Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary work authorization available to international students who have been in valid F-1 status for at least one academic year (two consecutive semesters) and who plan to seek employment in the U.S. in their chosen field of study. OPT is recommended by international student advisers at MSUM International Student Services, but the final acceptance of your OPT is granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). OPT duration generally is 12 months. If you are a STEM program student you qualify for an additional 17 month OPT extension. Please read below for more information and contact ISS for more information. The OPT process should begin 90-days prior to your program completion date. ISS recommends to set an appointment ahead of time or plan this process a semester before your anticipated completion date.
The earliest you can apply for OPT is 90 days before your completion date. Undergraduate student completion date is considered to be the last day of final exams of the semester your degree requirements are fulfilled. Graduate students completion date is the day on which all degree requirements are fulfilled, such as filing your thesis or dissertation in Graduate Programs. If you are in a graduate program that does not require a thesis or dissertation, your completion date would be the last day of final exams of the semester your degree requirements are fulfilled. The latest date the USCIS will accept your application is 60 days after your completion date. We strongly recommend our students to apply for OPT ahead of time.
Students onpost-completion OPT have limited on periods of unemployment. In order to maintain F-1 visa status students must NOT EXCEED a total of 90-days of unemployment. If you are on STEM Extension you have a total of a 120 day limit on unemployment, counting from the beginning of the initial OPT. Please read below for more information on STEM extension.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a new regulation which changed several key features of F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT). Students from certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs are eligible to apply for a one-time 17 month extension. Please note: students must notify International Student Services when you change employers, jobs and if you are unemployed during OPT period.
Students must meet the following criteria:
Students must complete the following process for OPT. Bring all of the documents except #7 to International Student Services for your appointment.
Once all the above documents are completed, mail your application to(If you are living in MN)USCISPO Box 21281Phoenix, AZ 85036(The above address is if you are sending your packet through USPS regular mail)
For express mail / courier deliveriesUSCISAttn: AOS1820 E Skyharbor Circle S Ste 100Phoenix, AZ 85034
Once you have submitted all your documents, USCIS will mail you a receipt number. Please hold on to that receipt number. This receipt will have your case number and important information regarding your OPT. Please note: students cannot begin work UNTIL they receive the work authorization card.
All of the above sections will apply when submitting the OPT STEM extension application. Students who will be requesting STEM extension must submit the OPT extension application 90 days prior to their OPT end date.
OPT Extension Process
OPT STEM Extension Process Handout
Please note: all students must report to International Student Services when you change jobs, change employers and if you are unemployed
OPT is a great opportunity for F-1 students. To maintain F-1 status during OPT you must comply with U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employment and reporting requirements. DHS requires all international students to report to their school all periods of employment and unemployment while authorized for OPT. If you change your employment, became unemployed recently or changed your mailing address, please update your information within 10-days through