F1 OPT for International Students in USA - Optional Practical Training US


Meridean Overseas

Updated On 22 November 2022 & Read Time 6 minutes



Are you planning to study in USA? Every year, more than 1 million students globally earn their higher education degrees in the United States. The USA is the first choice for higher education for many international students. The country provides world-class education and is home to some of the best universities in the world. Universities here are famous for all sorts of courses, from engineering to art and design. There are boundless career opportunities in the US, and many stay back after completing their studies for numerous career prospects. OPT is an option for people wanting to pursue their careers in the US after graduating. Let us take a look at what it is, the eligibility criteria, and the process to apply for it.

What is OPT?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a work permission available for international students who are studying in US on an F1 visa. It is granted for 1 year for students who have been full-time students for at least two consecutive semesters. It is a very good opportunity for international students seeking employment in the US and have immense growth in their field of study. Students can apply for OPT once they have enrolled in a US educational institution that has been certified by the US. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

If you are an F-1 student, you may be eligible to participate in OPT in three different ways.

Pre-Completion OPT

If the student has applied for OPT before completing their course and has also started working in the US, then it is pre-completion OPT. In Pre-completion OPT, students can work up to 20 hrs per week part-time.

Post-completion OPT

If the student is working for 1 year in the US after completing their bachelor’s or master’s, then it is post-completion OPT. In post-completion OPT, students must work part-time for 20 hrs per week or for full-time.


If the student has completed their degree in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses, then they may apply for the 2-year extension in addition to 1 year of OPT. This means that STEM graduates can work for 3 years in the US after completing their degree. 

Eligibility Criteria to Apply for OPT

To apply for the OPT, students must fulfill the below-mentioned eligibility criteria

  • The student must be in full-time F-1 visa status for at least one academic year.

  • Students must apply for a job related to their field of study.

  • To apply for OPT, students must have a job offer letter.

  • Also, the student must complete their study program at UC Berkeley.

  • The student must not enrol for an English Second Language course.

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How to Apply for OPT?

Generally, the students apply for OPT in the last semester of their course (bachelor’s or master’s). For OPT, first, the students must request their DSO (designated school adviser) for an OPT recommendation on I-20. The adviser will recommend by endorsing Form I-20, Certification of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status, and making the appropriate notation in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Also, students must pay the 185 USD post-completion service fee to International Office via credit/debit card.

After that, students must fill out Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) and submit it to USCIS (United States citizenship and immigration services). Students also have to attach the printout of the receipt of the payment as proof. It can take months to complete the process of OPT. Once the OPT application is approved, the students will get an EAD card. On the start date of your job, you must have the EAD card in hand to start working.

When to apply for OPT?

The students have to start planning for the OPT until the last year. The students must apply for OPT after DSO recommends for OPT in their SEVIS record. There is a different time to apply for OPT in other cases.

Case 1: When a student has applied for a STEM degree.

For Pre-completion OPT

Students can start making an application for OPT before 90 days and can after 60 days of the expected course completion date.

For Initial post-completion OPT

Students must apply within 30 days after DSO recommends OPT in their SEVIS and can start applying 90 days before the expected course completion date but not later than 60 days after the course completion date.

Note: If the students want STEM OPT extension, they must apply within 60 days after their DSO enters the recommendation for OPT and can apply up to 90 days before their current OPT employment authorization expires.


Case 2: When a student has applied for a non-STEM degree

For pre-completion OPT

Students may start applying before 90 days of the expected course completion date. However, you cannot start working before completing your full academic year.

For Post-completion OPT

Students must apply within 30 days after DSO recommends for OPT in their SEVIS and can start applying 90 days before the expected course completion date but not later than 60 days after the course completion date.


Q: Do students need a job to apply for OPT?
A: Students do not need a job offer to apply for OPT; they can apply before that. To the students can remain unemployed for up to a maximum of 90 days after getting OPT.


Q: What visa status will the student have while waiting for OPT?
A: The student will remain in the F-1 status during the Opt application.


Q: When to apply for OPT?
A: The students have the option to apply for the OPT after and before the completion of their course. They can only apply for OPT after their DSO enters the recommendation for OPT into their SEVIS record. The deadline to apply for the OPT is mentioned above.


Q: How to choose OPT start date
A: Your employment should start within 60 days of your course completion.

Moreover, the students who wish to study in US may contact our expert counsellors at any branch of Meridean Overseas Education Consultants (MOEC). Students can also take free online counselling through our website. Our counsellors will provide you with the best guidance and support for the admission and visa process. For more information or any queries, you can email us at application02@meridean.org or call us at our toll-free no. 1800-1230-00011.

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