The initial post-completion period for which students can apply is 12 months, less any OPT time used pre-completion. The requested employment start date must be within 60 days after the end of the program. The employment authorization will begin on the date requested or the date the employment authorization is approved, whichever is later.
Exception: The employment authorization period for the 24-month STEM OPT extension begins on the day after the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT employment authorization, and ends 24 months later, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved.
In two instances, it may be possible to extend the period of OPT.
- In the first case, you must hold a STEM degree (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math), be hired by an employer enrolled in the E-Verify government program, and will have to apply for the 24-month extension on Form I-765 with a fee. Students who file an application for the 24-month OPT extension in a timely manner will be able to continue employment while the extension application is pending, until a final decision on the I-765 or for 180 days, whichever comes first.
- In the second case, the extension of status and work authorization is automatic for students who have a filed and pending H-1B petition.
OPT may be used in "increments" during an annual vacation term before completion of studies, but after completion of studies it may only be used as a single block of time. Once you apply for OPT and complete your program of study, the OPT work eligibility is either used or it is not. There is no recapture of unused OPT time.
If you begin a new degree program at a higher level (e.g. Bachelor to Masters or Masters to Ph.D.), you may be eligible for an additional 12-month period of OPT.