If you are an F-1 student, you have the option of training in the United States by engaging in practical training during your program or after it ends. Practical training can provide valuable work experience by sharpening and adding to the skills you are learning at SFA.
There are two types of practical training available for F-1 students: curricular practical training and optional practical training.
Curricular Practical Training
Considering an off-campus internship? CPT can be authorized if you have an off-campus internship directly related to your major area of study and if the experience will allow you to earn academic credit towards your degree program.
Receiving authorization for CPT
You must secure the internship opportunity before CPT can be authorized; however, you cannot begin the internship until after the CPT has been authorized. There are a few important criteria to consider:
- Authorization is for one specific employer and for a specific period of time.
- One year of full-time CPT eliminates your eligibility for Optional Practice Training.
- The CPT must be completed before the program end date on your Form I-20.
To receive an authorized CPT, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once granted, the authorization will be recorded in your Form I-20 and SEVIS record.
Optional Practical Training
OPT is temporary employment that is directly related to your major area of study. As an F-1 student, you can receive authorization for up to a total of 12 months of practical training either before (pre-) and/or after (post-) completion of studies.
If your degree is in an approved science, technology, engineering or mathematics area of study, you may qualify to apply for an extension after the 12-month period to continue working.
- An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT after he or she has been enrolled for one full academic year.
- The pre-completion OPT must be directly related to the student's major area of study.
- Students authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT must work part time while school is in session.
- They may work full time when school is not in session.
- An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in post-completion OPT upon completion of studies.
- The post-completion OPT must be directly related to the student's major area of study.
- View the OPT general rules and details on eligibility.
Applying for OPT
Follow the step-by-step instructions on the OPT checklist to complete your application. Once you've completed the checklist, schedule an appointment with your international student advisor for OPT processing.
Important: The Office of International Programs will submit your OPT application. Do not pay a company to process your paperwork, and do not submit your paperwork online.
Traveling abroad during OPT or STEM OPT
You will need the following documents for your reentry into the U.S. while on OPT or STEM OPT:
- Valid passport, valid F-1 visa
- Proof of employment either through a job offer letter or verification of employment letter from your employer
- Current and valid EAD card
- Please ensure your I-20 has correct current employer information and that the travel signature is valid and will not be more than six months old as of your return date to the U.S.
Renewing your F-1 visa during OPT or STEM OPT
While you are on OPT or STEM OPT, your status is still F-1; therefore, you can apply for a new F-1 visa if yours is expired and if you need to travel abroad and reenter the U.S.
In addition to the documents used for your first student visa, you also will need to provide:
- proof of employment
- I-20 with current job information and valid travel signature
- and your current and valid EAD card (not a copy).
Apply to extend your STEM OPT
If you are currently in the 12-month period of OPT and would like to confirm your eligibility to apply for the STEM OPT 24-month extension, contact us at email@example.com before proceeding with the extension application checklist.
Life after OPT
Explore your visa options and the government resources below as you consider the possibility of continuing to work in the U.S. when your OPT ends.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: Working in the U.S. (Visa Guide)
See if your degree qualifies you for the H-1B program. If so, view details on the H-1B fiscal year cap.