Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Working off campus without authorization is a violation of your status which will result in your I-20 being terminated without the option for reinstatement.

OPT requests are reviewed and approved on a case by case basis. If you have questions about your eligibility for OPT, please meet with an advisor at International Student Services.

Pre-Completion vs. Post-Completion

OPT can be authorized before or after completing your academic program. In general, pre-completion OPT is for work authorization during your program, while post-completion OPT is for work authorization after graduation. 

If you are a graduate student who has completed all coursework except for a thesis, dissertation, or an equivalent project, you can apply for either pre- or post-completion OPT while finishing your degree. To determine which option is best for you, meet with an international student advisor. 

In total, you may be eligible for 12 months of standard OPT for each higher degree level you complete. If you do pre-completion OPT, then the time you utilize will be subtracted from the time available to you for post-completion OPT (subtracted at half the rate for part-time pre-completion OPT). For example, a student who utilizes 2 months of full-time pre-completion OPT and 2 months of part-time pre-completion OPT will have 9 months remaining for post-completion OPT.





Part-time (20 hours or less) during the fall/spring semesters

Part-time or full-time (more than 20 hours) during winter/summer breaks

Graduate students only: full-time during the fall/spring semester if all coursework is completed

Full-time authorization, but only must work at least 20 hours per week to maintain status


No penalty for unemployment

Cannot exceed 90 days of unemployment

Cap-Gap Extension

You cannot apply for the STEM or cap-gap extension from pre-completion OPT

If otherwise eligible, you may be approved for the STEM or cap-gap extension from post-completion OPT

Eligibility Criteria

You must meet the following eligibility requirements to be recommended for OPT:

  • You are in F-1 status

  • You have been enrolled full-time for one full academic year (consecutive fall and spring semesters) in valid U.S. immigration status. Students studying remotely without an active I-20 record must enter the U.S. in F-1 status and enroll for one full academic year before becoming eligible for OPT.

  • You are in good academic standing. If you have a low GPA or are on academic probation, ISS may hold your application until your grades are posted.

  • You have not completed 12 or more months of full-time CPT.

  • You have not previously been authorized for OPT at the same or higher degree level.

When can I apply for post-completion OPT?

USCIS can receive your post-completion OPT application:

  • No more than 90 days prior to your program end date

  • No later than 60 days after your program completion date

  • And within 30 days of when your I-20 was issued by ISS

You must receive your I-20 with OPT recommendation from ISS before you file your application with USCIS. Normal processing time for ISS is 10 business days. Please allow additional time to mail your application to USCIS. You must file Form I-765 while in the United States. If you have filed your application with USCIS during this period, you can remain in the U.S. after your 60-day grace period has ended with a pending application.

Program Completion Date

For immigration purposes, your program end date is the date that you complete your degree requirements, not the date of your graduation ceremony or degree conferral. Review the chart under Academic Changes: Program End Date.

  • If you are completing your degree requirements prior to your I-20 end date, ISS will shorten your I-20. Please remember that you must stop all on-campus employment by the end date of your I-20.

  • If you are completing your degree requirements after your I-20 end date, ISS will not automatically extend your I-20. You must instead formally request a program extension from ISS (go to Academic Changes: Program End Date for more information).

  • If you are an undergraduate or master’s student finishing your program during summer or winter, you must enroll in at least one in-person class during your final term. For example, if you complete your degree during summer session II, you must register for at least 1 unit of in-person coursework during summer II.

How to Apply

Applying for OPT authorization is a 2-step process. First, you have to request an I-20 recommending OPT from ISS. After you receive the new I-20 from ISS, you must submit an application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.

Step 1: Apply for an I-20 Recommending OPT from ISS

  1. If you are applying for post-completion OPT, pay the $75 OPT Case Management Fee. (You must upload a copy of the email receipt with your request.)

  2. Submit the Optional Practical Training e-form.

  • If your degree has not yet been awarded in UAccess (under Academic Record > Academic Summary > Graduation Status), you will be asked to provide the name and email address for your academic advisor in the e-form. The advisor you indicate will receive an email with a link to MyGlobal, so he or she can provide information about your degree completion date and academic standing. If you have more than one major, you must also submit the Secondary Advisor Information e-form.

Normal processing time for ISS is 10 business days, from the date your academic advisor(s) submits the advisor portion of the e-form in MyGlobal.


Step 2: Apply for an EAD card from USCIS 

You must file Form I-765 while in the United States. 

Download the appropriate checklist below. USCIS offers the option to file electronically or to send the complete application to USCIS by mail. You must choose one filing option. Do not file both. You can read more about the Benefits of a USCIS Online Account on the USCIS website.

Online Filing

Paper Filing   

Processing time for USCIS is approximately 1.5-2.5 months, and is subject to change on a case-by-case basis. For information about how to expedite your application with USCIS, read Chapter 5 – Request to Expedite Applications or Petitions of the USCIS Policy Manual. ISS will not expedite OPT requests and cannot review letters to USCIS to request expedited processing.

Maintain Your Status on OPT

While you are on OPT, you are still in F-1 student status and your SEVIS record is still maintained by the University of Arizona. ISS will remain your point of contact for all immigration questions and requests related to your F-1 record.

While you are on OPT, it is your responsibility to take the following actions to maintain your status:

  • Only work in jobs related to your major field of study (paid, unpaid or volunteer positions). For information about the types of employment you can accept on OPT, review the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) OPT Policy Guidance.

  • Work an average of at least 20 hours per week

  • Do not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment (post-completion OPT only)

  • Report all changes to your address, employment information, visa status or permanent departure from the U.S. within 10 days of the change read more under OPT Reporting).

  • If you enroll in classes, it must only be for recreational or avocational purposes. Your OPT will be automatically terminated if you transfer to another school or begin study at another education level. Read more at USCIS.gov.

Additional Resources

  • ISS holds OPT workshops each semester to explain the application process and regulations affecting OPT in detail. They are open to all students. Check your university email and the Programs & Events Calendar for dates. If you are a department interested in arranging a workshop for your students, submit the form under Employment Authorization.

  • Review Travel: Outside the U.S. for a list of documents you must carry to reenter the U.S. as an F-1 student on post-completion OPT.

  • Review Private Health Insurance for examples of health insurance providers that offer plans tailored to international students.

  • If your employer has any questions about how to verify your eligibility to accept employment or complete the Form I-9, you can refer them to the M-274 Handbook for Employers.

  • After you receive your EAD card, you are eligible to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) if you do not already have one. For more information about how to apply, visit the Social Security Administration (SSA) website (select "Original Card for a Noncitizen Adult").