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University of Houston-Victoria

Optional Practical Training for F1 Students

An F1 student may apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for authorization to be employed in practical training directly related to their major.  Students typically graduate and then seek employment to "practice" what they have learned in their degree program.  In addition to being directly related to their major, the OPT must be comparable to the level of the degree earned.  For example, if a student earned a bachelors degree the type of employment may be an entry-level position that may not have a high pay level.  A student who completes a masters degree may expect to earn a higher pay level than the bachelor degree holder, and would likely be in a position that has more responsibility and authority.

Eligibility Requirements for OPT:

  • Student must not be in violation of F1 status.

  • Student must have been in valid visa status for one academic year.

  • Student must be currently enrolled in the program indicated on their form 1-20, and be in good academic standing

  • Anticipated employment must be in the United States

There are two types of OPT:
    Pre-completion OPT, before graduation, while studying for the degree, and
    Post-completion OPT, after graduation.

 Pre-completion OPT is available for F1 student participation:

  • During the student's annual vacation (summer term) and at other times when school is not in session, as long as the student is currently enrolled, or is eligible for registration and intends to enroll in the next term or session. Or

  • While school is in session, provided that OPT does not exceed 20 hours a week.

  • Use of OPT is counted cumulatively.  Only 12 total months of standard OPT is available to students.  OPT done before a degree is completed will count toward the 12-month total and reduce time available after the degree is awarded.

  • If a program ends and there are months of eligible OPT remaining, student must re-apply for Post-completion OPT and pay the application fee again.

Post-completion OPT is available upon graduation:

  • F1 students are eligible to participate in OPT during a 14-month period following graduation.  (12 months plus 2 month grace period)  Students are eligible to choose an employment start date within the 60-day period following the graduation date.  The OPT end date would be one year later, provided that no previous OPT has been completed at the same level.

  • Students participating in Post-completion OPT must work full-time, and are limited to 90 days of unemployment during the year. 

  • Application for OPT must be applied for during the final semester of study in order to give the student available time to work the full year.  It takes 60 to 90 days for the OPT to be processed by USCIS after they receive the student's application for employment and related documents.

To begin the OPT process, email the following to

  • Date of graduation - You must apply for graduation before you can apply for Post-completion OPT.

  • Anticipated start date - Choose a start date during the 60 day period following the graduation date.

  •  Request the Application for OPT request form.

17-Month OPT STEM Extension

Students who are granted Post-Completion Optional Practical Training are eligible to apply for a one-time 17-month OPT extension, beyond the initial 12 months of OPT, if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • You are currently approved and actively participating in post-completion OPT.

  • You completed a bachelor's or master's degree in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) field that is eligible for STEM extension designation.  Eligible degrees are listed by their Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code.  Your degree's CIP code is listed on the Primary Major line on page 3 of your I-20.  Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforement website for the STEM Designated Degree Program List.

  • You have a job or job offer from an E-Verify employer.

  • You have not previously received a 17-month OPT extension after earning a previous STEM degree.

When to Apply

Apply before your current EAD expires.  USCIS recommends you apply up to 120 days before your OPT expiration.  You can continue to work for up to 180 days while the application is pending.

How to Apply

Submit the following information to the DSO by email to

  • Name and address of current employer
  • Name and contact information of your supervisor
  • Letter from your employer on company letterhead stating their intention to hire/continue employment for you.  The letter should contain the company's E-verify number.
  • Your current email and mailing address
  • Completed USCIS Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization

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