Optional Practical Training

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

Three types of OPT: 

  1. Pre-completion OPT (prior to 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's degree students are ineligible for STEM OPT).

All OPT requests must be submitted in writing, approved by the DSO, 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. Students in the Intensive English Program are not eligible for OPT. 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 (associates, bachelor, masters, 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 times as indicated:

  • During the summer term (or annual vacation) โ€“ part-time or full-time
  • During the academic year โ€“ part-time only
  • After completion of all degree requirements โ€“ full-time only

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 term in which you complete your degree requirements.
    • You cannot be engaged in on-campus employment and OPT (off-campus employment) 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, OPT employment cannot begin until degree requirements are completed, and 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 applying to avoid the return of the application by USCIS.
    • College address may be used if you are unsure of an address change.
    • You are required to inform the ECC of any address or phone number changes within ten days. USCIS requires you to update this information with the Center for International Education and Programs to maintain your immigration status while on OPT.
  • Be aware of travel risks:
    • You should not travel outside the 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.
  • Travel outside the U.S.:
    • 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 with a travel signature that is less than one year old.

Applying for OPT

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

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. 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 International Education and Programs:

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 us. Remember, you are required to notify the Center for International Education and Programs 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.