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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment option available to F-1 students when the employment is directly related to the major area of study. To be eligible for OPT, you must have maintained legal F-1 status for at least 9 consecutive months or one full academic year. You must not have used full-time CPT for 12 months or more from any previous school. You may apply within 90 days prior to your program end date. It's very beneficial to attend any OPT workshops that Carson- Newman offers to gain a better understanding of the guidelines of OPT.

There are 2 types of OPT: Pre-completion and Post-completion.

  1. Pre-completion OPT can be used before your program completion date (while you're still enrolled).
  2. Post-completion OPT is used after your program completion date (after you graduate).

Both types of OPT will be deducted from the same 12-month OPT time limit.


  • Job offer is not necessary to apply and will not expedite the OPT process

  • Employment on OPT must be directly related to your major area of study and commensurate with your educational level

  • Total OPT time per degree level is 12 months; the 12-month allotment per degree level may be divided into various segments---

    (An undergraduate student who completes 3 months OPT during one summer is eligible for 9 months remaining after program ends. If the same student then begins a Master's level degree in the U.S., he/she is eligible for a new 12 months of OPT. Any leftover (unused) OPT time from the previous degree level does not carry over to the new degree level. OPT time is not cumulative.)

  • Part-time OPT is authorized for up to 20 hours per week; Part-time OPT is deducted from the 12-month limit at 50%

  • OPT may be used full-time only during official annual summer vacation or after all course work is completed for degree

  • Pre-Completiong OPT may be used while school is in session, prior to course completion, provided that it does not exceed 20 hours per week

  • Post-Completion OPT (after program completion) is granted for full-time use only

  • OPT start date must fall within 60 days of program completion (this is not necessarily the same date as graduation day)

  • On full-time OPT, you may enroll in classes that are “incidental” to the employment; Do not begin a new degree program on OPT


Documents needed to apply for OPT:

  1. Carson-Newman OPT application- your academic advisor will need to complete the bottom section
  2. Form I-765- Application for Employment Authorization
  3. Check for $410 made out to Department of Homeland Security to accompany I-765
  4. Copy of current and all previous I-20's
  5. Copy of I-94
  6. Copy of visa stamp
  7. Two identical passport style photos (name printed lightly on back in pencil)
  8. Copy of ID pages in passport
  9. Copy of any previous EADs you have had
  10. New I-20 with DSO OPT recommendation

**Please first notify your DSO that you are beginning the OPT application process to make sure that you have met all of the qualifications.**


Your DSO facilitates the OPT application process, but final authorization is processed by Immigration. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the application is submitted at least two weeks in advance of the program completion date. While you are on OPT you are still considered an F-1 Carson-Newman Student, and therefore must continue to report to your DSO to maintain your status.


This school is authorized under Federal law to enroll nonimmigrant students.


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