Several years ago, I obtained a master’s degree in electrical engineering in the U.S. and worked on optional practical training (OPT) for one year based on that degree. I left the U.S. after completing my OPT and came back …

… after one year to obtain another master’s degree in computer science. My classmate told me that I could apply for another 12-month period of OPT because my absence from the U.S. for five months or more between the two programs has restarted the clock for eligibility for F-1 benefits, such as OPT. Can I apply for another 12-month OPT upon completion of my second master’s based on this advice?


It appears that your classmate may have conflated two separate rules, one that “restarts the clock” for F-1 benefits after an absence from the U.S. of 5 months or more (when the student can no longer reenter the U.S. to resume her/his study and has to come back as an initial student); and the other rule allowing for only one 12-month OPT period at the same educational level.

In the past, the USCIS has indicated that it viewed the one-OPT-per-educational-level rule as absolute, and there is currently no indication that this position has been reversed. Therefore, it is likely that USCIS will not approve a second 12-month OPT period following the same educational level even if you left the U.S. for a period of five months or more between your programs. (24.Jun.2016)

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