F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) Overview

OPT is intended to provide hands-on practical work experience in the U.S., complementary to the academic program.  Please note:

New USCIS Development: The OPT application must be received by the USCIS within 30 days of the date on which ISSS issues the OPT I-20.  If filed with USCIS after 30 days of the OPT I-20 issuance date, your application will be denied.

To begin the OPT process follow the instructions below:

    • flowchartopt ver04
    • flowchartopt ver04
  1. Read the F-1 OPT Overview.
  2. Submit your OPT I-20 request form in iPenn.
  3. Within 30 days of receiving your I-20, submit your Application to USCIS
  4. Follow the Reporting Requirements


To be eligible for Optional Practical Training, you must:

  • have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year;
  • currently be maintaining a full-time program of study and valid F-1 status; and
  • work in a job directly related to your major field of study.


  • You do not need a job offer prior to applying for OPT.
  • During post-completion OPT there is a 90-day limitation on unemployment; therefore, F-1 Status dependent upon employment.
  • Please note that ELP Students are not eligible for OPT.  
  • If you are uncertain whether you meet the eligibility requirements, please meet with an ISSS advisor.

Types of OPT 

OPT is available in the following cases:

1)  Pre-Completion OPT

  • part-time or full-time during the student's annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session, if the student intends to register for the following semester
  • part-time while school is in session
  • part-time or full-time after completion of graduate course work requirements excluding a thesis or dissertation

2)  Post-Completion OPT

  • full-time after completion of the course of study

Mandatory Online Tutorial before applying for Post-Completion OPT

ISSS recommends that you complete the mandatory online tutorial at least 3-4 months before your program completion. The tutorial must be completed before requesting your OPT I-20 from ISSS.

  1. To activate your account, log into KnowledgeLink with your PennKey: http://knowledgelink.upenn.edu
  2. It will take up to 3 hours for your account to be activated.
  3. Log into KnowledgeLink again at http://knowledgelink.upenn.edu, and search for "Post-Completion OPT".
  4. To complete the online tutorial, you have to complete 100% of the quizzes hidden inside the online module.

SEVP Policy Guidance 

Optional Fall 2014 OPT Webinar

During the Fall 2014 semester, ISSS offered several online OPT webinars. Check out the video below to see one.

Since immigration rules can change, ISSS also recommends signing up for an upcoming OPT workshop or webinar via our Workshops and Events Calendar.


What's Next?

Once you have read through the overview you can complete the F-1 OPT iPenn Request.