Following the completion of one full academic year as a full-time student, if in F-1 status, you may apply for the benefit of obtaining practical experience in your field of study. Optional Practical Training (OPT) is not required of all students, but is available as an added benefit should you choose to utilize it. This form of practical training is available both during your program of study (pre-completion) and following completion of your program (post-completion).
OPT is limited to a part-time position while classes are in session, but may be authorized for a full-time position during the summer or 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 to maintain your F-1 status. Post-completion OPT requires full-time employment (more than 20 hours per week), but this may be achieved through employment (or volunteer service) with multiple organizations.
OPT requires authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (with the assistance of an international student advisor), which generally takes 45 - 60 days.
Because you may perform duties for which a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident would normally be paid, the Code of Federal Regulations allows you to be paid as well, as long as the practical training complies with all other regulatory requirements. 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 you to seek employment apart from your 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. You 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.
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. (Note: Students who re-enter the U.S. on a new SEVIS record following the termination of the previous record, for whatever reason, must complete an additional academic year of full-time study in order to become eligible for OPT.)
All students are required to attend an OPT workshop before submitting an application for OPT. You must sign up online in advance. After attending a workshop, you will receive a link to the OPT Request e-form in ISSS Link. After you complete the form, you should schedule an appointment with your advisor. Please bring the following items to your appointment:
• A completed Form I-765 (typed or in ink)
• 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 previously issued Forms I-20 from Emory and any other institutions attended (pages 1 and 3)
• Passport photo page (and extension page, if applicable)
• F-1 visa stamp (most recent)
• Previous EADs (if applicable)
• Two recent (within 30 days) 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)
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 within 10 days: report via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
• Change in U.S. address within 10 days: report via ISSS Link
• Change of employer or employment address within five days: report via ISSS Link
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.