Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an extension of F-1 student status that allows international students to work in the United States in order to gain practical experience in their major field(s) of study.
OPT can be done as Pre-Completion (before completion of your Brandeis degree program) or Post-Completion (after completion of your degree program). Pre-Completion OPT can be authorized full-time or part-time and any OPT time completed before program completion will subtract from the total 12 months of OPT available. Part-time pre-completion OPT time will subtract at half the rate. You must maintain full-time enrollment during pre-completion OPT. Post-Completion OPT is authorized full-time.
PhD candidates should schedule an appointment with an ISSO advisor before submitting the ISSO online application.
Apply for OPT
F-1 visa holders may be eligible for OPT if they have been enrolled as a full-time student for at least two consecutive terms (fall/spring - summer does not count). OPT is not specific to an employer, therefore you do not need a job offer in order to apply. The earliest USCIS will accept a post-completion OPT application is 90 days before your program end date.
Spring semester Undergraduate and Master's graduates: program end date is typically your graduation date
Fall semester Undergraduate and Master's graduates: program completion date will be the last day of finals in December
Doctoral students: completion date is when you submit your final dissertation to the department after all revisions have been made. You will need to consult with your department to determine when they will consider you complete with all requirements for your degree
ISSO highly recommends that you apply as early as possible for post-completion OPT, as the application can take up to 5 months for processing once submitted to USCIS. Current average processing times for applications are listed on the USCIS website.OPT Online Application
You must be physically present in the U.S. at the time of submitting the complete OPT application to USCIS.
After submitting the online application to the ISSO, you will be issued a new I-20 with recommendation for OPT. Once you receive your new I-20, you will assemble your paper OPT application to mail to United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). For immigration purposes you will continue to be considered an F-1 student visa holder and a Brandeis University student as long as you maintain your F-1 OPT status.
You are permitted to remain in the U.S. while your OPT application is pending. However, after your program end date you may not work on or off campus until your OPT has been approved and you have received your EAD card.
Refer to our OPT application checklist to make sure you have a complete application mailed to USCIS. You may refer to our supplemental guide in addition to USCIS's instructions on completing the USCIS form I-765 for Employment Authorization.
Post-Completion OPT Timeline
- 90 days before I-20 completion date - This is the earliest date you can apply.
- 60 days after I-20 completion date - This is the latest date you can apply.
- Post-completion OPT can start anytime between your completion date and 60 days later.
USCIS will accept your application only within this time range (between 90 days before completion date and 60 days after).