Eligibility and FAQs

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit for F-1 students to work off-campus in a field directly related to their major area of study. 

An offer of employment is not required to apply for OPT, but all employment undertaken while on OPT must be directly related to your field of study.
• To qualify for OPT, you must be in active F-1 status for two consecutive semesters preceding the start date of OPT.
• You also must be physically present in the U.S. and in active F-1 status at the time of application.


How much OPT time can I apply for?
You are allowed a total of 12 months of full-time OPT per degree level.

I don’t have a job yet. Can I still apply for OPT?
A job offer is not required to apply for OPT but all employment undertaken while on OPT must be directly related to your field of study.

How much does it cost to apply for OPT?
Pre-completion OPT: $410 application fee to USCIS.
Post-completion OPT: $150 to Harvard University and $410 application fee to USCIS. Total combined cost is $560.

I want to use OPT time before completing my degree. When can I apply?
You may apply for periods of pre-completion OPT during school terms and summer vacation. You may apply for part-time (20 hours or less a week) pre-completion OPT while school is in session and full-time pre-completion OPT during official vacation periods such as summer or winter vacation.

Is there a way to expedite my OPT application with USCIS?
USCIS may take 5 months or more to process an OPT application. Although USCIS does have an expedite system, our experience is that they rarely grant expedites for OPT applications. It is therefore essential that you apply for OPT as early as possible to avoid any delays of your start date.

Can I track my OPT application status with USCIS?
Yes only after you get a receipt from USCIS. You may check the status of your case either by creating an account with USICS (USCIS Account) or by simply checking your Case Status online using the case number on your receipt. You may also submit a Case Inquiry if your case has been pending for more than 5 months.

I’m graduating and will be applying for post-completion OPT. If I have used pre-completion OPT during my studies, how do I know how much OPT time I have remaining?
Any periods of OPT used before completion of studies will be deducted from the total 12 month period available.  For example: full-time employment for two months during a summer vacation would leave a student with only 10 months of OPT available after graduation. Your HIO advisor can assist in determining how much remaining OPT time you have available.

I graduated and left the U.S. Am I still eligible to apply for post-completion OPT?
If you depart the U.S. upon graduation without applying for OPT, you will lose your OPT eligibility.

My family is here on F-2 visas, is there anything additional I need to do for them when I apply for OPT?
our dependents will receive updated I-20s from the HIO to reflect your requested OPT employment dates. There is no additional cost or paperwork needed from you.

Will I be eligible for OPT again if I begin another degree program in the U.S?
Students may become eligible for another 12 months of OPT when they change to a higher educational level. However, simply beginning another degree program does not automatically confer this eligibility. For example, if you have already used 12 months of OPT following a master’s degree, you would only become eligible for another 12 months following a doctoral program.