F-1 OPT Employees
Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of F-1 status that permits off-campus employment directly related to the student’s field of study after the student’s program completion date. Students in F-1 status can be eligible for up to 12 months of Post-Completion OPT. For more information about F-1 OPT, visit the STUDY in the STATES website maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.
OPT authorization allows the student to work for any employer in the United States, so long as the job duties are directly related to the student’s major area of study and commensurate with the student’s educational level. Practical training experiences that are unpaid may be permitted within certain limitations.
OPT is recommended by a Designated School official (DSO) at the school attended by the student, but authorization is granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Official authorization comes in the form of a card known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). It may take up to 3 months or longer for USCIS to issue an EAD authorizing OPT. Students may not begin employment until they have received the EAD and until the start date indicated on the EAD.
An F-1 student completing an Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctoral degree in the U.S. is eligible to apply for a total of 12 months of full-time OPT. Once a student has been authorized for 12 months of OPT at a particular educational level, that student only becomes eligible for another 12 months of practical training when he or she changes to a higher educational level. Students who have been authorized for 12 months of OPT based on terminal degrees, such as PhD, D.D.S. J.D., PharmD, etc. are not eligible to receive additional OPT since all terminal degrees are considered equivalent in level.
To be eligible for OPT, a student:
NOTE: F-1 exchange students and other non-degree students at UNC-Chapel Hill are not eligible for OPT.
There are two types of OPT:
Post-Completion OPT may be extended beyond 12 months in only two ways:
Please speak to an advisor at International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) if you have any questions. All F-1 students employed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) while on Optional Practical Training (OPT), should check-in with International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).
For those employees of UNC-Chapel Hill who are applying for the STEM extension of OPT, please see our 24-Month STEM Extension page for more information on the UNC process.