Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a work authorization available to F-1 visa holders who complete their program* and have been enrolled for at least one academic year.  Length of OPT authorization is up to 12 months with an optional extension for STEM majors.  Students interested in OPT should attend the OPT Workshop provided by ISS and schedule a follow-up meeting with ISS staff in order to understand the application process and requirements. Students are reminded that filing wait times for OPT are quite long (approximately 90 days) and it is highly recommended to mail the application at least 90 days in advance of your intended employment start date.  Remember do not work without authorization!

*Pre-completion OPT is also available, but is not generally used by Lawrence students.


Students who have graduated from Lawrence with a qualifying STEM major, may be eligible for a 24-month OPT STEM extension.  Contact International Student Services (ISS) if you are currently authorized for OPT with a qualifying major and are interested in requesting a STEM extension.

Application window: Before the expiration of the student's active post-completion OPT (listed on EAD card), but no sooner than 90 days before that date and within 60 days of receiving newly issued I-20 with STEM Extension by ISS.  Early filing is encouraged due to long processing times.

Necessary materials: Contact ISS for advising and copies of the most up-to-date OPT STEM Extension materials.


Items of Note

  • The current regulations state that it may be possible to apply for a STEM extension based on a previous degree (i.e. your Lawrence degree) even after the completion of a different degree at another school (i.e. a master’s degree in a STEM OR non-STEM field).
  • The current regulations state that students may have up to two STEM extensions in their lifetime.
  • It typically takes 90 days or more to process application, so early filing is encouraged.