Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Post-completion OPT

Main content start

Post-completion Optional Practical Training (post-OPT) is authorized employment after you have completed your academic program (i.e., after graduation). (You must apply for pre-completion OPT to work before graduation.)

All OPT applications must be endorsed by Bechtel International Center and approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For general OPT eligibility requirements and the processing timeline, see Optional Practical Training (OPT). This page covers information specific to post-OPT.

When considering post-OPT, be aware of these related policies:

  • You must apply to graduate before applying for post-OPT. 
  • You are allowed a total of 12 months of employment that is directly related to your major field of study
  • A job offer is not required in order to apply for Optional Practical Training. 
  • Employment is permitted only after you receive the EAD card, and only during the period specified on the card. 
  • Your employment must begin within 90 days of your EAD start date to avoid violation of your F-1 status.
  • Your employment must be at least 20 hours a week and can be paid, self-employed, an internship, or unpaid/volunteer (in accordance with U.S. labor laws). 
  • You may have multiple employers, provided all employment is directly related to your major field of study.

When to Begin and Submit Application

It is extremely important that you carefully plan the filing of your post-OPT application.

You may apply to graduate in Axess and begin the post-OPT process with Bechtel International Center 100 days before your program conferral date. You may submit your post-OPT application to USCIS no earlier than 90 days before your program conferral date and no later than 60 days after your conferral date provided you do not depart the U.S. 

Bechtel International Center strongly recommends that USCIS receives your OPT application within 14 days of the date your OPT-endorsed I-20 is issued, or the application will be denied.

The "Date Issued" of the I-20 as indicated on page 1 may not reflect the actual endorsement date of OPT. You should submit your OPT application to USCIS within two weeks of receiving the OPT-endorsed I-20, and not more than 90 days before the degree conferral date. Failing to do so results in USCIS denying your OPT application.

Most students apply as early as allowed for post-OPT since the employment authorization processing time is often lengthy. See Optional Practical Training (OPT) for more information on processing time.

OPT Premium Processing (form I-907)

USCIS is now accepting Premium Processing requests for form I-765 for OPT and OPT STEM Extensions. This means that instead of 90 days or more needed to process your application, your OPT request can be processed in 30 days, for a fee. USCIS will process your OPT/STEM I-765 request within 30 days of the completed I-907 form submission.  Please note that after USCIS approval you may still have to wait a few weeks for your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card to arrive in the mail. You may file Form I-907 online via your USCIS account.

USCIS will accept Form I-907 requests for F-1 students when filed together with Form I-765 or when adding a premium processing request for a pending Form I-765 for OPT or OPT STEM Extension.

Premium processing for form I-765 requires an additional fee of $1,685 for 30 days of processing time. In consequence, we recommend you review the current USCIS Processing times for “I-765” “Based on a request by a qualified F-1 academic student [(c)(3)]” with “Potomac Service Center” before submitting your premium processing request via the I-907 form.

For more information, see How Do I Request Premium Processing.

Requesting a New OPT Endorsement

If you requested an OPT-endorsed I-20 from the Bechtel International Center and failed to submit your OPT application to USCIS in a timely manner (14 days after issuance), and are at risk of your OPT endorsement expiring, you must request a new OPT I-20. It is your responsibility to return to Bechtel Connect and request Optional Practical Training. This cancels your expired or expiring endorsement, and you are issued a new OPT-endorsed I-20.

DO NOT request a simple reprint of your I-20 by email or through Bechtel Connect. A reprint of your I-20 is not a re-endorsement of OPT and your OPT application will be denied by USCIS.

Choosing an OPT Start Date

The earliest start date for post-OPT is the day after your degree conferral. The latest start date is 60 days after your degree conferral. 

Once your application is received by USCIS, you cannot make edits to your application or to your proposed dates. Choose your employment dates carefully.

Consequences of Delayed Graduation

If you apply for post-OPT and fail to graduate on the date indicated in your application, you risk violating your visa status and could forfeit your OPT benefit. Do not submit a request for post-OPT to Bechtel International Center until you are absolutely sure of your graduation date.

 If you find that you will not graduate on time, contact an International Student Advisor immediately.

PhD students: A special regulation for PhD students allows the continued submission of the post-OPT application while finishing your thesis. However, this does impact teaching or research assistantships, travel, and employment. You should speak with an International Student Advisor to discuss your options.

Applying for Post-OPT

  1. Apply to graduate
  2. Submit your request for an OPT I-20 in Bechtel Connect. You should not submit it earlier than 100 days before your graduation date. 
    • IMPORTANT: Do not apply for an OPT I-20 in Bechtel Connect if you are not planning to submit your application to USCIS within 14 days of receiving your new OPT I-20.
  3. Begin your application using USCIS Online Filing Checklist (pdf)
  4. Review your completed application packet and submit online to USCIS

Reporting Requirements While on OPT

For your student reporting requirements, see Reporting Requirements for OPT.

After Completing OPT

Once your post-OPT employment period is completed, you have a 60-day grace period in which you are required to depart from the U.S. or change your visa status. 

Extension Beyond the 12-month OPT

  • While on post-OPT, you may qualify for a Cap Gap I-20 if a timely H-1B petition has been filed on your behalf.  
  • Some F-1 students whose I-20s were issued for specific degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (known as STEM), may qualify to extend post-OPT by 24 months. A total of 36 months of post-OPT is permitted for such extensions. See STEM Extension for OPT for more information.