Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an F1 student benefit that you can apply for to request to work in your field of study for up to 12 months.
As an F1 student, you may only work off campus in the U.S. if you have received written work authorization approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
To apply for OPT you must meet the following minimum requirements:
1. You must have been enrolled as a full-time student in legal immigration status for at least one academic year (two semesters) before your OPT begins.
2. You must apply for post-completion OPT within 90 days before or up to 60 days after your program end date on your I-20.
3. OPT must begin no later than 60 days after completion date indicated in Item 5 on the I-20 and end no later than 14 months after the completion date.
The International Education Services Office must recommend you for OPT and USCIS is the agency that will review and make a decision on your OPT application. Approval from USCIS comes in the form of a photo ID card called an "Employment Authorization Document" or "EAD" card.
1. Complete Form I-765 online and print on form I-765 enter in item 16 "(c) (3) (B)".
2. Copy of I-20 with OPT recommendation by DSO + copies of all I-20's received to date
3. Submit documentation from your academic adviser indicating the current academic status and the expected date of completion of studies.
4. Write a check to the order of "US Department of Homeland Security" in the amount of the fee required for Form I-765 ($410 as of 02 February 2017) Check for current rate
5. Include two (2) passport photos (write your name in pencil on the back of each picture)
6. Include a copy of I-94 card (print I-94 online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home).
7. Copy of your current passport and visa
Once you have all information, contact the International Programs Office at 906-227-2510 to schedule an appointment with a Designated School Official (DSO).
1. Your work must be directly related to your major field of study and it must be appropriate for someone having your level of education. No job offer is needed at the time of application.
- Students must provide NMU with a written explanation of how their practical training directly relates to their area of study (see examples below).
2. Optional Practical Training authorization is limited to a total of 12 months per each higher degree level (bachelor's, master's and Ph.D.)
3. There are restrictions on when students may utilize part- or full-time OPT.
- Part-time during the course of study, provided training and other employment (both on and off campus) does not exceed 20 hours per week total.
- Full-time during the vacation period.
- Full-time after completion of all requirements for a degree or course of study.
4. You cannot work off-campus under any circumstances until you have been authorized by a designated school official at the International Education Services and USCIS.
Sample Explanations of a Direct Relationship of OPT to a student's field of study (provided by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement):
- Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering: I work full time as an Electrical Engineer at ABC Corp., a government contractor. In my job, I analyze client requirements for electrical systems and provide them with cost estimates of such systems. My work requires understanding of electrical circuit theory, which I studied in-depth at the University of ABC.
- Bachelor's degree in Business: I work full time as a Loan Officer at a mortgage company, Happy Homes, where I meet with clients and evaluate, authorize and recommend approval of loan applications. On a daily basis, I use the knowledge I gained in my credit analysis, sales and marketing classes that I took as part of my major program of study.
- Master's degree in Music: I am working at a hospital playing the harp in patient rooms. I also conduct hands-on harp beginner workshops for long-term patients. On average, I work at the hospital 35 hours a week. My duties directly utilize the skills and knowledge I acquired from my coursework and degree in music therapy.
- Master's degree in Kinesiology: I am working 25 hours a week in a health food store as a consultant for Self-Made Inc., designing and teaching exercise classes that are incorporated into a customer's overall nutrition and exercise plan . My designs and customer instruction draw upon my studies and classwork in exercise therapy and physical reconditioning.