Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a form of training, often paid, that directly relates to your program of study. You can apply for OPT during your program of study, which is now a pre-completion OPT, or after you finish your program of study, know as post-completion OPT. In order to apply for OPT, F-1 students must request approval from their DSO. A DSO makes this recommendation in SEVIS and by endorsing a student’s Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.” The student must then file the Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization” and supporting documents with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and if approved, USCIS will issue a Form I-766, “Employment Authorization Document.” You cannot begin your training until you receive your authorization from USCIS.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for F-1 Students
Curricular practical training (CPT) is an alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education or other type of required practicum that a sponsoring employer offers through cooperative agreements with your college or university. CPT is only available for F-1 students when it is part of an established curriculum within a school. CPT must be integral to your program of study; however, unlike pre-completion OPT, CPT can be full time and is not restricted by a weekly 20-hour work limit.
Practical Training for M-1 Students
M-1 students are only eligible to participate in one type of paid training with an employer, referred to as practical training (PT). Like the F-1 training opportunities, your PT must directly relate to your program of study. PT allows you to gain training experience in your vocational field.
F-1 Students and Entrepreneurship
The U.S. government considers starting your own business in the United States, also known as entrepreneurship, as work. Therefore, if you are an F-1 student who plans to start your own business in the United States, you must qualify and apply for OPT.
The OPT, and thus the business, must relate to your program of study and can occur either before (pre-completion OPT) or after the completion of a program of study (post-completion OPT). Please note, F-1 students in English language training programs are not eligible for OPT.
Please note, you cannot be your own employer for the purpose of the STEM OPT extension.
If you want to start your own business while you study in the United States, speak to your DSO and visit USCIS’ Entrepreneur Visa Guide.
If you want to learn more about this topic or about our legal services for F-1 and M-1 students do contact us at (+1) 888 820 4430 (toll free), or (+1) 202 600 7745, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org