Practical training authorization allows F-1 students to accept part-time or full-time employment that is directly related to your major area of study. You first need to be enrolled for at least two semesters (9 months) unless you are a graduate student in a program that requires such training of it students earlier than the completion of those two semesters.
There are two general categories of practical training:
1) Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
CPT allows for employment that is a required part of the official curriculum which you have chosen to complete for your degree. This kind of authorization is available only in the special situation when the employment is an integral part of your established curriculum. CPT authorization is not limited in duration, but a student who receives 12 months or more of full-time CPT authorization may not be eligible for the Optional Practical Training (OPT) which is explained below. To apply for curricular practical training you must visit International Student Services.
2) Optional Practical Training(OPT)
OPT allows employment which is directly related to your major field of study. You may receive up to 12 months of authorization for OPT at each level of study. For example, a student who uses 12 months of OPT related to a Bachelor’s degree program will be eligible for another 12 months of OPT related to a Master’s degree program. You do not need a specific job offer before applying for OPT authorization.
In general, you should receive Optional Practical Training advice at International Student Services at least two to three months before you want your authorization to begin. After completing the procedures at International Student Services, you will send your application to the USCIS processing center for its decision. You must receive your OPT authorization in writing from USCIS before you can begin employment. If your practical training authorization transfers to another school or you begin study at another education level, your practical training authorization is automatically terminated.
There are three times during your F-1 status that you may be eligible for Optional Practical Training:
1) Pre-completion OPT
You may apply for part or all of your OPT period to be used before you complete your UWRF course of study. This could be full-time or part-time employment during a school vacation. Pre-completion OPT can also be used part-time (20 hours per week or less) while you are taking classes and school is in session. Graduate students who have completed all course requirements except their thesis or the equivalent may be eligible to apply for Pre-completion OPT to be full-time or part-time.
2) Post-completion OPT
You may apply for OPT to be used upon completion of your UWRF degree. If you want to participate in OPT after completing your degree, you must apply for OPT no later than 60 days after the completion date on your I-20. During Post-completion OPT, maintaining your F-1 status is dependent upon employment. You may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during the initial 12 months of your post-completion OPT.
Although part-time employment is allowed during post-completion OPT, current government guidelines state that you must be employed for a minimum of at least 20 hours per week. Although a student may graduate from UWRF and begin OPT employment in some other part of the United States, the student is still legally in UWRF F-1 student status during Post-completion OPT. The student is required by law to continue contact with the UWRF DSO, and the DSO is required to update the student’s information in SEVIS until the end of the student’s UWRF F-1 status. These updates include any changes to your name, residence address and the name and address of your employer.
3) 17-month OPT Extension for STEM studies
Recent changes to regulations allow some F-1 students who have received degrees in certain areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to apply for a 17-month OPT extension beyond the initial 12 months. The International Student Services Coordinator can provide more information about the criteria and eligibility for the 17-month extension.