Optional Practical Training after US university

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a US government scheme that allows international students to work for up to 29 months without having to get a H-1B work visa. You will be paid while you gain real-world experience, contacts and testimonials in the American job market. These will be major selling points for employers in your home country.

How long can you work in OPT?

You will be allowed 12 months of OPT per degree level (i.e. Bachelor's and Master's).

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates have the option to extend their program by 17 months (totalling 29 months) if their course covers the following:

  • Actuarial Science
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Engineering
  • Engineering Technologies
  • Life Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Military Technologies
  • Physical Sciences

Who can apply for OPT?

You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. It is available to students with both Bachelor's and Master's-level degrees. The pre-completion OPT lets you work while you are still studying, in jobs unrelated to your degree program.

To be eligible for OPT you must:

  • Be a full-time student
  • Have valid F-1 status at the time of the application
  • Intend to work in a position directly related to your major

When should you apply for OPT?

OPT approval is granted by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. It can take up to 120 days to get approval. Your immigration record must be updated with your OPT request before your official graduation date. To find out more, you should talk to your university advisory staff well before you graduate.