Optional Practical Training (OPT) gives F-1 students an opportunity for work experience in the U.S. before an/or after completion of a degree. There are three types of OPT: pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT, and STEM OPT extension. Which type(s) of OPT student are eligible to apply for depend upon the specific situation of the student.
Learn more about OPT by watching the appropriate tutorial: (Please note: OPT tutorials are "under-construction" due to changes with walk-in hours as well as USCIS fees. Walk-ins are M-F at 1:00- 4:30p. USCIS fee change noted above.)
1. OPT is limited to a total of 12 months for each higher degree level in a job directly related to the student's field of study.
2. In general, F students must be enrolled full-time (12 credit hours) for two fall or spring semesters before becoming eligible for OPT. This means that if a student begins their academic program in a fall semester, they will be eligible for off-campus work after attending full-time fall and spring semesters. If a student begins in the spring semester, they must attend full-time spring semester and the next fall semester before becoming eligible for OPT.
3. OPT does not have to be included as an internship or practicum required to complete a degree.
4. Students are not required to have a job offer to apply for OPT.
5. OPT is recommended by an International Student Advisor in the Office of International Education, and approved by the USCIS. USCIS can take as many as 3 months to process an OPT application.
6. Once approved, the student is issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card with the dates the student is authorized to work marked on the card. To learn what constitutes employment while on OPT, click here.
Important Note: The I-765 form on the USCIS website has recently been changed. While the information has been placed in different locations, the information for the application is the same. Please continue to use OIE's materials as guidance in completing the I-765 and we will update our materials as soon as possible.
In addition to the I-765 and I-20, you will be required to submit additional documents with your OPT application. For a complete list of OPT application documents visit the OPT Application Document Check-list website.
You are responsible for ensuring that USCIS receives your OPT application documents within 30 days of your OPT recommendation!
Please Be Aware: Do not submit an electronic OPT application or e-file your application. These applications can take longer or even be denied by USCIS. Please follow OIE's instructions and submit the paper application.
On-Going Reporting Requirements for OPT Students
When employed all students on OPT are required to report the following updates to an International Student Advisor using iStart.gatech.edu. Instructions on how to update your OPT employer information is located here.
- Change of name (use Personal Information Update e-form through iStart)
- Changes to U.S. and foreign addresses (use Personal Information Update e-form through iStart)
- Name of employer, and any change of name of employer (iStart)
- Address of employer, and any change of address of employer (iStart)
- Interruption of such employment (iStart)
To report your employment or unemployment information, log into iStart and complete the OPT Employment Update e-form found under F Practical Training tab. Please remember that you can only access this e-form after your OPT start date located on your EAD card.
If you cannot log into iStart using your current Georgia Tech ID# or password please follow these instructions please see here. If you continue to have issues please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
F-1 Regulations allow students participating in OPT to travel abroad, but there may be additional risks and/or additional documentation to prepare. Visit the OIE's OPT and Traveling Abroad website for more information.
Additional Requirements While on OPT
Please update OIE with any of the following changes:
- Please note that since you will not be a student, you will no longer be enrolled in an insurance plan and should seek personal medical insurance. Please see our Health Insurance after Graduation website for more information.
- 24-month STEM OPT extension: You must apply for your 24-month extension before your current EAD expires. Click here for more information about the STEM extension
- Cap Gap Extension: If your employer submits a H1-B application on your behalf, you may be eligible for a Cap-Gap extension. For more information and to request a Cap-Gap I-20, complete the "Cap-Gap I-20 Request" eform in iStart
- Change of Status: If you change visa status while on OPT, complete the "Change of Status from F1/F2" eform in iStart
- Depart the U.S: If you plan to depart the U.S. and DO NOT plan to return to use your OPT, complete the "Intent to Depart/End I-20 Status" eform in iStart. The OIE will use this information to complete your SEVIS record so that you do not accrue days of unemployment.
Have Additional Questions?
Please see our OPT FAQ website.
24-Month STEM OPT Extension
Please visit our STEM OPT Extension website for more information