Carnegie Mellon University

Optional Practical Training (OPT) & STEM OPT Extension

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is work authorization for you as an F-1 student, which allows you to apply knowledge gained in your degree program to off-campus work. The work must be directly related to your academic level and major field of study. OPT is recommended by OIE and authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This authorization can take one to two months to obtain, so you will need to plan accordingly. 


To be eligible for OPT or a STEM OPT Extension you will need to meet certain requirements. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • You must have been a full-time student in the U.S. for one academic year (i.e., two full consecutive terms).
  • You have previously used less than 12 months of full-time CPT.
  • You have not already been approved for 12 months of OPT at the same degree level.
  • OPT is available both before and after completion of your degree program.

Pre-Completion OPT

Pre-Completion OPT is work authorization for you, as an F-1 student, to gain practical off-campus work experience within your field of study that begins before your program completion date. As an F-1 student, you are eligible for 12 months of OPT at each degree level (e.g., Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral).

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Post-Completion OPT

Post-Completion OPT is for F-1 students completing their OPT after graduation. You will have specific documentation and authorization requirements separate from any Pre-Completion OPT. Post-Completion OPT is authorized for a period of 12 months or less if you have previously utilized pre-completion OPT at your current degree level.

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OPT STEM Extension

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Optional Practical Training (STEM OPT) extension is a 24-month temporary work authorization opportunity for F-1 students that directly relates to their field of study in an approved STEM field. Certain F-1 students with degrees in a Designated STEM Field may be eligible for a 24-Month extension period of OPT. 

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H-1B Cap-Gap Extension

H-1B Cap-Gap extension is a provision that extends your work eligibility to bridge the gap between the end of your OPT or OPT STEM work authorization and the start of your H-1B status. This extension allows you to remain in the US during the "gap." Employers can file an H-1B petition up to six months before the new fiscal year (April 1) to join the queue of new applications waiting for the October 1 date.

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