Optional Practical Training (CPT) Guidelines

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of F-1 status that permits up to 12 months of off-campus employment for the purpose of gaining independent practical experience that is related to the student's major field of study.


Effective April 4, 2008, The Department of Homeland Security released an interim final rule extending the period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) from 12 months to 29 months for qualified F-1 non-immigrant students. The extension will be available to students who are employed by businesses enrolled in the E-Verify program.

General Provisions

  • F-1 students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields and granted initial post-completion OPT are now eligible to apply for a one-time extension for 17 additional months, a maximum of 29 months.
  • STEM students need to file Form I-765. The form is being amended to capture information needed to determine eligibility.
  • F-1 students that file in a timely manner (at least 90 days prior) for a STEM extension may continue employment while the application is pending until a final decision is made from USCIS, or 180 days, whichever comes first.
  • Approved extensions allow for students to remain working for the STEM employer on the new EAD. If denied, the student must make preparations to depart or transfer to another school to continue studying.

To be eligible for the 17-month OPT extension, a student must have received a STEM degree in one of the following:

  • Actuarial Science
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Engineering
  • Engineering Technologies
  • Life Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Military Technologies
  • Physical Sciences

General Eligibility For All Students

  • You must have been enrolled in lawful student status on a full-time basis for at least one full academic year and be in F-1 status at the time of application. 
  • F-1 students must be in good academic standing with University of Evansville to be eligible for OPT. Students who are on a leave of absence or who have been suspended from their academic programs are not eligible for OPT.
  • F-1 students are limited to a total of 12 months of OPT for their program of study, regardless of how many schools they may have attended. However, F-1 students who change to a higher educational level will be eligible for another 12 months of OPT. (For example, students who use 12 months of OPT during a Bachelor's program, would be eligible for another 12 months if they move on to a Master's program, but not if they move on to a second Bachelor's program.)
  • F-1 students who have engaged in a total of 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during a program of study are not eligible for OPT for that program.

Applying for OPT

You must contact the Office of International Student Engagement and Services to apply for a new I-20 with a recommendation for OPT. You will then mail your application to the USCIS. The USCIS will grant authorization by issuing you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). It is illegal to begin employment before you have received the EAD.

The Application for OPT Consists of the Following Items:

  • Practical Training Information Sheet, completed and signed
  • Form I-765, completed and signed
  • Two color passport photographs
  • Original I-20 with OPT recommendation
  • Copy of all I-20s
  • Copy of the name page and photo page of your passport
  • Copy of any previous Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) (both sides)
  • Copy of I-94 card (both sides)
  • A memo from your academic department confirming your expected completion of studies date and type of degree
  • Significant fee required - Money order only made out to "Department of Homeland Security"

*For a complete listing of up-to-date requirements, please see Kate Hogan, Coordinator of International Student Services, in McCurdy Alumni Memorial Union Room 204.


You may apply as early as 120 days before the date you wish to begin employment. However, you cannot apply more than 90 days before meeting the one full academic year enrollment requirement. Although you do not need proof of a job offer to apply for OPT, it is recommended that you apply well in advance of the date you may potentially begin employment, as it can take 10 to 14 weeks for the Department of Homeland Security to reach a decision on your application. 

Please Note:

  • Applications for OPT must be submitted before you complete your last degree requirement.
  • Employment authorization must be received before beginning employment. Once the card has been received, you may not begin employment until the date indicated on the card.
  • You must notify the Office of International Student Engagement and Services every time you change your address.

Applying to Engage in OPT After Completion of Studies

If you wish to engage in OPT after completion of your studies, the Department of Homeland Security must receive your application BEFORE the date you complete your studies. You are given a 60-day grace period to remain in the U.S. following the completion date of your studies, and you may request that your OPT begin as late as the last day of the grace period. Although you may remain lawfully in the U.S. if your OPT application is still pending after the end of the grace period, you should not travel out of the U.S. during this time until your OPT application is approved, you have your EAD card and a job. Such travel may result in termination of your OPT request.

Final Words of Advice

Any unexpected delays in completing degree requirements or an inability to find employment may result in your loss of authorized OPT. Since you do not need proof of a job to be eligible to apply, periods of authorized OPT are deducted from your 12 months of eligibility even if you do not find work.

If at any time during this process you have any questions,
please contact the International Student Engagement and Services office,
Ridgway University Center, 812-488-2279.

Return to International Students

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Office Location:
Room 234, Ridgway University Center