About Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows you to gain U.S. work experience that is directly related to your major field of study.

F-1 students must complete two consecutive semesters of study in lawful U.S. status before becoming eligible for OPT, and can apply for 12-months of OPT for each higher level of education. If you finish a bachelor’s degree and move to a Master’s degree, this could qualify you for a new year of OPT. However, moving from one degree to another at the same level (Master’s to Master’s) would not qualify you for another year of OPT.

Pre-Completion vs. Post-Completion OPT

Pre-Completion OPT: You may wish to use all or part of your OPT before graduation – for instance, during summers or part-time during semesters of study. You can begin your application to USCIS for pre-completion OPT up to 90 days prior to the date you wish for your pre-completion OPT to begin. 

Post-Completion OPT: Many students choose to apply for their 12 months of OPT at the end of their program of study. You can begin your application to USCIS for post-completion OPT up to 90 days prior to your program completion date.

Required DSO Recommendation for OPT

You must receive an I-20 recommending OPT from an Emerson DSO prior to applying for OPT.

Emerson College is approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to sponsor international students in F-1 student status. In the role of F-1 sponsor, Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) staff serve as Designated School Officials (DSOs). 

In order to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), an Emerson DSO is responsible to evaluate whether you appear to meet key criteria (including eligibility requirements and filing window), and to make a recommendation for OPT to USCIS on your behalf. A new Form I-20 will be issued to you to reflect this recommendation.

Specific information about the application process and timeline is outlined in OISA’s OPT Application Packet and will be covered in frequent OPT workshops offered by OISA advisors.

See OPT Application Checklist to begin the process.

Requesting a DSO recommendation for Post-Completion OPT

The dates for you to apply for OPT depend your on your “program completion date” which is usually your graduation date

  • Your application may arrive at USCIS no more than 90 days prior to your program completion date
  • You can request for your OPT to begin within the 60 days following your program completion date 

OPT Dates 2022-2023

Graduation Date First Day to Apply for OPT Date Range to Begin OPT
December 30, 2022 October 1, 2022 December 31, 2022–February 28, 2023
May 14, 2023 February 13, 2023 May 15, 2023 - July 13, 2023
August 30, 2023* June 1, 2023 August 31, 2023–October 29, 2023

Alternate Program End Dates

Applying for OPT Based on Summer I End Date

Students who complete all coursework in Summer I may choose to use the end of Summer I classes as their program end date for the purpose of an OPT application. The student’s diploma will still be conferred on August 30, which is the official summer graduation date. 

Completion of all required coursework (Sum I end) First Day to Apply for OPT Date Range to Begin OPT
July 10, 2023 April 11, 2023 July 11, 2023 - Sept 8, 2023

Applying for Post-Completion OPT Based on Completion of All Coursework Except for Graduate Thesis

Students who have completed all coursework for their degree except for graduate thesis, can use the end of the current term as their “program completion date” for the purpose of an OPT application. Additional documentation may be required from the Graduate Program Director (GPD) or Graduate Studies to confirm that all degree requirements have been met, except for the thesis. 

Students who apply for post-completion OPT based on completion of all coursework, will need to continue to make academic progress towards completion of their thesis and degree during their OPT period.