OPT: The Basics
For each higher level of study you complete (i.e, Bachelor’s, Master’s), you are entitled to one year of full-time work authorization in your major field of study (STEM majors *might* be eligible for an additional 2 years of authorization). Nearly all students choose to use their OPT following graduation. If you want to work in the US after you complete your degree, OPT is the typical (and easiest) next step. While on OPT you remain in F-1 status and are required to remain in contact with the ISS Office.
You may fill out the OPT application and submit it up to three months in advance of your graduation date. You do not have to have a job before applying for this benefit. Effective 12/23/2016, USCIS will charge $410 to apply for the benefit . First, OPT is reviewed and approved by the ISS office and then by USCIS. As long as you apply with our office's assistance, you should expect to be approved - it is a benefit of F-1 status (not a visa and not a lottery).
It typically takes 60-90 days to be approved via USCIS. Processing of OPT applications usually takes three months, therefore we encourage students to apply early. Most applications are complied and submitted in February or March in preparation for use after a May completion.
Though you do NOT need a job in order to apply for your OPT work benefit (that is the norm), students who have not begun applying to jobs/internships by the time they apply for OPT find it difficult to utilize their OPT to its potential. Utilize OSPGD and related connections to get started!
Legally, you may also submit the application after graduation during your 60 day grace period if it becomes absolutely necessary. However, applying after graduation is strongly discouraged for a variety of reasons. Dean Haile will be available to assist May graduates with compiling their OPT applications from mid-February to the end of March. In April, our attention shifts to the incoming class and appointment times can be harder to secure.
Students with December completions should be in touch with the office at the beginning of their final semester to discuss a timeline.
Students who have already graduated and are on OPT should refer to our graduates page for more information about reporting requirements and other OPT-related items.
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