So, do you want to know the difference between CPT, OPT and STEM OPT?
Let’s start with the acronyms, OPT and STEM first, Ok?
- CPT – Curricular Practical Training
- OPT – Optional Practical Training
- STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
- EAD – Employment Authorization Document (it looks like more a credit card)
OPT and STEM OPT is available for International Students studying in the USA on F-1 Student Visa.
OPT vs STEM OPT
|1||Duration||12 Months||24 Months|
|2||Employment||The job must be related to your Degree and major||The job must be related to your Degree and major in STEM field.|
|3||E-Verify||Employer does not have to be E-Verified.||Employer MUST be E-Verified.|
|4||Unpaid Work||Both paid employment or unpaid training are allowed||Requires paid employment as listed on the I-983 Training Plan|
|5||I-983||Doesn't require the I-983 Training Plan||I-983 Training Plan is required to apply for STEM OPT|
|6||Multiple Jobs||Multiple jobs are allowed and each job must be endorsed on your I-20.||Multiple jobs with multiple employers is allowed. Each employer, must submit new I-983 Training Plan to the ISSO and obtain an updated STEM OPT authorization on your I-20|
|7||Change Jobs||You can switch jobs with ease. OPT is not employer-specific or job-specific.||You can switch jobs. For each new employer or change in job duties, you must submit a new I-983 Training Plan to your DSO and get an updated STEM OPT authorization.|
|8||Hours of Work||To maintain the status on OPT, total work hours from all the jobs should be more than 20 hours per week.||To maintain the status on STEM OPT, total work hours from all the jobs should be more than 20 hours per week.|
|9||Unemployment Days||Maximum of 90 days of unemployment for the 12 months of OPT.||A maximum of 150 days of unemployment over the 36 months of OPT and STEM OPT.|
|10||Types of Employment||Following types of employment are allowed: Self-employment, Consulting, employment through consultancy, short-term employment, gigs.||Employment during STEM OPT requires a bona fide employer/ employee relationship, with training by the employer, not the client. Consulting is allowed. Self-Employment is not allowed. |
That’s the main set of differences between OPT vs STEM OPT. Did I miss anything? Please let me know in the comments section.
CPT vs OPT vs STEM OPT
CPT is a different beast altogether. And there’s no commonality with OPT or STEM OPT to be included in the above table. So, including some of the key points in a separate section.
- CPT is typically used for doing an Internship while in School
- For instance, some courses require CPT as part of the Curriculum.
- It can be Full Time or Part-Time
- Schools set their own rules when it comes to approving CPT
PS: I typically don’t recommend a university, if they have a policy to not allow CPT during the Fall or Spring Semester or Full-Time CPT.
Key Dates to Remember for OPT and STEM OPT
The Study in States site has a really useful tool for OPT Dates.
Please pay close attention to the Key OPT and STEM OPT application dates.
I have a quick question and it is an emergency. Today is the last day for USCIS to receive my initial 12 months OPT package. I have mailed them my the OPT package today. Today will be the 60th day. Will my opt application gets rejected?
I can’t think of any reason why someone could mail the Initial 12 Months OPT on the 60th day of their Grace Period.