Optional Practical Training


Optional Practical Training (OPT) is "temporary employment for practical training directly related to a student's major area of study." Regulatory citation: 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii). This webpage aims to describe the various options available to international students at Texas A&M University and to better inform them and their academic departments.

Looking for specific information about OPT? We have dedicated pages on the following topics for students. 
  • Pre-Completion OPT and 12 Month Post-Completion OPT 
  • 24 Month STEM Extension
  • Volunteering and Labor Law
  • Form I-765
  • Form I-983
  • H-1B and Cap Gap Extensions
  • SEVP Portal 

    There are 3 types of Optional Practical Training (OPT): 

    1. Pre-Completion OPT
    2. Post-Completion OPT
      • Based on Graduation
      • Based on Completion of Coursework (COCW)
      • Based on Letter of Completion (LOC)
    3. 24-month STEM OPT Extension  
      • ​24-month extension of post-completion OPT for science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degrees on the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List.  
      • Students must do post-completion OPT in order to be eligible for the 24-month STEM OPT Extension.   
    You’re eligible if: 
    1. You are in legal F-1 immigration status 
    2. You have completed one academic year of full-time enrollment, or be within 90 days of doing so 
    3. Have not received 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) at current degree level.  ​
      • More information about CPT can be found at Curricular Practical Training.
      • Remember ALL CPT internship courses must be reflected on the approved degree plan as a REQUIRED course BEFORE you apply for OPT
    4. Have not previously received OPT authorization for current degree level (students are only allowed 12 months of OPT per degree level) 
    Unlike CPT, students do not need a job offer to apply for Pre or Post-Completion OPT.  
    If you have additional questions or are still unsure which type of OPT is best for you, please call ISS to schedule an appointment with an advisor. 

    What is Pre-Completion OPT?

    Pre-Completion OPT is temporary employment available to F-1 students before completion of the course of study (i.e. before graduation or before the completion of all major coursework). 

    Eligibility Criteria for Pre-Completion OPT

    You must have been enrolled for a full academic year (Fall and Spring), or be within 90 days of completing it, in order to be eligible. 

    What is Post-Completion OPT? 

    Post-Completion OPT is temporary employment available to F-1 students after the completion of the course of study. 

    Eligibility Criteria for Post-Completion OPT

    • You must have been enrolled for a full academic year (Fall and Spring), or be within 90 days of completing it, in order to be eligible.
    • You can't travel outside the U.S. after the completion of your degree and before applying for OPT. 
    • If you have 12 months of Curricular Practical Training (CPT) of more, then you are not eligible for Optional Practical Training.
    • More information about CPT can be found at Curricular Practical Training.

     

    Pre-Completion OPT 

    Post-Completion OPT 

    When can I do it? 

    Before you complete your academic program 

    When you complete your academic program 

    Does my I-20 program end date change? 

    NO! You are doing OPT before you finish your studies 

    YES! We will shorten your I-20 program end date based on the type of OPT you apply for 

    Can I apply for Extension of Stay? 

    YES

    NO

    Full-time or Part-time? 

    BOTH, but you can only request one at a time (only part-time or only full-time). If you want to change it, you will have to do the entire OPT application again 

    Full-time ONLY 

    What eligibility category do I use on the I-765? 

    (c)(3)(A) 

    (c)(3)(B) 

    How do I report employment?

    Report directly to ISS 

    Report via the SEVP Portal and directly to ISS 

    Do I risk earning unemployment days? 

    NO

    YES! You are allowed up to 90 days unemployment 

    Can I do 24-month STEM OPT or H-1B Cap-Gap OPT directly after? 

    NO! They can only be done after post-completion OPT 

    YES


     
    If you do pre-completion OPT it will affect how much time you can have for post-completion OPT.
    • Each day of full-time pre-completion OPT is deducted from the post-completion OPT 12-month total
      • 60 days of pre-completion OPT = 60 days less of post-completion OPT
    • Part-time precompletion OPT is partially deducted from the post-completion OPT 12-month total
      • 60 days of pre-completion OPT = 30 days less of post-completion OPT

    What is STEM OPT Extension?

    The 24-month STEM Extension of OPT is an extension of temporary employment authorization available to eligible F-1 students in STEM qualifying degrees after their initial 12-month Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization.

    • Regulatory citation: 24-month extension of post-completion OPT for a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree. Consistent with paragraph (f)(11)(i)(C) of this section, a qualified student may apply for an extension of OPT while in a valid period of post-completion OPT authorized under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(3)(i)(B). 

    Eligibility Criteria for STEM OPT

    • You are in legal F-1 immigration status.
    • Your degree must be from an accredited, SEVP-certified, U.S. institution of higher education. Your degree CIP code is on the STEM Designated Degree Programs List.
    • You are on active Post-Completion OPT.
    • You have not exceeded 90 days of unemployment at any point during Post-Completion OPT.
      • If you have exceeded 90 days, please consult ISS before applying.
    • You did not receive more than two previous 24-month STEM extensions.
    • You have not already applied for STEM OPT extension for your STEM OPT eligible degree.
    • You will be employed in a STEM OPT ELIGIBLE position directly related to your field of study (we also recommend that the position be commensurate with your education level).

     

    Post-Completion OPT

    24-month STEM Extension 

    When can I do it? 

    After graduation or the completion of your program of study 

    Must start directly after post-completion OPT end date (there is no gap) 

    How long is the OPT period?

    12 months 

    24 months 

    Does my I-20 program end date change?

    YES 

    NO 

    Do I need a job offer to apply?

    NO 

    YES, you must have STEM OPT eligible employment to apply 

    Multiple employers?

    YES 

    YES, each must be STEM eligible 

    How many unemployment days can I have?

    90 

    150, including any unemployment accrued during post-completion OPT period 

    What eligibility category do I use on the I-765?

    (c)(3)(b) 

    (c)(3)(c) 

    Can I do H-1B Cap-Gap OPT directly after?

    YES 

    YES 

    How do I report employment?

    Update the SEVP Portal, if possible, AND submit the OPT Employment Update (F-M) request through Terra Dotta.

    Submit the applicable 24 Month STEM Extension Validationg Reporting request through Terra Dotta.  

    How do I complete my OPT period?

    Make sure your OPT reporting is up-to-date in the SEVP and with ISS 

    Both the student and the employer MUST report the end of STEM OPT