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.

Types of OPT and Eligibility 

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.   

Am I eligible to apply for OPT? 

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. 

Pre-Completion OPT

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. 

Post-Completion OPT

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.
How does Post-Completion OPT differ from Pre-Completion OPT?

 

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


How does Pre-Completion OPT affect Post-Completion OPT?
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

24 Month STEM Extension

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).
How does Post-Completion OPT differ from 24-month STEM OPT Extension?

 

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 AND submit Employment Reporting Form to ISS 

Submit STEM OPT Employment Reporting Form to ISS (with I-983 if applicable) 

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 

More Information

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