Current International Students

Optional Practical Training (OPT) Application Process

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion). However, all periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT.

When to Apply


  • You do not need an employment offer to apply for OPT.
  • The average time for USCIS to process EAD cards is 90-160 days. This should be taken into consideration in addition to the timeline below.

Pre-completion OPT: Students are limited to working 20 hours or less while school is in session and are permitted to work full-time during breaks. You may apply 90 days before the end of your first academic year. Speak to the Office of International Affairs to see if this option is right for you. 

Post-completion OPT: Most Jefferson students choose this option. You may submit your OPT application to USCIS as early as 90 days before, and as late as 60 days, after your program end date or for JCLS thesis students, your degree conferral date. This should not be confused with your graduation date. USCIS clearly distinguishes the end of your degree requirements and your graduation day.

Choosing Employment Dates

Choose your start date carefully. The Office of International Affairs cannot make any changes to your chosen start date after you have submitted your application to USCIS.

Pre-completion OPT: Your start date must begin after you complete one full academic year. You must also choose an end date before your program ends.

Post-completion OPT: Your start date for employment can begin any time within 60 days after your program completion/degree conferral date. For example, if you complete your program on May 20, you may choose to begin employment any time between May 21 and July 20. 

Remember: You cannot begin working until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS AND you are starting on or after the start date on your card.

Process to Apply for OPT

I. Submit the required documents for I-20 processing through the International Services Portal. Once OIA processes your I-20 with OPT requested, you can then complete your OPT application to USCIS. 

II. Attend an OPT Information Session or book an appointment with OIA should you have any questions regarding the OPT application process.

II. Submit your application to USCIS: Apply online. Do not submit your application to USCIS until you upload your OPT Requested I-20 and all other required documents.

Traveling Abroad During OPT

REMINDER: Individuals on OPT are still required to report their international travel plans prior to travel through the International Services Portal. 

Students who have already completed their programs and have a pending OPT are strongly advised not to travel.

Once your OPT application has been approved and you have received your EAD card, you may travel outside the U.S. Refer to our International Travel Guidance page for more information.