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Updated on 10.06.2020

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Under certain conditions, foreign students with an F-1 visa can complete an internship ("Optional Practical Training", OPT) during or after completing their studies in the USA.

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Requirements for an OPT

Under certain conditions, foreign students with an F-1 visa can complete a twelve-month internship during or after their studies in the USA, known as Optional Practical Training, or OPT for short.

The Optional Practical Training must be directly related to the field of study and there are two options:

  1. Pre-completion OPT: from the 2nd year of study during the program
  2. Post-completion OPT: after completion of the study program

A combination of pre- and post-completion OPT is also possible. In addition, students of certain academic disciplines have the opportunity to extend their OPT under certain conditions.

Unpaid internships and volunteering are considered permissible forms of work during OPT and therefore do not have a negative impact when applying for an OPT extension.

OPT extension for STEM students

F-1 visa applicants who have earned a US bachelor's degree or higher in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) and are participating in a 12 months post-completion OPT may extend that OPT by 24 months, to a maximum of 36 months in total.

The STEM Designated Degree Program List can be used to check whether the subject you are studying as a foreign student with an F-1 visa is covered by the STEM program.

Requirements:

  • The F-1 visa holder must currently be in an approved post-completion OPT program of 12 months.
  • The degree must be in the STEM field.
  • The F-1 visa holder must hold a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from an educational institution accredited by the U.S. Department of Education at the time of the OPT renewal application (see Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-Certified Schools").
  • The job must fulfill all requirements of the STEM OPT employer regulations.

How to apply for an OPT

Both the application for OPT and the STEM OPT extension must be submitted to the appropriate USCIS Service Center on Form I-765 (Employment Authorization Document, EAD). In advance, the application for OPT EAD must be closely coordinated with the Designated School Official (DOS) and also approved. In particular, extension requests for STEM OPT EADs should be coordinated with the DOS and submitted to the USCIS in a timely manner.

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Updated on 10.06.2020