Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a type of temporary employment authorization for F-1 students to allow them to engage in employment/training in their major field of study in the U.S. 

Please review the list of Frequently Asked Questions.

There are three different types of OPT a student can apply for (pre-completion, post-completion, and STEM extension). 

For more information about each type of employment, please see the links below:

     

    Information Sessions
    Filing Deadlines
    Employment Requirements
    Travel
    Cap-Gap Extension
    Study

    ISSS advisors provide OPT information sessions throughout the Fall and Spring semesters for students and staff. If you are interested in attending a zoom or in-person OPT information session, you must sign up for the session through Canvas. To register for a session, please take the following steps:

    • Log into canvas.temple.edu and click on “Courses” on the left side.
    • You should see a course called "International Student and Scholar Services". If you don't see the course send an email to isss@temple.edu.
    • Once in the ISSS Course, click on “View Course Calendar” on the right.
    • Click “Find Appointment” under “Appointments” on the right.
    • Click on the session you are interested in signing up for and then “reserve” at the bottom of the pop-up window.

    If there aren't any sessions currently available on our canvas calendar, you may view a previously recorded zoom session by clicking here. 

    • Pre-Completion OPT: The OPT application must be received by USCIS no sooner than 90 days before the requested OPT start date. The OPT application must also be received by USCIS within 30 days of the OPT recommendation (the date ISSS issued the OPT I-20). Please be advised, although you are not permitted to apply any sooner than 90 days before the requested start date, USCIS may take up to 5.5 months to process the OPT application (to check current processing times go to the case processing times website and choose form I-765 and Potomac Service Center under the drop-down menus). This means you can select an earlier start date if you want to give USCIS more time to process the application but this time will be considered "used" if granted by USCIS even if you don't work during that time. 
    • Post-Completion OPT: The OPT application must be received by USCIS no sooner than 90 days before the program end date, and no later than 60 days after the program end date. Your SEVIS record will automatically complete on the 60th day. Allow yourself sufficient time to submit the request to ISSS, have the application processed and then mailed to USCIS.
      • In addition, the Form I-765 and I-20 in support of post-completion OPT must be received by USCIS no later than 30 days after the DSO/International Student Advisor updates SEVIS with the OPT recommendation.
      • Since all post-completion OPT must be completed within the 14-month period (includes 12 months of OPT and 60-day grace period) following the completion of studies, the Employment Start Date for F-1 student Post-Completion OPT requests may be no more than 61 days beyond the Program End Date.
    • STEM OPT Extension: The OPT application must be received by USCIS no sooner than 90 days before the current post-completion OPT expires and no later than the current post-completion OPT expiration date. The OPT application must also be received within 60 days of the date the ISSS office issues the STEM OPT I-20. 

    Work Must Be Related to Major Field

    Regulations state that work done for OPT must be "directly related to the student's major area of study." If you have studied a double major and both majors are updated on your I-20, you may work in both or either major fields during OPT. You must work in the major field that is listed in your most recent program. You may only work in a field from a prior degree earned in the U.S. if you have been granted the OPT STEM Extension based on this prior degree. 

    The Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) recommends that the student maintain evidence for each job documenting the position held, proof of the duration of that position, the job title, contact information for the student's supervisor or manager, and a description of the work (such as a job offer letter). We do not have a specific template for this documentation but it should include these details about the student's employment.

    If it is not clear from the job description that the work is related to the student's degree, SEVP recommends that the student obtain a signed letter from his or her hiring official, supervisor, or manager stating how the student's degree is related to the work performed.

    Work Must Be a Minimum of 20 Hours/Week

    If you are on post-completion or STEM OPT you must work a minimum of 20 hours/week to maintain your F-1 status. You are allowed to be unemployed or work less than 20 hours/week for no more than 90 days during post-completion OPT or an additional 60 days during the OPT STEM extension period. There is no requirement of minimum employment hours during pre-completion OPT.

    Acceptable Types of Employment:

    For students on pre-completion and post-completion OPT, this employment may include:

    • Regular paid employment in a position directly related to the student's program of study.
      • For post-completion OPT, the work must be for at least 20 hours per week
      • Students may work for multiple employers, as long as it is directly related to the student's program of study.
      • All employment should be reported by the student in the SEVP Portal. Please contact ISSS (isss@temple.edu) if you have any issues accessing your SEVP Portal. If you are unable to access your SEVP Portal, you can also report your employment using this form
    • Payment by multiple short-term multiple employers. SEVP says that "Students, such as musicians and other performing artists, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. All gigs should be reported by the student in the SEVP Portal. Please contact ISSS (isss@temple.edu) if you have any issues accessing your SEVP Portal. If you are unable to access your SEVP Portal, you can also report your employment using this form
    • Work for hire. SEVP says, "This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students should be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company."
    • Self-employed business owner. SEVP says, "Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student should be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program."
    • Employment through an agency. SEVP says, "Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency."
    • Volunteers or unpaid internsStandard OPT. SEVP OPT Policy Guidance states that, "Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work should be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. A student should be able to provide evidence, acquired from the student's employer, to verify that he or she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.

