F1 Work Post-Grad: OPT

12 month (regular) Post-Completion OPT

  • OPT is a benefit of F1 student status that allows you to work off campus in your field of study.
  • You will receive at least 12 months of full time OPT when you complete a program in the U.S.
  • You can apply for OPT no more than three months prior to finishing your degree (or the end of your registered student status if you are an advanced PhD student).
  • You MUST APPLY before you leave the U.S. after finishing your program. If you leave the U.S. after you finish your degree without yet applying for OPT, you are no longer eligible.
  • It may take 10-14 weeks for you to receive the OPT card once you mail your application to USCIS.
  • You may not begin working until you receive the OPT card, and until the start date printed on the card.
  • Read the OPT frequently asked questions section for more details.
  • Read information about the STEM OPT extension here.

Watch a short video about OPT here

Types of Employment Allowable on 12 month (regular) OPT:

F1 OPT authorizes you to be paid for work in your major field of study for the degree program from which you just graduated. You must be employed while you are on OPT, and are only allowed 90 days of unemployment. Below are the types of employment within your field that are allowable for the 12 month (regular) OPT period (the regulations regarding working while on STEM OPT extension are different and are explained on our STEM OPT extension page here):

  • Multiple employers. A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student’s degree program and, for pre-completion OPT, can not exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours.
  • Short-term multiple employers (performing artists). A student, such as a musician or other type of performing artist, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration.
  • Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment, where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by the Department of Homeland Security, the student must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract period and the name and address of the contracting company.
  • Self-employed business owner. A student on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student’s degree program.
  • Employment through an agency or consulting firm. A student on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing he or she worked at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
  • Paid employment. A student must work at least 20 hours per week when on post-completion OPT.
  • Unpaid employment. A student may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for a student on post-completion OPT. A student must be able to provide evidence acquired from the student’s employer to verify that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.

How to Apply

Follow the Directions on How to Apply for F1 OPT here