University of Texas at El Paso
University of Texas at El Paso - Indian Students Association
Optional Practical Training    


Optional Practical Training (OPT) gives F-1 students an opportunity for work experience in the U.S. before and/or after completion of your degree. It is limited to a total of 12 months for each higher degree level in a field directly related to your course of study. Unlike Curricular Practical Training (CPT), OPT does not have to be included as a required internship or practicum listed in your course descriptions.



F-1 students are eligible for Optional Practical Training if you have maintained full-time student status for at least one academic year (2 semesters). Students are eligible for OPT:

  1. After completion of all course requirements
  2. Part-time during academic year
  3. Full-time after completion of program of study
  4. After completion of all course requirements
  5. Students must apply for OPT by your completion date. You can be authorized to work up to 60 days after completion of your program.


Call Office of International Programs at 915-747-5664 to sign up for an OPT session provided by the International Student Advisors (ISA). OPT sessions are scheduled every semester. The full details of the application process will be explained during the session. At the session you will receive all the necessary paperwork and make an appointment with an International Student Advisor in Office of International Programs to be recommended for OPT.


If you are completing your academic program, the earliest you can apply is 120 days prior to completion and the latest you can apply is the date of completion. The date you complete your studies may be different from your graduation date. After you apply for OPT, you will receive a Notice of Action in a few weeks, then the EAD card several months later. If you do not receive the EAD 90 days after the date on your Notice of Action, you can go to the USCIS office and apply for a card.


OPT for after graduation must be applied for before the end of finals—there is no longer a 60-day grace period after the end of the term. You cannot attend school while on OPT. The good news is that you may have a one-year period of OPT for each degree level, i.e., 12 months of OPT after a bachelor’s, again after a master’s and again after the doctorate. Unlike CPT, a job offer is not a requirement for applying for OPT.


If you plan to travel outside the United States while on OPT (after you have graduated from UTEP) please note the following:


  1. If your F-1 visa stamp in your passport has expired, DO NOT make any travel plans without first speaking to an international student advisor at OIP.
  2. Get a travel signature on the back of the I-20 from OIP.
  3. Make sure it is valid at least six months into the future.
  4. Take the card with you to show to the INS upon your return to the U.S. You will not be able to reenter the US without this card, so you should only plan to leave the US after you have received it.