    For students on STEM OPT extensions, SEVP's states that employment may include the following:

    • Paid employment of at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify employer in a position directly related to his or her DHS-approved STEM CIP major.
    • Employer must be able to comply with the Form I-983 training requirements: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/form-i-983-overview

    Unemployment on OPT:

    There is no employment requirement for students on pre-completion OPT. However, if you do not work during the approved pre-completion OPT period, this time is still counted as "used" and will be deducted from the total 12 months of OPT you are allowed.

    Each day that the student is not employed in a qualifying job is counted toward the limit on unemployment time for post-completion and during the STEM extension. The limit is 90 days for students on post-completion OPT, including those with a cap-gap extension. Students on the STEM OPT extension are given an additional 60 days of unemployment time for a maximum of 150 days. Students on post-completion OPT are required to report their employment in the SEVP Portal. Employment should be reported no later than 10 days after the new employment begins. If you are unable to access your SEVP Portal, you can also report your employment using this form

    Students changing employers on the STEM OPT extension, must have the new I-983 form completed and submitted to our office no later than 10 days after the new employment begins.

    What Counts as Unemployment Time?

    Each day (including weekends) during the period when OPT authorization begins and ends that the student does not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment. OPT authorization begins on the employment start date shown on the student's EAD.

    Holidays: If a student is employed, he or she would not be considered "unemployed" on holidays, etc. that fall within that period of qualifying employment.

    Unemployment while outside the United States:

    “Time spent outside the United States during an approved period of post-completion OPT counts as unemployment against the 90/150-day limits, unless the student is either:

    • Employed during a period of leave authorized by an employer; or
    • Traveling as part of his or her employment.”

    What types of employment are allowed for regular pre- and post-completion OPT?  

    All OPT employment, including post-completion OPT, is required by 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(A) to be in a job that is related to the student's degree program.

    For students who are not on a STEM extension, this employment may include:

    • Regular paid employment in a position directly related to the student's program of study.
      • For post-completion OPT, the work must be for at least 20 hours per week
      • Students may work for multiple employers, as long as it is directly related to the student's program of study.
    • Payment by multiple short-term multiple employers. SEVP says that "Students, such as musicians and other performing artists, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration. All gigs should be reported by the student in the SEVP Portal
    • Work for hire. SEVP says, "This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students should be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company."
    • Self-employed business owner. SEVP says, "Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student should be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program."
    • Employment through an agency. SEVP says, "Students on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency."
    • Volunteers or unpaid interns: Standard OPT. SEVP OPT Policy Guidance states that, "Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work should be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. A student should be able to provide evidence, acquired from the student's employer, to verify that he or she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.

    For STEM OPT extensions, SEVP's states that employment may include the following:

    • Paid employment of at least 20 hours per week for an E-Verify employer in a position directly related to his or her DHS-approved STEM CIP major.
    • Employer must be able to comply with the Form I-983 training requirements: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/form-i-983-overview

    How do students show that employment is directly related to their degree programs?

    • SEVP recommends that students maintain evidence — for each job — of the position held, proof of the duration of that position, the job title, contact information for the student's supervisor or manager and a description of the work.
    • If it is not clear from the job description that the work is related to the student's degree, SEVP highly recommends that the student obtain a signed letter from the student's supervisor or manager or the employer's hiring official stating how the student's degree is related to the work performed.

    What is the impact on a student's status if the student exceeds the limit on authorized unemployment?

    A student who has exceeded the period of unemployment while on post-completion OPT or the OPT STEM extension has violated status unless he or she has taken one of the following actions:

    • Applied to continue his or her education by a change of level or transferring to another SEVP-certified school
    • Departed the United States
    • Taken action to otherwise maintain legal status

    How will DHS enforce this provision?
    A student may be denied future immigration benefits that rely on the student's valid F-1 status if DHS determines that the student exceeded the limitations on authorized unemployment.

    Additionally, ICE/SEVP may examine SEVIS data for an individual, a selected group, or all students on post-completion OPT and terminate a student's record if it fails to show the student maintained the proper period of employment. In such cases, the student will be given an opportunity to show that he or she complied with all OPT requirements, including maintaining employment.

