Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an off-campus employment authorization that allows F-1 students to gain work experience.
To be eligible, the student must meet the following basic requirements:
- Be in F-1 visa status
- Be in a degree-seeking program and in good academic status
- Have completed at least one academic year (nine months) of an academic program as a full-time student
- Not have used more than 12 months of OPT in the past at his or her current degree level
You do NOT need to have a job offer in order to apply for OPT, although once you are approved for OPT, the time is deducted from your 12 months, regardless of whether or not you actually work.
If you are interested in either post-completion OPT or in the STEM program, please scroll down the page and read the eligibility requirements for those programs.
OPT requires an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS may take up to three months to process an application for OPT. It is recommended that you apply as early as possible.
If you are interested in applying for OPT, please stop by Research Support and International Affairs, Dawes 104, to pick up an application.
F-1 Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)
In order to be eligible for OPT, the international student must:
- Have been a full-time student at Gallaudet for at least one academic year
- Currently be in F-1 status
- Be in good academic standing at the time of application
- Have made normal progress toward degree completion
- Not have used more than 12 months of pre-completion OPT at their current degree level
- Not have been authorized for more than 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training
NOTE: International students do NOT need to have a job offer in order to apply for OPT, although once they are approved for OPT, the time is deducted from their 12 months regardless of whether they actually work.
F-1 STEM OPT
In order for international students to be eligible for a 17-month OPT extension, they must:
- Have received a degree included in the STEM Designated Degree Program List. The current list of STEM degrees can be found at http://www.ice.gov/sevis/stemlist.htm
- Have maintained a valid F-1 status
In addition, the STEM application must be received by USCIS prior to the end of the initial period of post-completion OPT employment. The authorization is for full-time employment after the completion of program requirements and current OPT. STEM employment may be authorized only to the student with current post-completion OPT authorization. Authorization ends 17 months after the initial period of standard post-completion OPT.
Post-OPT Responsibilities for F-1 Students:
International students who are in the U.S. on an F-1 visa continue in F-1 status during their period of authorized Post-completion of Studies Optional Practical Training (OPT), and therefore have certain legal responsibilities.
The following is a list of these responsibilities:
- Work is permitted only in the students' major field of study, and within the dates that they have been authorized on their Employment Authorization Document.
- Students must be working to maintain their F-1 status. Department of Homeland Security regulations state, "During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment..."[8 CFR 214.2 (f)(10)(i)].
- Students are strongly recommended to keep a record and supporting evidence of all their OPT-related activities. For example:
- Details of job searches -- correspondence with prospective employers, interviews, etc.
- Employment information -- dates, name/location of employer, position, part- or full-time
- Volunteer work -- dates, name/location/type of work, part- or full-time. Please note that federal law requires that a volunteer may not assume a normally paid position or displace a U.S. worker.
- Students are required to report the following information to Gallaudet's International Student Services Office:
- Change of name (proof of updated passport noting the change is required)
- Change of address
- Obtain endorsement from a Designated School Official every six months for travel.
In addition, students in the U.S. on an F-1 visa should be aware of the following:
- Beginning a new course of study or transferring U.S. schools automatically terminates OPT employment.
- Employment authorization is automatically suspended in the event of a strike or other labor dispute involving work stoppage at the place of employment [8 CFR 214.2(f)(14)].
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Spotlight:
Mayumi Iwata, a native of Japan, completed her degree in Deaf Education and Elementary Education at Gallaudet in December 2012. After graduating, Iwata took advantage of a wonderful opportunity and obtained a position teaching fourth grade at the California School for the Deaf through Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Iwata credits OPT for matching her with a job based on the skills she learned by earning her Gallaudet degrees. This positive experience provided her a sample of the unlimited opportunities that lay ahead.
When asked if she had any advice for other students, Iwata stated, "If there is a job that fits your degree, then why not take advantage of this opportunity? The one-year time limit may be short, but the experience you gain is worth it. You can apply the work experience and training you receive through this program and to your home country when you return."