Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students

OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING STEM UPDATE:  On March 11, 2016 the final 24-month STEM OPT fule was published in the Federal Register.    For more information about the new rule, please visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Study in the States STEM OPT Hub at:  https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/stem-opt-hub

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is employment authorization granted by USCIS for F-1 students to gain work experience in their academic major (not for degree minors).

Qualified students are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT for each successive degree level as an F-1 student. OPT is generally used after completing the program of study, but should be applied for early in the final semester. Students wanting to engage in OPT before completing their degree should speak with an ISS Specialist.

To Apply for OPT

USCIS must grant you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) before you begin work. Processing time for EAD cards is about 90 days (case-specific times are available at the USCIS website).

To apply for OPT, you must attend an OPT Information Session and meet all of the following requirements:

  1. Have a current I-20 form that reflects your current field of study and educational level
  2. Have a valid, unexpired passport
  3. Have had less than 12 months of full-time curricular practical training (CPT)
  4. Have been a full-time student for at least one full academic year
  5. Have been registered full-time (or certified full-time by ISSO) as an F-1 student every semester you attended UNL
  6. If you are completing your program in the summer, be enrolled in at least one credit hour required to complete your program

Students in English-language training programs are not eligible for OPT.

If you're not sure you're eligible, speak with an ISS Specialist.

You do not need a job offer before you apply for OPT. Authorization from USCIS can take up to 90 days to obtain, so you should apply early in your final semester, with or without a job offer. You must apply for OPT no later than 60 days from the date of program completion.

Maintaining OPT

If you were approved for OPT you'll need to:

  • secure employment that relates directly to your degree major
  • complete the OPT update form now, and anytime you change or add employers
  • report any change of address to USCIS and ISSO
  • verify your employment and address information with ISSO every 6 months

OPT-eligible employment must be:

  • full-time (more than 20 hours/week)
  • directly related to your major field of study (not a degree minor)
  • have no more than 90 cumulative days of unemployment

OPT-STEM Extension

If you received your degree in a STEM field, you may be eligible to apply for an OPT extension. Review the list of eligible STEM fields and complete the OPT-STEM packet.