Optional Practical Training

Students smiling outside campus

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a temporary employment opportunity made available to international students studying in the USA under an F-1 visa. OPT employment must be directly related to the student’s degree program and does not require the student to obtain an H-1B work visa.

What are the benefits of OPT?

OPT allows you to be paid while you gain real-world experience, network with business professionals, and build your resume in the American job market. This is an opportunity for you to be part of one of the largest global economies and potentially extend your stay in the U.S., depending on your OPT designation.

What are the types of OPT?

There are two ways to participate in OPT: pre-completion and post-completion. Remember, your OPT must be directly related to your DePaul University degree program.

Pre-completion OPT: Before enrolling in pre-completion OPT, you must have been a full-time student for one full academic year at DePaul University. After that first year, you may be authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT, which allows you to work for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and up to full-time employment when school is on holiday (i.e. Summer, Winter Break).

Post-completion OPT: When you graduate from DePaul, you can apply to work under post-completion OPT. With this status, you can work part-time (20 hours or less per week) or full-time.

How long can you work in OPT?

You will be allowed 12 months of OPT per degree level (i.e. Bachelor's degree and Master's degree). This 12-month period is the total amount for all OPT, whether you participate in pre- or post-completion OPT. If you worked under pre-completion OPT, that amount of time will be deducted from your post-completion OPT authorization. For example, if you worked for three months in pre-completion OPT, you will be eligible for only nine months of post-completion OPT.

What about OPT extensions for STEM degrees?

You may be able to extend your OPT if you are a graduate of a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program. If you meet the requirements, you may add up to 24 months to your post-completion OPT, provided that you:

  • Are in F-1 status and received a STEM degree recognized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • Are employed by an employer who is enrolled in and is using E-Verify.
  • Received authorization to for post-completion OPT employment based on your STEM degree

You should contact your DePaul University advisor to verify your degree’s STEM designation. Some of the DePaul degree programs that are STEM-designated include:

  • Business Analytics MS
  • Cybersecurity BS, MS
  • Computer Science BS, MS
  • Data Science BS, MS
  • Finance MS
  • Management BSB
  • Sustainable Management MS

Who can apply for OPT?

You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. It is available to students with both Bachelor's and Master's-level degrees. To be eligible for OPT you must:

  • Be a full-time student
  • Have valid F-1 status at the time of the application
  • Intend to work in a position directly related to your major

When should you apply for OPT?

OPT approval is granted by the USCIS. You should contact the designated school official (DSO) at DePaul to discuss the process first, as the DSO must file a recommendation before you may apply. You can find more information about OPT on the International Student and Scholar Services webpage.