F-1 Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined by the regulations as “temporary employment authorization for practical training directly related to a student’s major field of study.” Standard OPT is available for a cumulative maximum of 12 months of employment authorization per higher degree level completed in the U.S. An extension of OPT is available for students with certain STEM degrees and E-Verify employers.

When Can OPT Occur? 

Pre-Completion OPT: Part-time while school is in session; during annual vacation; once all coursework except for thesis or dissertation remains in academic program.

  • Pre-completion OPT does not automatically convert to post-completion OPT with the completion of one’s degree; a separate OPT application must be submitted to USCIS including the application fee.
  • Most students utilize Curricular Practical Training instead of pre-completion OPT during their degree program in order to preserve their eligibility to apply for 12 months of post-completion OPT. 
  • Any OPT utilized prior to degree completion is deducted from the initial 12 month allowable benefit.

Post-Completion OPT: After completion of all degree requirements; after completion of all coursework (excluding thesis or dissertation); 24 Month STEM Extension of OPT

Eligibility Requirements

In order to be eligible to apply for OPT, you must: 

  • Currently be in the U.S. in valid F-1 status;
  • Have a valid passport and I-94 record indicating F-1 and D/S (duration of status);
  • Have been continuously enrolled full-time for at least one full academic year (fall and spring semester) before your requested OPT start date;
  • Be enrolled full-time at CU-Boulder (or be authorized for a Reduced Course Load) in the semester in which you apply for OPT;
  • Have not completed a year of full-time CPT at the current degree level;
  • Have not previously completed a higher degree level in the U.S.;
  • Have not previously been approved for 12 months of OPT at the current degree level or a higher degree level;
  • Have not completed more than a year of full-time CPT at the current degree level or a higher degree level; AND
  • Only pursue employment in your major field of study.   

Please note: you must be registered for credits that require on-campus presence in your final semester.  There is no exception to this requirement.  

Process for Requesting an OPT Request I-20 (for the OPT application to USCIS)

Submit all of your OPT Request Documents to ISSS (Allow a minimum of 5 business days for ISSS processing)

  • Drop complete OPT request packet in the ISSS box on the front desk (M-F 9am-4:30pm);
  • OR sign-in to meet with an ISSS advisor during walk-in advising hours

ISSS Will Review Application Materials & Issue an I-20 Requesting OPT

  • ISSS will review your application materials and email you regarding any issues
  • ISSS will shorten your I-20 program end date based on your last date of enrollment (if necessary)
  • Please note that ISSS only REQUESTS that the application be approved; the final decision is made by USCIS.

ISSS Will Email You to Pick-Up Your I-20 & Application Materials At the Front Desk

  • Document Pick-Up: Mon-Fri 9am-4:30 pm (exceptions)
  • You must show a photo ID in order for them to be released to you
  • Documents not picked up after 60 days will be shredded
  • If you would like to meet with an advisor, sign-in during walk-in advising hours

To request permission to engage in OPT after having completed your course of study, you must apply during your last semester, either before completing your course of study or within 60 days of completing your enrollment for your degree program. You MUST submit your application to USCIS 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.

You must have an EAD in your possession before beginning work.

OPT Application Materials and PowerPoints

For information abou the OPT application process, please review the OPT PowerPoint that corresponds with the term you will complete your enrollment for your degree:

Other helpful links: