Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is intended to provide hands-on practical experience complementary to the academic program, 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii). Students on practical training are still considered to be F-1 students at the University of Nevada, Reno, even though they may be working elsewhere in the United States. A student does not need to have a specific job offer to make the application, but they do need a signature showing support from their academic advisor for the OPT. Students must have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before employment may legally begin.

Students may apply for full-time post-completion OPT after program completion or during the thesis/dissertation stage after completing all coursework (at least 20 hrs/week) after being a full-time student for at least 1 academic year. Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT per higher education level. Regulations allow students graduating from STEM fields to apply for up 12 months of OPT and then apply for a 24 month extension totaling 36 months of OPT; the extension may be used twice during their academic career. Non-stem majors have a total of 12 months full-time Optional Practical Training which can be utilized with flexibility. If training or employment will be longer than 12 months or 36 months for STEM majors, students should consider applying for a change of their status during the period of practical training.

How to apply for Optional Practical Training

OPT application receipt, reporting and travel

Important information to keep in mind

  • Student may apply no earlier than 90 days before program completion and up to 60 days after program completion.
  • Students do not need to have employment to apply for OPT.
  • OPT may start from the first date after program completion up to 60 days after program completion.
  • If you leave the U.S. during the 60-day grace period after program completion before applying for post-completion OPT and/or enter the U.S. under a different status, you will not be eligible to apply for post-completion OPT.
  • Students are eligible for full-time post-completion OPT (at least 20 hours per week) at the thesis/dissertation stage after completing all coursework and after completing their program.
    • The I-20 program end date will be shortened to the defense date or end of the semester for post-completion OPT.
    • If applying for post-completion OPT during the thesis/dissertation stage of the program, you must complete your thesis/dissertation before the 12-months of post-completion OPT ends.
  • F-1 status during OPT is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment from the start date on the EAD card during post-completion OPT.
  • Employment must be in the major indicated on the OPT request on the second page of your I-20.
  • Pre-completion OPT reduces time from post-completion OPT. Talk to an OISS advisor for more information.
  • Allow 90 days from the date your application is received by USCIS for processing.
  • Do not work until you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card and the EAD start date is effective.
  • Students are permitted 90 days of unemployment while on 12 month OPT. In order to show proof of your employment, OISS recommends you:
    • Keep a copy of your official job offer letter stating the position title and description, start and end (if known) dates of employment and number of hours worked per week, even if you are volunteering
    • Keep all your timesheets and/or paystubs if you will be getting paid
    • Maintain medical insurance coverage.
  • International students are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes for the first 5 years in the U.S. (including during OPT) but are required to pay all federal and state taxes.
  • Your OPT automatically ends on the SEVIS release date if you transfer to another U.S. institution or on the date you start a new education level at the University of Nevada, Reno (University).
  • If you do not use more than 90 days of unemployment, you will have a 60-day grace period after the OPT EAD card end date to be admitted and transferred to a new U.S. institution, be admitted to a new program at the University, leave the U.S., or submit a change of status application. Talk to an OISS advisor for more information.