Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment benefit available to students in valid F-1 status. OPT allows students to work in a temporary position that is directly related to their field of study, as indicated on the form I-20, for up to 12 months. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reviews applications for OPT and current processing times are approximately 2-5 months. Students must attend an OPT informational workshop before requesting a recommendation for OPT.

Are You Eligible for OPT?

Students in valid F-1 status are generally eligible to apply for OPT if they meet the following requirements:

  1. Have been enrolled full-time in a USCIS-certified school in lawful nonimmigrant status for 9 months (3 terms).

  2. Are currently engaged in a degree-seeking academic program, or a structured non-degree program that is part of an established OSU curriculum.

Eligible F-1 students may apply for up to 12 months of OPT once per degree level. Students who have been authorized for 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) are not eligible for OPT at the same degree level.

Pre-Completion OPT (before completion of studies)

  • May use some or all of 12 months of OPT as pre-completion

  • Must continue to enroll full-time

  • Limited to part-time (20 hours or less per week) during school

  • Part-time OPT is calculated at half the full-time rate (2 months of part-time OPT = 1 month of full-time OPT)

Post-Completion OPT (after completion of studies)

  • Application period = 90 days prior to completion of studies - no later than 60 days after completion of studies

  • Start Date of OPT = Any day from 1-60 of your grace period

  • Processing time = approximately 2-5 months from USCIS receipt date

Application Process

Step 1. Attend an OPT Workshop

Sessions are generally offered a few times per month (typically every other Tuesday at 4 pm). Please reserve a seat for in-person sessions or complete one online in Canvas.

Step 2. Request an OPT Recommendation

Submit a complete OPT Recommendation Request Form to our office. An advisor will review your request and, if you are eligible, will enter a recommendation for OPT in SEVIS and issue you a new I-20. OIS only recommends students for OPT; actual authorization is given by USCIS. Your new I-20 should be ready to pick up within 7 business days of submitting your request form.

Step 3. Submit Materials to USCIS

Once you receive your new I-20, you should prepare the other materials required for submission to USCIS. See the checklists located on the USCIS website and our OPT handout. The OPT application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the signature date on the I-20 with the OPT recommendation.

USCIS also has application instructions, mailing information, a fee calculator, and other helpful tools to use when filing your application. You may also wish to use an example I-765 as a guide and have your materials reviewed by an International Student Advisor prior to mailing. We strongly encourage you to submit your OPT application as early as possible to ensure you receive your employment authorization before your desired employment start date. Should you receive a rejection or denial, please contact OIS for assistance before responding to USCIS.

STEP 4. Reporting requirements

Once you are approved for OPT, you must continue to notify OIS of a change of address, employment information, legal name, or immigration status. Learn how to report this information to OIS.

Other Factors to Consider

OPT Dates

If approved, USCIS will authorize you for OPT during the 14-month period following the completion of studies (2 months grace period + 12 months possible OPT). Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) will show either your requested start date (as recommended on your OPT I-20) or the date that your application is adjudicated, whichever is later.

Immigration Status during OPT

  • You may remain in the US after completion of studies as long as your timely filed application is still in process with USCIS

  • Once approved, your F-1 status is extended

  • You will receive a 60-day grace period following completion of OPT

  • Work is only permitted during dates listed on your EAD card


Travel signatures are only valid for 6 months at a time while on OPT; be sure to review Travel information prior to leaving the US.


  • Must work at least 20 hours per week in a position related to field of study

  • No more than 90 days of unemployment allowed during initial 12-month OPT period

  • Immigration status at risk for automatic termination if 90 days is exceeded

  • Plan to return to school, change status, or depart the US before reaching the unemployment limit