OPT Status for GSAS Students

F-1 Status

International students in F-1 status who successfully defend dissertations in the fall and who will not be registered for the spring term are considered to have completed their program at the end of the fall term, even if they have not yet deposited their dissertations. These students are eligible to apply for "Post-Completion Optional Practical Training" (OPT), which is a benefit and extension of F-1 status, and allows up to 12 months of employment authorization in their field of study. Students do not need a job offer to apply; however, they are allowed only an aggregate of 90 days unemployed during the authorized period of time.  

Go to the ISSO website for comprehensive and detailed information on the two-step OPT application process:

  1. The online application to the ISSO for an I-20 with an OPT recommendation. The application can be submitted no earlier than 90 days before the program end date and you are advised to apply as earlier as possible.
  2. The online application to USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) for OPT authorization which must include the OPT I-20. USCIS must receive the application within 30 days of ISSO issuing the I-20 with OPT recommendation, and absolutely no later than 60 days following the I-20 program end date.It may take up to three months or more for USCIS to process an OPT application. OPT authorization is granted for a maximum of 12 months, depending on the recipient's educational level and whether any Pre-Completion OPT was authorized during the current  program.

ISSO is the University contact for OPT information. If you have additional questions after reviewing the Post-Completion OPT webpage, email isso [at] columbia.edu ().

J-1 Status

International students in J-1 status are eligible for up to 36 months of "Academic Training" after completing a doctorate, but not more than 18 months at a time. Students in J-1 status must have an offer of employment in order to receive this benefit and have their J-1 status extended, although the offer of employment can be temporary and subsequently extended with another offer (or offers). The ISSO, not USCIS, authorizes Academic Training.