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Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student’s major area of study that may be used after the completion of the student’s course of study.  Unlike CPT, the work does not have to be an “integral part of an established curriculum.”  Its optional nature allows it to be used for any employment that is directly related to the major area of study, and which is a level commensurate with the student’s degree level. 

Below are some conditions of OPT:

  • Student must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis at an INS approved school for one full academic year before being eligible for OPT.
  • A total time of 12 months may be used for OPT and must be completed within 14 months of completion of studies.
  • Employment must be directly related to and commensurate with the level of the student’s course of study.
  • Only full-time OPT can be requested.
  • Prior use of full-time CPT for one year or more eliminates eligibility for OPT.

How do I apply?

Complete an I-765.  The code for Optional Practical Training for question #16 is (c) (3) (b).

Include a copy of your I-20 ID with requested OPT dates indicated and copies of all prior forms of I-20 ID you have ever been issued.

A cover letter from yourself describing the type of Practical Training and the employment you propose to do.  Explain why and how you believe this training will assist you in your home country.

Describe how the proposed employment is directly related to your field of study and commensurate with the level of study.

A letter of certification from the chairman of your academic department or from your academic advisor.  You should show your proposal letter to your academic department as a basis for the academic department letter to be written.  This letter should be addressed to the Assistant Dean of Students and include the following information:

  • Indication that your proposal letter has been reviewed
  • A brief description of your degree program and how the proposed Practical Training is directly related to your academic program and commensurate with your educational level
  • An explanation of the importance of Practical Training to complement your program of study.
  • $380.00 money order or cashier’s check payable to Department of Homeland Security.
  • Two legible photocopies of your identification/signature pages from your passport.
  • Two legible copies of your passport expiration page.
  • Two legible copies of your I-94, front and back.  (You may have to darken copier setting so the red date stamp will be clear.)
  • Two legible copies of your previous EAD (if applicable).
  • Two passport type photos are required for the Optional Practical Training application.  Write your name on the back of the photo with a pencil and leave in sleeve provided.  (Walgreen’s on Merrill Road takes passport photos.)

What if I begin Optional Practical Training before I have received approval from US Citizenship and Immigration Service and before I have received my EAD?

Any employment prior to receiving written authorization would be considered illegal.  You may not engage in any type of Practical Training until you have received both approval from USCIS and your EAD card.