Question: Do I qualify for Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
Answer: In general, foreign students qualify for Optional Practical Training (OPT) if they entered the United States as bona fide students and are pursuing a full course of study (most commonly in F-1 Visa Status). Students meeting these criteria are usually eligible for up to 12 months of OPT per educational level.
Some students may be eligible for an extension of the 12-month time limit, and you should contact an immigration attorney if you think you may qualify for an extension. Students who have participated in other work-study or curricular employment programs, however, may be ineligible for OPT.
OPT may be granted for any legitimate purpose other than to prepare the foreign national for permanent residence in the United States. Although OPT cannot be used to train a foreign national for a permanent U.S. position, it can be used to train a graduate for an employment position in an office abroad. It can also be used as a trial period to assess an alien’s skills.
Students interested in OPT should consult with their university or an immigration attorney to determine whether they are eligible for pre- or post-graduation OPT. Please keep in mind, however, that all OPT must generally be completed within 14 months of graduation.
Emil Dixon is the founder of the Davis Legal Center, a private law office located in Davis, California.