    It is important to remember that you are still in F-1 status while engaging in Optional Practical Training. That being said, you need to be able to show the following materials to re-enter the U.S. while on a period of post-completion OPT or the OPT STEM extension:

    1. Valid F-1 entry visa
    2. Valid passport
    3. I-20 which has been signed for re-entry within the last six months
    4. Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
    5. Proof of employment

    If your F-1 entry visa is expired and you will be traveling outside the United States, you will need to apply for a new F-1 entry visa before you can re-enter in F-1 status. This may be more difficult than your original application because you still have to prove that you do not intend to remain permanently in the United States. This becomes more and more difficult to do the longer you remain in the United States.

    If you no longer live in Philadelphia and cannot come in for a signature, you can request our office to reissue the I-20 and sign it for travel by submitting the online request form. If you want to have the I-20 sent via express mail you will be responsible for express mail charges.

    Re-entering the U.S. in any visa classification other than F-1 will void the employment authorization. Check your I-94 upon entry. If anything other than F-1 is written there you are NOT in F-1 status and not eligible to continue employment.

    Provisions applicable to F-1 students who are the beneficiaries of a properly filed H-1B petition

    The eligibility date is the date a USCIS Service Center receives a properly filed Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, from the prospective employer naming the student as a beneficiary of the petition.

    The cap-gap extension starts when the student's current period of F-1 status ends, regardless of whether the student was in a period of OPT. However, if the student was not in a period of authorized post-completion OPT on the eligibility date, the extension of status starts on the day after the student's initial grace period expires.  

    If a student was not in an authorized period of OPT on the eligibility date, can the student work during the cap-gap extension?

    No. In order for a student to have employment authorization during the cap-gap extension, the student must be in an approved period of OPT on the eligibility date. 

    What is the length of the cap-gap extension?

    For a student with active post-completion OPT, the cap-gap extension for both employment and F-1 status starts on the date the student's original OPT expires and ends September 30 unless the H-1B petition for the student is rejected, denied, or withdrawn. In those cases, the employment authorization ends and the grace period begins.

     For a student whose post-completion OPT expired prior to the filing date of the H-1B petition, the cap-gap extension starts at the end of the student's grace period and ends September 30 unless the H-1B petition for the student is rejected, denied, or withdrawn. However, the student will not have work authorization.

    Due to the complexities involved, students will receive cap-gap extensions in increments, as the petitions go through the steps of filing, receipting and adjudication.

    Can the cap-gap extension of OPT be extended beyond  September 30 if the H-1B petition filed on the student's behalf has not been adjudicated by USCIS?

    No. Pursuant to 8 CFR 214.2(f)(5)(vi)(A), the duration of status, and any employment authorization granted under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(3)(i)(B) and (C), of an F-1 student who is the beneficiary of an H-1B petition and request for change of status can only be extended until October 1.

     Will students receive personal notification when they have a cap-gap extension?

    Students will not automatically receive notification when they have a cap-gap extension. Students must request a Form I-20 from their DSOs showing the period of the extension. In some cases, students may need to notify their DSOs that they are eligible for the extension.

    How will students know if their cap-gap extension is terminated before September 30 due to a withdrawn or denied H-1B petition?

    Students will not be personally notified by DHS of a withdrawn or denied H-1B petition, so they must remain in contact with their sponsoring employer and their DSOs. It is the student's responsibility to check regularly on his or her status.

    What proof will students have that they are entitled to the extension of employment authorization and status? 

    Using SEVIS, DSOs can print a Form I-20, which shows the dates of continued F-1 status and employment authorization.  

    What information appears on the Form I-20 if an F-1 student is eligible for the cap-gap extension of F-1 status and OPT?

    F-1 status and employment authorization for this student have been automatically extended to September 30, [current year]

    How long will the extension be granted?

    The extension is dependent on the status of the H-1B petition. Please review the following: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/sevis-help-hub/student-records/fm-status/f-1-cap-gap-extension

    You may take part-time, non-degree/non-certificate, courses during OPT. However, you may not begin a new program of study (pursue a new educational objective) and work on OPT simultaneously. If you want to stop using your OPT and then pursue a new degree, that is fine, you would then be required to study full-time to maintain your F-1 status. OPT will become automatically void as soon as you enroll in a new program.

    Once you are admitted to a new degree or certificate program, you will need to submit a request to our office to update your I-20 (either transfer if you are going to another school or change of level if it is a new program at Temple University).