Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training is an F-1 student benefit that allows you to work off-campus in a job related to your major. It is meant to supplement your academic experience with practical experience.

Updates on Filing OPT Online

We are optimistic that the new OPT online filing system will eventually be an improvement over the paper based filing process. However, there are still many unknowns and we are waiting for additional detail and a better understanding of how USCIS will process applications filed online. Until we have sufficient clarity, we will continue to recommend paper filing. We encourage you to create a USCIS online account and link your paper filed application to your account so you can enjoy many of the benefits of online filing, without the uncertainty.

We expect to continue to recommend paper filing for June 1 and August 31, 2021 graduates. At this time we hope to move forward with recommending online filing for February 1, 2022 graduates and STEM applications filed in early fall. 

If you do choose to file online be aware that:

  • An I-20 recommending OPT/STEM OPT is REQUIRED. You must apply for this first through UB Global.
  • All required documentation (including the I-20 with OPT recommendation) must be uploaded BEFORE the application is submitted.
  • Once your application has been submitted it is no longer editable.
Not Sure Which Type of Work Authorization is Best?

Read our information comparing common F-1 off-campus employment authorizations to determine which is most appropriate for your situation. 

  • 6/11/21
    Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training may be used before graduation.  It is meant to supplement your academic experience with practical experience.
  • 6/11/21
    Post-Completion Optional Practical Training may be used before or after graduation.  Read more to find how Post-Completion OPT is used in different circumstances.
  • 5/20/21
    Learn what you must do to maintain your F-1 status while you are on Post-Completion OPT.
  • 4/1/21
    The Cap Gap is the period after F-1 students’ OPT has expired, but before their H-1B work authorization begins on October 1. The OPT Cap Gap Extension automatically extends F-1 students’ immigration status and work authorization in order to bridge the gap between the end of their F-1 status and the start of their H-1B status.
  • 6/11/21
    F-1 students with STEM degrees in fields listed on the ICE STEM Designated Degree Program List may be eligible for the OPT STEM Extension.
  • 5/26/21
    To maintain your F-1 status while on a 24-Month OPT STEM Extension, you must satisfy a number of requirements.


We try to provide useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to in these handouts and webcasts or any associated web sites. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel or tax professional. Neither the University at Buffalo nor the Office of International Student Services is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in these materials, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.