Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Under the prior rules, an F-1 student could be authorized to receive up to a total of 12 months of practical training either before (pre-) and/or after (post-) completion of studies.
An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT after he or she has been enrolled for one full academic year. The pre-completion OPT must be directly related to the student’s major area of study. Students authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT must work part-time while school is in session. They may work full time when school is not in session.
An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in post-completion OPT upon completion of studies. The post-completion OPT must be directly related to the student’s major area of study.
F-1 students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees included on the STEM Designated Degree Program List, are employed by employers enrolled in E-Verify, and who have received an initial grant of post-completion OPT related to such a degree, may apply for a 17-month extension.
This extension of the OPT period for STEM degree holders gives U.S. employers two chances to recruit these highly desirable graduates through the H-1B process, as the extension is long enough to allow for H-1B petitions to be filed in two successive fiscal years.
OPT status is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any authorized period of standard post-completion OPT. Students who receive a 17-month extension are given an additional 30 days of unemployment for a total of 120 days over their entire post-completion OPT period.
H-1B Cap-Gap Extension:
Duration of F-1 status and work authorization will be extended for a student on OPT who is the beneficiary of a timely-filed, non-frivolous H-1B petition requesting a change of nonimmigrant status with an employment start date of October 1 of the following federal fiscal year (October thru September). The extension of duration of status and work authorization will automatically terminate upon the rejection, denial, or revocation of the H-1B petition filed on the student’s behalf.