Learn While You Work
Optional practical training (OPT) is one year of eligibility to work in the United Stated in a job that is directly related to your major area of study. You can use OPT while you are still pursuing your course of study and/or after you have finished your degree.
The total amount of time you may spend engaging in OPT is 12 months. You may use OPT for six months before graduation and six months after graduation, but the majority of international students apply for OPT to be used all 12 months after graduation.
You will be allowed 12 months of OPT after completion of each new, higher level of education (i.e., you get 12 months of OPT after a bachelor's degree, and another 12 months for the master's degree).
If you’re graduating this semester and are interested in OPT, you are required to attend a mandatory OPT workshop, held in the Office of International Education, in Walb Union, Room 145. You will receive an email from our office during the first week of classes.
During this workshop, an office staff member will go through the entire OPT process with you, from start to finish. Once your are ready to file, you will set up a one-on-one appointment for assistance with your application.
Please check your Purdue University Fort Wayne email for a link to RSVP to a workshop.
Each workshop should last one hour.
Postgraduation OPT Eligibility
Here’s what you need:
- You must have been enrolled full-time in an academic program for at least one academic year and currently be in F-1 status.
- To request permission to engage in OPT after graduation, you must apply during your last semester before completing your degree, but no more than 90 days before your completion date listed on your I-20.
- You must submit your application while you are still in the United States; you are not eligible to apply for OPT if you have already graduated and have left the United States.
As of April 2008, F-1 students who are currently authorized for 12 months of OPT; have earned a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a field that is listed on the DHS-STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) from a US college or university; and have a job offer or are employed by an employer registered with the E-Verify federal employment verification system may apply for a 24-month extension. To find out if you qualify for the extension, consult the STEM code list. To apply for the 24-month extension, you should contact International Education at [email protected] two to three months before your current OPT expires.
Travel for students currently on OPT
Dates of travel outside the United States while employed do not count as days of unemployment. If you are on OPT and traveling outside the United States for a vacation or for business while continuing to be employed in your major field of study, those dates outside the United States do not need to be tracked or reported as days of unemployment.
While traveling on OPT, you are advised to carry the following:
- I-20, signed for travel (each travel signature is valid for only six months)
- Valid F-1 visa stamp
- Passport valid for at least six months into the future from the date of reentry to the United States
- Valid OPT card
- Job offer or confirmation letter; if traveling for business or on a vacation from the job, ensure that the letter clarifies this
If you are traveling outside the United States while waiting for your OPT to be approved and before you complete your degree, take the following items with you:
- Passport (valid for six months from the date of your reentry)
- Signed I-20 (each travel signature is valid for only six months)
- Valid F-1 visa stamp
Please be advised that traveling outside the United States while waiting for your OPT to be approved after degree completion may be riskier. Please talk with a staff member of International Education before you make any travel arrangements.