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Frequently Asked Questions about Optional Practical Training

What is my immigration status while I am on OPT?

While on OPT you are still an F-1 student and are required to keep in contact with the OGE regarding changes of address and employment information. You can report updates to the OGE through our OPT reporting page.

Can I travel during OPT?

Students may travel outside the US and re-enter while their OPT application is being processed. However, once OPT has been approved, students may not be allowed to re-enter the United States without proof of employment. Students making a trip outside the United States while on OPT after graduation will need:

  • A Form I-20 endorsed by an advisor within the last six months for re-entry to the U.S.
  • A letter from an employer stating student is expected to return to a position upon re-entry.
  • A valid passport and F-1 visa stamp.
  • The EAD card authorizing OPT employment.

Do I need a job offer before I apply for OPT?

It is not necessary to have an offer of employment before you apply for OPT.

When can I begin work?

OPT employment may not begin until you have received your EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card and the start date has been reached. Processing of the OPT application may take up to 90 days. Please plan your application request and start date accordingly.

Can I begin work if my requested start date has been reached but I have not received my EAD?

No. Employment may not begin until OPT has been approved and you have received your EAD.

What type of job can I have while on OPT?

Generally speaking, the work should be paid employment in your major area of study of at least 20 hours a week. Volunteer or internship positions of at least 20 hours a week in your major area of study may also be acceptable.

Can I work on-campus as a student employee during Post-Completion OPT?

No. On campus student employee jobs are for current CMU students only. You may be employed as a staff or faculty member if the position is related to your program of study.

Do I have to have a job during OPT?

Maintaining valid F-1 status during Post-Completion OPT is dependent upon your maintaining employment. You are limited to a total of 90 days of unemployment during the 12 month OPT period. STEM students with a STEM OPT Extension may accumulate up to 120 days of unemployment. 

What should I do if I cannot find a job during my period of OPT?

As your status is dependent upon employment, you will violate your F-1 status if you are unemployed for more than the 90-day limit. If you have not found employment, you should make arrangements to either depart from the United States while still in valid status, further your education in a new program or take other action to maintain your immigration status in the US.

What if I return home prior to the completion of my OPT?

If your return home is temporary, no notice is needed. However, if you plan to end your OPT early, you should report that using our OPT reporting page.

Do I need to keep in contact with the OGE during my Post-Completion OPT?

Yes. You must let OGE know of any changes of address and/or updates to your employment information within 10 days. You can do that through our OPT reporting page.

What are STEM degrees?

STEM degrees that qualify for the additional 17-month OPT extension are selected by the Department of Homeland Security in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. For a complete list of STEM degrees, please see the STEM degree list.. Please contact your academic advisor to see if your major or program of study is classified as a STEM degree.

What if I transfer to a new school while on OPT?

OPT employment authorization is terminated once your SEVIS record has been transferred to another university or you begin study at CMU in another program of study.‚Äč