Optional Practical Training (F-1)

Please note:

The normal USCIS processing time for OPT applications submitted from April through July is close to 90 days. We recommend that you choose an OPT start date keeping this in mind.

Thanksgiving week is part of the academic fall quarter, and all policies and limits regarding on-campus and off-campus employment as well as assistantship appointments remain in effect during this time.


F-1 students are eligible to apply for off-campus work authorization through Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT allows for a total of 12 months of employment that is directly related to the student's field of study and may be used before graduation or after.

Pre-completion OPT is employment authorization prior to graduation, while Post-completion OPT is employment authorization after graduation.

Students applying for pre-completion OPT may apply for part-time or full-time work authorization (full-time work authorization is only permissible during official school breaks and summer quarter). Ph.D. students who have completed their coursework (except for thesis) are eligible for full-time employment during the academic term. Part-time Optional Practical Training (20 hrs. or less) will be deducted from the available Optional Practical Training at one-half the full-time rate (e.g. if you were to work part-time for two months before you graduate, you would have eleven months of employment eligibility remaining after you graduate). Full-time Optional Practical Training before the completion of studies is deducted at the full-time rate.

Students must must complete on-line application in Axess for preliminary processing, and then apply by mail to the USCIS for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Employment is permitted only after you receive the EAD card, and only during the period specified on the card.

Current processing time varies between 60-90 days, so please plan ahead.

A job offer is NOT required in order for apply for Optional Practical Training. However, a job will be required within 90 days of the EAD start date

Extension beyond the 12-month OPT:

  • While on Post-completion OPT, some students may qualify for a Cap Gap I-20 if a timely H-1B petition has been filed on their behalf. Link to Cap Gap information arrow
  • OPT may be extended by 17 months for certain F-1 students whose I-20’s were issued for specific degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (known as STEM). A total of 29 months of OPT will be permitted for students who qualify for this new extension. Link to STEM information arrow

How to Qualify

To be eligible for OPT, students must have been enrolled full-time for an academic year prior to the start of the requested practical training period.  If students return from a leave of absence of more than 5 months, they must be enrolled full-time for at least one academic year before they can be eligible for OPT again.

Although a job is not required for OPT to be granted, students should ensure that the employment they find is directly related to their field of study. Employment in an unrelated field would violate F-1 status.

Students who have already used 12 months of post-completion practical training based on the completion of one degree are eligible for another 12 months of post-completion practical training if they complete another degree at a higher degree level.

Students who have participated in 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training will not be eligible for OPT. Part-time Curricular Practical Training is not deducted. (Employment on-campus does not affect Optional Practical Training.)

More information on Optional Practical Training can be found on the following pages:

Please attend one of the I-Center's practical training workshops. Although these are not mandatory, it is highly advised that you attend one of the workshops.

If you have already attended a practical training workshop and still have questions you may want to review the PPT presentation again or send an email to internationalstudents@stanford.edu.

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