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International Student and Scholar Services

OPT Information

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of F-1 status, which allows degree-seeking students to apply for work authorization in order to gain employment experience in a field directly related to the student’s major area of study. OPT applications are specific in that they have start and end dates and are authorized for part- or full-time work.  Additionally, these petitions can be pre-completion of study or post-completion.

PART-TIME VS. FULL-TIME/ PRE-COMPLETION VS. POST-COMPLETION OPT

Pre-completion OPT is for work authorization that will begin and end prior to the program end date on the student’s I-20. While school is in session, a student may apply for part-time (up to 20 hours/week) pre-completion OPT while also enrolling in the required full-time hours of coursework. Full-time pre-completion OPT may be requested for breaks when a student is not required to enroll or when a student has completed all course requirements and only lacks completion of the thesis or dissertation.

Post-completion OPT is for work authorization that will start after the program end date on the I-20. Post-completion OPT MUST be full-time. Students who have completed all course requirements except for the thesis or dissertation may apply for post-completion OPT although it may require the I-20 end date to be shortened. The Office of International Student and Scholar Services can advise you on the best possible scenario for your OPT application. 

Separate applications are required for each type of OPT, meaning you would not be able to apply for five (5) months of pre-completion OPT followed by seven (7) months of post-completion OPT on the same application.

TIME LIMITS

Twelve (12) months of Optional Practical Training is authorized at each academic level. For example, a student would be eligible for 12 months of at the bachelor’s level and another 12 months at the master’s level; but, would not get OPT for doing a second bachelor’s degree. Students who participate in 12 months, or more, of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) are not eligible for OPT at the same level.

The use of part-time OPT is deducted from the 12-month limit at half the rate so a person who has done 12 months of part-time OPT would still be eligible for 6 months of full-time OPT.

An extension is possible beyond the first 12 months of OPT for students with degrees in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Please contact the Office of International Student and Scholar Services for more details.

EMPLOYMENT DATES

Authorization for post-completion OPT can begin as early as the date of graduation or as late as 60 days following the graduation ceremony. For graduate students, it may begin as early as the date

required after degree requirements are completed, or as late as 60 days after the acceptance of a thesis or dissertation. The starting date for the OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be the date requested by the student or the date OPT is approved at the USCIS Service Center, whichever is later. The student will also request an end date, which is no more than 12 months later than the start date.

FILING DEADLINES

You must submit an application for OPT to International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) within the 90-day period prior to the completion of your program of study and up to 60 days after your program end date. You MUST attend an OPT Workshop prior to submitting your application to ISSS, we will walk you through the process of obtaining the appropriate documents and recommendations.

PROCESSING TIME FOR APPLICATION

Once mailed to USCIS, a receipt will be sent to ISSS to confirm the arrival of materials at USCIS. A decision for the petition takes approximately 90 days. USCIS will mail the card directly to ISSS and we will notify you when your card has arrived.

Please note: You cannot begin employment until you have received the EAD or until the Effective Date of the EAD, whichever is later.

REPORTING REQUIREMENTS ON OPT

All students will OPT must report the following to the Office of International Student and Scholar Services:

  • Any change in name
  • Residential address
  • Updated email address
  • Telephone number
  • Name, address, phone number, and supervisor for employer
  • EIN for employer
  • Any change to the name and address of employer
  • Any interruption of employment

CANCELLATION OF OPT

If one decides to cancel OPT, it is sometimes possible to do so. Once the EAD has been processed by USCIS, OPT cannot be cancelled if the start date on the EAD has passed.

TERMINATION OF PRACTICAL TRAINING

Authorization to engage in practical training employment is automatically terminated when you transfer your record to begin study at another school or at another educational level.

Contact Us

International Student and Scholar Services
411 International Center (IC)
118 College Drive #5151
Hattiesburg, MS 39406

Hattiesburg Campus

Campus Map

Email
intlFREEMississippi

Phone
601.266.4841

Contact Us

International Admissions
International Center (IC) 401
118 College Drive #5135
Hattiesburg, MS 39406

Hattiesburg Campus

Campus Map

Email
intladmissionsFREEMississippi

Phone
601.266.5645