embassy in your home country. Please note that it may be difficult to obtain a new F-1 visa if degree requirements are already completed, and the sole reason for returning to the U.S. is to complete OPT.
  • Keep in contact with the Center for Global Engagement
    • You are still considered a student at ECC while engaging in OPT. It is your responsibility to ensure your contact information is up to date with ECC.
    • You must notify the Center for Global Engagement of your planned departure date upon completion of OPT.
  • Unemployment while on OPT
    • You must not be unemployed for more than 90 days while on OPT, or you will be considered out of status. USCIS has allowed volunteering on OPT as long as the work is directly related to your major.

Applying for OPT

You may begin the Optional Practical Training application online or download and complete the Optional Practical Training Employer Information Form - PDF