“Students in a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree program who have completed all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent) are eligible to apply for OPT.” [CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(A)(3)]
A “course-complete” (only thesis, final project or dissertation remaining) student may apply for post-completion OPT while completing the thesis or equivalent/dissertation. A master’s student’s final project is equivalent to a thesis or dissertation.
Post-Completion OPT for course-complete students:
- May work full time.
- Must be registered for thesis, final project or dissertation and certified as a full-time student by the Graduate School for each semester or term until they graduate.
- Will be eligible for the cap-gap extension if approved for H-1B.
- May apply for the STEM extension if they are otherwise eligible.
- Will be subject to the unemployment provisions.
- Will be unable to receive an extension of their program end date if they do not graduate by the end date of their Post-Completion OPT.
Important note: If a course-complete student on post-completion OPT does NOT finish his or her degree during the 12 months of Post-completion OPT, he or she is NOT eligible for a program extension. This means the student would need to prepare to change status, change education level and/or transfer to a new U.S. school, or depart the country prior to the end of the 60-day OPT grace period.
Students who are applying for Post-completion OPT based on completing all coursework can apply up to 90 days before their requested OPT start date. ISSS will update your I-20 end date to the day before you want to start OPT. If your Post-completion OPT is not approved by the requested start date, you will not be able to work, including on campus, until you receive your EAD and are within the dates on the card. USCIS processing time for OPT may be 3-5 months. If you are currently working on campus or receiving funding from your department, you must discuss this with your employer to ensure they understand that you will not be able to work past your new I-20 end date unless your OPT has already been approved.
If you have questions about your situation e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org