F-1 Students and OPT Off-Campus Employment
As an F-1 student, employment must be authorized.
Employment is defined as any type of work performed or services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food or any other benefit. Please consult with the Office of International Programs before beginning any work or service of any kind.
Optical Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training is the benefit of F-1 status to grant authorization to F-1 students to gain work experience in their academic major, not minor. Qualified students may apply for a total of 12 months of OPT for each successive degree level as an F-1 student.
Note: Students in English Language Training programs are not eligible for OPT. Students usually apply for OPT after completing their program of study, and it is important to submit your application early in your final semester.
You must apply for the OPT benefit. You must submit an application, fee, and supplemental materials. Your application will be adjudicated, and you will receive notice of denial or approval. If approved, you will receive an employment authorization document (EAD) before you can begin work. Processing time takes 90 days or longer.
You must have:
- Your major and minor listed correctly with the Registrar’s Office
- A current I-20 form with your current field of study and educational level
- A valid, unexpired passport
- Less than 12 months of full-time curricular practical training (CPT)
- Been a full-time student for at least one full academic year
- Registered full-time as an F-1 student every semester you attended Doane OR been full-time certified by OIP for the semesters you were not full-time
- (If completing your program in the summer) Be enrolled in at least one credit hour required to complete your program
- Attended an OPT Information
- Obtained an OPT Packet
If you do not meet all the requirements, speak with the OIP.
Unlike CPT, you do not need an offer of employment to apply for OPT. You can apply up to 120 days before your requested start date. Adjudication of your application can take up to 90-120 days, so apply early in your final semester. You must apply for OPT no later than 60 days from the date of program completion.
Once you approved for OPT:
- Secure employment that relates directly to your major field of study
- Submit the OPT update form and again every time you change or add employers
- Report any change of address to USCIS and OIP
- Verify your employment and address information with OIP every 6 months
- Keep a calendar of your employment activity
OPT-eligible employment must be:
- full-time -more than 20 hours per week
- directly related to your major field of study
- have no more than 90 cumulative days of unemployment
If you received your degree in a STEM field, you may be eligible to apply for an OPT extension. Review the list of eligible STEM fields at ICE’s SEVIS STEM LIST and complete the OPT-STEM packet.