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Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment option available to F-1 students that temporarily authorizes employment that is directly related to the major area of study.

ISSS facilitates the OPT application process, but final authorization is processed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the application is submitted at least three months prior to the requested OPT start date.


  • Complete the OPT workshop through Oracle Learn
  • F-1 Student in good status at the time of application;
  • Be physically present in the US;
  • Full-time enrolled in F-1 status for a full academic year (at least 9 consecutive months) or as a full-time student at a SEVIS-approved school in another nonimmigrant status that does not prohibit full-time study;
  • Full-time CPT authorization does not exceed 365 days;
  • Application to USCIS is received within the OPT filing window for your program completion date;
  • Receive an I-20 with an OPT recommendation from ISSS and submit your application to USCIS within 30 days of the I-20 issuance.
  • OPT is not contingent upon an employment offer.


  • Employment on OPT must be directly related to your major area of study.
  • You may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during your 12 months of OPT.
  • Total OPT time per degree level is 12 months; the 12-month allotment per degree level may be divided into various segments.
    • EXAMPLE: A B.A. student who completes 3 months Pre-Completion OPT during one summer is eligible for 9 months remaining after program ends.
    • EXAMPLE: If the same student then begins an M.S. degree in the U.S., he is eligible for a new 12 months of OPT. Any leftover (unused) OPT time from the previous degree level does not carry over to the new degree level. OPT time is not cumulative.
    • Part-time pre-completion OPT is authorized for up to 20 hours per week; Part-time pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12-month limit at 50%.
    • The requested OPT start date must fall within 60 days of program completion (this is not necessarily the same date as graduation day).
    • During full-time OPT you may enroll in classes that are “incidental” to the employment. You may not continue full-time enrollment at Vanderbilt after the end date on your OPT I-20 or begin a new degree program while on post-completion OPT.

OPT Changes

  • Changes to the OPT start and end dates are not easily made. If you have questions about picking your start date, please discuss your situation with your ISSS advisor. Attempts to change the start date may also delay receipt of the EAD.
  • If you decide to cancel your OPT application, the written request must be submitted prior to issuance of the EAD. The application fee for cancelled, withdrawn or denied applications will not be returned.
  • Changes in employment are possible. Work performed during OPT must be related to the major program of study. The work permission is not attached to a specific employer or place of employment. Submit changes of address to ISSS and report any changes, additions, or end in employment to ISSS as outlined in the OPT workshop.