Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Mandatory OPT Reporting

Optional practical training is designed to provide you with an opportunity to gain actual employment experience in your chosen profession for a maximum of one year. Its purpose is to complement your academic work. Optional practical training falls into two categories: (1) Pre-Completion OPT and (2) Post-Completion OPT. Pre-Completion OPT is only available if your employment does not otherwise qualify for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Please see the CPT packet for eligibility information. Post-Completion OPT is available as full or part‐time employment after you have completed your course requirements but before you have finished your thesis or full‐time employment after you have completed your degree requirements.

Definition of “Optional Practical Training” Optional practical training is designed to provide you with an opportunity to gain actual employment experience in your chosen profession for a maximum of one year. Its purpose is to complement your academic work. Optional practical training falls into two categories: (1) Pre-Completion OPT and (2) Post-Completion OPT. Pre-Completion OPT is only available if your employment does not otherwise qualify for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Please see the CPT packet for eligibility information. Post-Completion OPT is available as full or part‐time employment after you have completed your course requirements but before you have finished your thesis or full‐time employment after you have completed your degree requirements.

Eligibility Requirements The work must be directly related to your major field of study and it must be appropriate for someone with your level of education. You do not need to have a specific job offer to apply for optional practical training but be aware that you cannot recover portions of the optional practical training period that you may have spent searching for employment. OPT employment may be full time or part-time. To be eligible for optional practical training, you must have been in lawful status and enrolled full time for at least one academic year prior to applying. Students enrolled in English language training programs are not eligible for optional practical training. Differences between pre‐completion and post‐completion OPT can be seen in the box below:

Pre-completion OPT Post-completion OPT
  • May work full time or part time.
  • Is not subject to the unemployment provisions, and may receive a program extension.
  • May not apply for the STEM extension from a period of pre‐completion OPT.
  • Would not be eligible for the cap-gap extension of OPT.
  • Would not otherwise qualify for CPT
  • May work full time or part time.
  • Would be subject to the unemployment provisions.
  • Would be unable to receive an extension of his or her program.
  • May apply for the STEM extension if otherwise eligible.
  • Would be eligible for the cap-gap extension

Steps for Applying for OPT

  1. Review this packet to determine OPT eligibility
  2. Make an appointment to discuss OPT with an ISO advisor
  3. Bring a check/money order, 2 regulation photographs, your I-20, I-94, passport, and completed I-765 form
After all appropriate materials and paperwork have been received by ISO, the advisor will mail the application to USCIS.

OPT Checklist:

  • Completed I-765 Form
  • Copy of I-20 with OPT Authorization
  • Copy of most recent I-20 (before OPT)
  • Copy of passport page, visa page, and I-94 record
  • 2 passport style photos (less than 6 months old)
  • Check or Money Order for $410 made out to Department of Homeland Security
  • Proof of payment of MSU OPT Application Fee - Click here to pay