If you’re an F-1 visa holder — academic student — with a listed degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), you can apply for permission to work at a practical training job directly related to your major after completing your degree.

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary work that relates to your major but isn’t required by your school’s curriculum. You can apply for an EAD when you’ve been offered work for OPT, but you can’t start working until the date on the EAD.

During your first year of studies, you’ll want to learn How to make the most of your allowed OPT time.

For example, you can’t apply for a work permit or to extend a work permit for practical training after graduation if you’ve had 12 months of CPT during school (unless you enroll in a graduate program that immediately requires more CPT.)

Around graduation

Once you’re nearing graduation, you may want to know How to get a job in the US after graduating from a US college.  Students file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, to apply for, renew, or replace an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), a work permit.

You’ll apply for the work permit up to 90 days before graduation, or within 60 days after.  

One-time extension

Once you have a STEM-based work permit, you can apply for a one-time extension if you won’t complete practical training within 24 months after graduation. You can apply up to 90 days before the current EAD expires and within 60 days of the date, your school recommends you. As of March 11, 2016, the 24-month extension replaces the old rule, which only allowed you to extend your stay by 17 months.