Following the completion of one full academic year as a full-time student, those holding F-1 status may apply for the benefit of obtaining practical experience in their field of study. Optional Practical Training (OPT) is training that is not required of all students in the program of study but is available as an added benefit to those students who choose to avail themselves of it. This form of practical training is available both during the program of study (pre-completion) and following completion of the program of study (post-completion). It is limited to a part-time position while classes are in session but may be authorized for a full-time position during the summer vacation or during other periods when classes are not in session. No position is required at the time the practical training application is submitted. However, an eventual position is required for post-completion OPT in order for the student to maintain F-1 status. As an optional benefit of F-1 status, OPT requires authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (with the assistance of an international student advisor).
Because the F-1 student may perform duties for which a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident would normally be paid, the Code of Federal Regulations allows the F-1 student to be paid, as well, as long as the practical training for which the student has been authorized complies with all other regulatory requirements. For that reason, even though for all forms of practical training the emphasis is on learning, when USCIS authorizes OPT it does so through an application process that results in the issuance of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This EAD does not allow the student to seek employment apart from the major field of study and must be used in conjunction with a new form I-20 on which a DSO has recommended the OPT authorization. The student must continue to maintain F-1 status throughout the period of OPT.
Because some students are compensated for the duties that they perform while authorized for practical training, CPT and OPT are sometimes confused with employment. However, they are not the same and should not be confused.
An F-1 student is eligible for OPT following completion of at least one academic year (two consecutive semesters) of full-time enrollment. A student who has engaged in 12 months of full-time CPT loses eligibility for OPT at that degree level.
Applying for OPT
All students are required to attend an OPT workshop before submitting an application for OPT. Students must sign up online in advance. After attending a workshop, students must make an appointment to meet with their international student advisor. Students should bring the following items to the appointment:
• OPT Request Form (distributed during the OPT workshop)
• A completed Form I-765
• A check (no starter checks) or money order made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security for $380 (In the memo section, write the I-94 number)
• One-sided photocopies of:
• All I-20 Forms (pages 1 and 3)
• Passport photo page (and extension page, if applicable)
• F-1 visa stamp (most recent)
• I-94 card (front and back)
• Previous EADs (if applicable)
• Two passport-style photos meeting these specifications (lightly write full name and I-94 number in pencil on the back of each photo)
• Master’s and doctoral program students only: a letter from the academic advisor or dean
Master's program: letter should state the expected graduation term
Doctoral students who will soon defend the thesis and complete the program: letter should state the expected graduation term
Doctoral student who intends to pursue post-completion OPT before graduation: letter should confirm the date of coursework completion. For more information on this option, please see our section on completing the Ph.D. program.
• Form G-1145 (optional, but recommended)
OPT Reporting Requirements
U.S. federal regulations require students to report the following information to ISSS during post-completion OPT at the time the change occurs:
• Change to legal name or nonimmigrant status: report via email to email@example.com
• Change in U.S. address: report via OPUS
• Change of employer or employment address: report via the OPT information update form.
OPT and Taxes
Students participating in OPT are required to pay federal, state and local taxes. Emory is pleased to offer access to the Foreign National Tax Resource (FNTR) tax software to international alumni on OPT.