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Below are some key requirements you must fulfill to apply for an F-1 OPT. For each requirement, we have included forms of evidence that you may submit to meet the requirement and other tips to help you prepare your application.   


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Requirement 1 - Your OPT must relate to your major or course of study.

While on F-1 OPT, the work you will perform must directly relate to your major area of study. If you are starting a business, the majority of the work you perform must be directly related to your major area of study.  


Requirement 2 - You will need to decide whether you wish to engage in OPT while you are still attending school (pre-completion OPT) or after you graduate (post-completion OPT), or a combination of the two. 

An F-1 student may be authorized up to a total of 12 months of full-time practical training at each educational level (e.g., undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate). If the student chooses to engage in pre-completion OPT, he or she may not work more than 20 hours per week while school is in session, but may work full-time during his or her annual vacation and other times when the school is not in session. If a student engages in pre-completion OPT, the student’s eligible period of  post-completion OPT will be reduced by 1 month for every 2 months of part-time pre-completion OPT that is worked when he or she graduates. Students who graduate with a qualified Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) degree, and are currently in an approved post-completion OPT period based on a designated STEM degree may apply for a 17-month STEM extension of their post-completion OPT.

+ How do I apply for F-1 OPT?

Once you receive a recommendation for post-completion OPT from your Designated School Official (DSO) to pursue OPT, you must apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) with USCIS within 30 days. Additionally, you may file up to 90 days prior to your program end-date and not later than 60 days after your program end date. 

+ How do I get a 17-month STEM extension of my post-completion OPT?

If you have completed a qualifying Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) degree, and you are currently in an approved post-completion OPT period based on a designated STEM degree, you may be eligible to apply for a 17-month STEM extension of your  post-completion OPT. For a STEM degree to qualify, it must appear on the STEM Designated Degree Program List. If you want to apply for a STEM extension, you must file for an extension of your EAD with USCIS before your current OPT work authorization expires. USCIS recommends that you file 90 days before the expiration of your OPT.   


I’m ready to apply, what’s next?


Once you have determined that F-1/OPT is the best pathway for you and you are ready to apply, you can find the full application process and legal requirements outlined on Immigration and Custom Enforcement's website.


Note: Do not start working in the U.S. on your new business venture until you receive your employment authorization document (EAD).  Performing work without an EAD can negatively affect your immigration status now and in the future.