Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides F-1 students with an opportunity for hands-on work experience (employment authorization) related to their academic field of study.  An F-1 student must be authorized by USCIS to participate in optional practical training.  

Check the Kearney Center calendar for upcoming OPT workshops.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) Info Videos

Part 1:

Eligibility Requirements 

You must be in valid F-1 status and have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year or will complete one academic year by the date the OPT approval begins. You have not been authorized for a total of 12 months of full-time CPT. You have not previously completed 12 months of OPT at the same degree level.   

Types of Optional Practical Training (OPT) 

Post-Completion OPT: (c) (3) (B) 

OPT authorization that begins after completion of your academic program. This is the most common type of OPT. Post-completion OPT is full-time and it can begin:

  • After you complete your degree program
  • After you complete all course requirements for your degree excluding thesis or equivalent  

Pre-Completion OPT: (c) (3) (A)

OPT used while you are still enrolled in your course of study is called “pre-completion OPT”. Students who do not have academic internships available in their program of study and cannot use CPT may consider this option. Pre-completion OPT is deducted from the 12 months of OPT eligibility, so most students prefer to save OPT for after program completion.

The following options are available for pre-completion OPT: 

  • Full-time (21 hours/week or more) during summer or breaks  
  • Part-time (20 hours/week or less) while enrolled in a full course of study 

STEM OPT Extension – (c) (3) (C)  

Students in their 12-month OPT authorization period with a qualifying STEM approved degree and working for an E-verify registered employer, may apply for a 24-month extension of their OPT. 

When to Apply: 

Apply early! You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. We suggest you apply three months from the predicted date you wish to start working.  OPT is recommended by advisers (known as Designated School Officials or DSOs) within the Kearney Center for International Student Services, but final approval is granted by USCIS.  USCIS issues the approved OPT with an Employment Authorization Document/Card (EAD) which typically takes approximately 90 days to process.   


  • You must be enrolled at Minnesota State Mankato at least 9 months to apply AND in F-1 status prior to applying 
  • Your OPT packet must ben received by USCIS within 30 days of receiving your OPT recommendation from the Designated School Official (DSO) with signature on the I-20.

Application Window for Post-Completion OPT:

  • The earliest day to apply for post-completion OPT is 90 days before your completion date
  • The latest day to apply for post-completion OPT is 60 days after your completion date

OPT Application Procedures for Pre or Post-Completion OPT 

STEP ONE: First, apply for graduation through Graduation Services. Then, complete the OPT FORM and prepare the documents listed below before meeting with your immigration adviser.  

  2. Form G-1145
  3. Form I-765 
    • I-765 Template Example
    • Please note some new changes with the new I-765 form. You need to complete the page 7 and list all of your previous CPTs, OPTs, Economic Hardships and SEVIS numbers (if prior SEVIS numbers). Please see the I-765 FAQ guide. 
  4. Filing Fee payable to US Department of Homeland Security
  5. Two (2) new passport style photographs, in color, with I-94 and full name written on back
  6. Copy of valid passport page 
  7. Copy of visa
  8. Copy of your I-94 record
  9. Copy of ANY I-20s with CPT authorization

STEP TWO: Set up a meeting with your immigration advisor. Bring documents 1-9 with you to the appointment. Your immigration advisor will prepare the following documents for you:

  1. SEVIS event history print out
  2. I-20 with OPT recommendation
    • You will sign and date it. 
    • You will send a copy of the I-20 and keep the original.
STEP THREE: After going through the entire OPT packet with your immigration advisor, package the following documents into a legal-sized envelop:
  • Step 1 documents 1-8
  • Step 2 documents 1-2

STEP FOUR: Send the package to USCIS. REMEMBER:

  • You are responsible for sending all items of your OPT application to the USCIS. 
  • Find the appropriate Lockbox to send your OPT application on the USCIS website.
  • You MUST send the package within 30 days of the processing date on your I-20 with OPT recommendation.

STEP FIVE: Read through "After Applying for OPT" and "Once You Are Approved for OPT" for more information on the next steps.