F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

All post-completion F-1 students eligible for optional practical training (OPT) are encouraged to use OPT to begin their appointment at Princeton. Post-completion OPT is granted for up to 12 months.  New Princeton scholars should apply for OPT through their F-1 visa school sponsor.  Learn more about F-1 OPT employment at Princeton through the navigation below.

1. COMMON APPOINTMENTS

Common appointments for OPT status include: Assistant Professor, Instructor, Lecturer, Associate Research Scholar, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Visiting Postdoctoral Research Associate, and Associate Professional Specialist.

2. TIME LIMITS AND ELIGIBILITY

OPT is commonly limited to a 12 month period.  F-1 students whose degrees are in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields are eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT if they work for an E-verify employer. E-verify is a U.S. government program that allows employers to verify the social security number and employment authorization status of employees through government databases.

Princeton is a limited E-verify employer and is rarely allowed to employ students using the STEM extension of OPT. Princeton has a few government contracts that require E-verify and individuals employed on those contracts are eligible for the STEM extension.

3. MAINTAINING STATUS

It is important that you are aware of your responsibilities in maintaining your legal visa status during your stay in the U.S.  Failure to maintain your visa status could result in accrual of unlawful presence time and severe sanctions, including a loss of your legal status in the U.S.

Appointees in F-1 status authorized for Optional Practical Training (OPT) remain under the F-1 sponsorship of the school that they attended. For immigration advice, they should consult the international office at their university. If you are a Princeton alumnae on OPT, see our student OPT page for more information.  
In general, those authorized for OPT are required to report to their university:

  • Home address
  • Employer’s name
  • Employer’s address 
4. PROCESSING THE VISA

Application is made through the school the individual is attending to the USCIS. Processing time can be up to 90 days, and in rare cases, over 90 days. Because the application can be made before an offer of employment is secured, OPT makes good use of the time between when an offer of employment is made, degree completion and appointment approval.

5. TRAVEL WHILE ON OPT

Travel while on OPT requires that the I-20 be endorsed for travel authorization. Contact the international office at your school to confirm any requirements and obtain a signature for travel.  You should also carry documentation of your employment. A letter of employment may be obtained from the Office of the Dean of the Faculty or Human Resources.