An F-1 student may wish to engage in temporary employment to gain practical experience in his/her field of study. To obtain permission for this kind of employment, an F-1 student can seek authorization for practical training.
- Not available for students in English language training programs
- Limited to college, university, conservatory, or seminary students
- May be granted for part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time employment (20 hours per week or more)
- Must have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis in a SEVIS-approved school for one full academic year to be eligible
- Exceptions provided for graduate students who are required to engage in curricular practical training prior to completion of a first year of studies.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Curricular practical training is an alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. CPT must be an integral part of an established curriculum.
ISS authorizes all CPT, and applications should be submitted well in advance of employment start dates for timely processing. Employment may not begin until authorization is given. Authorization is shown on a print-out of page 3 of a student's I-20.
- Work must be directly related to and commensurate with the level of the student's course of study
- Part-time only during academic semesters
- No limit to how many times CPT may be authorized, however, a cumulative of 12 months of full-time CPT will disqualify a student from OPT
- May be full-time during vacation periods
Primary Types of CPT Authorized by ISS
- Required CPT: a compulsory internship/field practicum to fulfill degree requirements
- Elective CPT: Relates to an internship or practicum course within the field of study. This work permission is typically limited to the semester the student is enrolled in a course requiring the employment.
- UH Cooperative Education: employment with special restrictions offered through the UHM Career Development and Student Employment (CDSE) Office.
To learn how to apply for CPT, download the documents on the Forms page.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT is defined in the Federal Regulations as temporary employment directly related to a student’s field of study. During OPT, a student remains in F-1 status. The end result of the OPT request process is an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS).
- Pre-Completion OPT – Authorized employment prior to a student’s program completion. Work is authorized for part-time (up to 20 hours per week) during academic sessions. For official school breaks, employment may be authorized for full-time (20 hours or more per week).
- Post-Completion OPT – Authorized employment upon student’s program completion. All post-completion OPT is authorized for full-time (20 hours or more per week).
- OPT STEM Extension – Authorized employment for STEM degree students who have been granted post-completion OPT and are looking to extend their employment period up to 24 months. This is limited to a student who has earned a degree in a field included on the US Government’s list of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields, and whose employer is registered in the federal E-Verify program. The CIP code for the student’s major on the I-20 must match a code listed in the STEM majors list. To learn more about STEM extensions, students should seek guidance from an ISS advisor.
- Full-time F-1 status for at least one academic year
- No offer of employment is required for regular OPT
- Offer of employment from an E-Verify employer required for STEM OPT
- For pre-completion OPT, student must intend to enroll full-time in the next academic semester
- Only students who will complete their programs by the start of OPT may apply for post-completion OPT; the exceptions are graduate students who have completed all course requirements for a degree except for a thesis, dissertation or equivalent requirement.
- Work must be directly related to and commensurate with the level of the student’s course of study
- Standard OPT is limited to a maximum of 12 months; days unemployed may not be for more than a cumulative of 90 days
- STEM extensions limited to a maximum of 24 months; 60 days of unemployment allowed in addition to the 90 day limit under standard OPT
- Pre-completion OPT is counted against the maximum amount of OPT; part-time counted as 50 percent OPT
- If a student completes a cumulative maximum of 12 months of Full-time (20+ hours/week) Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during his/her program duration, s/he no longer qualifies for OPT.
- Students are eligible for OPT at each educational level completed, not each degree at the same level (i.e., if a student completes two bachelor degrees, he/she is still limited to only 12 months of OPT)
OPT Reporting and Validation
- Student on OPT must report changes in employment or address within ten days of any change; employment should be reported within 90 days of EAD start date
- Students on STEM extension must validate their status every 6 months
- Students currently may report changes or validate status to ISS through an online OPT Validation Form.
USCIS authorizes all OPT applications, but ISS must review the applications before submission. If the review is positive, ISS will recommend an OPT request by creating a new I-20, which shows this recommendation on page 2. This I-20 will be sent to students as part of their OPT application, which they must mail in time for USCIS to receive it within 30 days from the date of the recommendation. The OPT application must include a properly filled federal form I-765, supporting documents, the updated OPT I-20, and fee payment.
As an alternative to mailing OPT applications to USCIS, they can now be filed online at www.uscis.gov/I-765. Once there, students should click on the "File Online" link and follow the directions to set up a USCIS account. When the account has been set up, students have a 30 day period to complete an electronic I-765 and upload the required application documents. Applications are electronically submitted to USCIS when payment of the $410.00 fee is made with a credit card. After the application is submitted, students receive a Receipt, a copy of which will also be mailed to them.
The first step in the OPT application process is to submit the required application documents to the “Submit Request” link at the ISS website, www.hawaii.edu/issmanoa. Once the documents have been submitted, they are routed to an ISS advisor for review. If any corrections are necessary, the advisor will contact the student to make the necessary corrections. After any corrections are made, the advisor then creates an updated I-20 showing the requested OPT start and end dates on the second page. It will be sent to the student remotely. After receiving the I-20, the student must sign it and include a copy with the other required OPT application documents when filing the application.
Each month, ISS holds OPT workshops that go over the entire application process and the details of OPT regulations. ISS requires students to attend one of these workshops before applying for OPT. Workshop dates for each month are sent out each via the ISS listserv usually near the end of the preceding month.
Pre-Completion OPT – Applications may be submitted any time. Students who expect to complete their first full academic year may submit applications for OPT that would start after this. Separate applications must be made for part-time and full-time pre-completion OPT. In other words, part-time OPT authorization that extends into a summer vacation will not allow for full-time work. A separate full-time OPT application must be submitted.
Post-Completion OPT – Applications may be submitted within 90 days of program end date and 60 days following program end date. The submission must also be within 30 days of the issuance of the I-20 with OPT recommendation.
OPT STEM Extension – Applications may be submitted within 90 days of regular OPT end date. The submission must also be within 60 days of the issuance of the I-20 with OPT recommendation.
Withdrawing OPT Applications
There are several situations in which a student may want to withdraw or cancel an OPT application, or end OPT employment authorization. The student should contact ISS any time he/she needs to do this. The following are the reasons and how to proceed.
- OPT application has not been submitted to USCIS – Contact ISS to cancel the recommendation in SEVIS.
- OPT application has been submitted but is still pending with USCIS – Student must contact the Service Center directly to withdraw the application. This is usually done by mail, fax, or sometimes email. The document should include:
- “RE: I-765 Withdrawal”
- Biographical information to identify student, including name, date of birth, SEVIS ID number
- Reference the receipt number for the I-765 application (from Form I-797 receipt notice)
- Specific request that the I-765 application for Optional Practical Training be withdrawn
- Student’s signature
- OPT has already been approved by USCIS but student has not completed program as expected – In some cases where students have not met graduation requirements by the expected completion date, and must extend their program another semester to complete their degree, the student may still be able to do OPT. Speak to an ISS advisor regarding these details.
- OPT has already been approved but student decides not to do OPT, or will be abandoning OPT or entering a new program – In cases in which the student decides to abandon OPT and return to his/her home country, the student should notify ISS as soon as possible. Entering another program will deactivate the OPT. If the student enters another program at the same educational level, OPT may not be available to apply for again even though the previous authorization was not used.