Start your OPT application process with OIS

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment benefit available to students in valid F-1 status who have been issued the appropriate OPT I-20 by OIS and submit their application to USCIS within 30 days after receiving the I-20. Current processing times are approximately 2-4 months, so we encourage you to start applying as soon as possible. You don't need a job offer to apply!

Get started in:

  • June = Summer Grads
  • September = Fall Grads
  • January = Winter Grads
  • March = Spring Grads

Key Details about OPT

  1. Valid F-1 status

  2. Full-time enrollment in a USCIS-certified school in lawful nonimmigrant status for 9 months (3 terms).

  3. Being currently engaged in a degree-seeking academic program, or a structured non-degree program that is part of an established OSU curriculum.

  4. Not having been authorized for 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Eligible F-1 students may apply for up to 12 months of OPT once per degree level. 

Step 1. Review our OPT Module in Canvas. (1 hour)


Step 2. Request an OPT I-20 from OIS (7-10 business days)

Submit an OPT I-20 Request E-Form and list your academic advisor's email address. The form will ask your academic advisor to provide feedback about your graduation timeline. An international student advisor will enter a recommendation for OPT in SEVIS and issue you a new OPT recommendation I-20. This I-20 alone does not authorize you to work. You must still file for OPT with USCIS. 


Step 3. Submit Materials to USCIS (2-4 months)

You may file online or mail a paper application to USCIS. We recommend filing online. Your application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the signature date on the OPT I-20 and before the end of your post-completion 60-day grace period.

  Do not submit your application to USCIS until you have received an I-20 with an OPT recommendation on page 2! The application will be denied without this document.

Resources to help you file:


Step 4. Update Your Employment Information with OIS (for up to 12 months)

Once you are approved for OPT, you must continue to notify OIS of any changes to your address, employment information, legal name, or immigration status. Learn how to report this information to OIS.

You can request your OPT period to begin any day of your 60 day grace period. If approved, USCIS will authorize you for OPT during the 14-month period following the completion of studies (grace period + 12 months possible OPT). Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) will show either your requested start date or the date that your application is processed, whichever is later.

You may remain in the US after completion of studies as long as your timely filed application is still pending with USCIS. Once approved, your F-1 status is extended for the duration of the OPT period. You will receive a 60-day grace period following completion of OPT.

Employment Requirements

At least 20 hours per week in a position related to your field of study are required while on OPT. The position could be paid or unpaid.


Unemployment Limit

You are limited to a total of 90 days of unemployment (anything less than 20 hours per week counts) during EAD card approval dates. Your immigration status is at risk for automatic termination if this limit is exceeded. Don't wait until you've hit the limit to make alternative plans! You may return to school, change status, or depart the US before reaching the unemployment limit.

While on Optional Practical Training (OPT), you must continue to update the Office of International Services (OIS) in order to maintain your F-1 visa status. OIS is responsible for reporting this information on your behalf through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). For more detail, please see our OPT Reporting Requirements web page

Travel outside the US while an OPT application is pending is generally not advisable. To re-enter the US after completion of your studies, you must have your approved EAD card. If you do not yet have your EAD card and you must travel, please see an International Student Advisor prior to your departure to prepare for the risks associated with travel during this time.

Once approved, you may again travel outside the US. Travel signatures are only valid for 6 months at a time while on OPT; be sure to review Travel information prior to leaving the US.

Pre-Completion OPT
  • Before completion of studies
  • Not common at OSU - see CPT
Post-Completion OPT
  • Immediately after completion of studies
  • Available to all students in all majors

If you are an F-1 student with a timely filed H-1B petition and change of status request and your F-1 status and employment authorization will expire between April 1 and October 1, you may be eligible for a cap-gap extension.

If you have evidence of a timely-filed H-1B petition, such as a copy of the petition and a FedEx, UPS, or USPS Express/certified mail receipt, OIS will issue an updated I-20 showing an extension until June 1.

If the H-1B petition is selected by USCIS and you have a copy of the petitioning employer’s Form I-797 indicating that the petition was filed and accepted with a valid receipt number, OIS will issue another updated I-20 showing an extension until October 1. In such situations, you may continue to work while the update to your I-20 is being processed. Because the cap-gap extension is automatic, the updated I-20 is not required for a student to continue working; it merely serves as proof of the extension of OPT employment authorization.