OPT and STEM OPT
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. There are different types of OPT available to students.
Types of OPT
|Type||OPT||STEM OPT||Cap Gap OPT|
|What||Temporary practical training directly related to a student's major area of study.||Temporary extension of previously granted practical training directly related to a student's major areas of study in a STEM field.||Temporary extension of previously granted practical training directly related to a student's major areas of study while an H-1B application is pending.|
|Who||OPT is available for students engaged in post-secondary schools or at conservatories.||The STEM OPT Extension is for students who majored in designated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) degrees approved by DHS.||Cap-Gap OPT is for students whose prospective employers filed a qualifying H-1B cap subject petition and whose OPT will end before the H-1B status begins.|
|When||OPT employment authorization may be granted pre-completion (part-time while school is in session or full-time during winter or summer breaks) or post-completion (full-time after the completion of studies).||Students apply for the STEM OPT Extension after they have been approved for Post Completion OPT. The earliest to apply for STEM OPT is 90 days before the end of the OPT listed on the EAD. The deadline to apply for STEM OPT is the end date on the OPT EAD.||The cap-gap extension is available to students who, as of April 1st were either on approved OPT or in the 60-day grace period and have a pending or approved change-of-status October 1st H-1B petition with USCIS that was filed by their employer prior to the expiration of their OPT.|
|Duration||Twelve months of regular OPT is available for each higher level of study. For example, a student may have 12 months for a bachelor’s degree and another 12 months for a master’s degree.||This type of OPT is a 24-month extension of OPT and can only be used at a maximum of two degree levels. For example, if a student uses STEM OPT at the bachelor’s and master’s levels, they may not use STEM OPT at the doctoral level.||Cap Gap OPT ends on October 1 when the H-1B change of status goes into effect.|