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Choosing Your OPT Start Date Without A Job Offer 

 October 30, 2021

By  Chuky Ofoegbu

Calendar depicting OPT start date

One of the most frequently asked question F-1 international students have when applying for the post-completion OPT is "How should I choose my OPT start date when I do not have a job offer yet?".

In this article, you will learn the best strategy to follow when choosing your OPT start date based on your current job search situation. 

You can then use our FREE OPT Start Date Calculator tool, which makes the process of finding your best OPT start date super easy, as described in the video below.


As an F1 international student applying for post-completion OPT, it is highly recommend that you do so as early as 90 days before your program completion date.

OPT application window

It is best to apply for your post completion OPT early even if you do not have a job offer yet.

However, the challenge that comes with applying for the OPT is that you would have to make predictions about the future. These predictions come in the way of picking a start date that would appear on your OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. 

As shown in the image below, your start date can be anywhere from the day after your graduation to the 60th day after your graduation. 

selecting OPT start date

Your OPT start date must fall within the 60 day period after your program ends.

Once you submit your OPT application to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), you cannot change that OPT start date. 

Selecting Your OPT Start Date with A Job Offer

If you are fortunate to have accepted a job offer before your OPT application window opens, choosing your OPT start date may not be a big deal. You can simply choose any date that suits your needs within the 60 day period after your graduation date. 

If you follow the recommendation of applying for your OPT early, you very well could receive your approved OPT EAD card in a timely manner, such that your anticipated first day of working with your employer would be the OPT start date you chose. 

Selecting Your OPT Start Date with No Job Offer

If you are an F1 student who falls into this camp, you are not alone. For many F-1 international students (domestic students included), the job search hustle usually drags on to the end of the semester. 

But unlike your domestic classmates in this situation, you've got a very short period of time after graduation to decide if you want to stay back in the US to work or enroll in another educational program, or prepare to depart the US. 

For many F1 students in this situation the idea of choosing a future OPT start date when there is no current job offer on the table is a scary thought. 

They fear that they could begin accruing OPT unemployment days and would rather wait until they have a job offer before applying for the OPT. 

However, while waiting to get an offer of employment might seem like a good idea, it could be one of the biggest mistakes you could ever make as an F1 international student. 

This is because USCIS could take several months to adjudicate your OPT EAD application. 

And in the case that you receive an offer of employment for an immediate start date, your employer may not be willing to wait for you to get your EAD and could rescind your offer of employment..

A woman with her face in her palm

Waiting too long to apply for your OPT could cause your job offer to be taken away.

Therefore, if you are considering working on post-completion OPT, don't let your lack of a job offer deter you from applying for your OPT early.

For students at this stage of their job search, it is best to choose a start date anywhere between 30 – 45 days after completing your program.

The start date within this range should fall on a weekday since most businesses are closed on the weekends. 

Why Your Start Date Should be 30 - 45 Days After Your Graduation Day

There are two good reasons why you should choose a start date between 30 - 45 days after your graduation if you have no job offer yet.

Firstly, if you happen to receive a job offer shortly before graduation, an OPT start date within this sweet spot provides ample time to prepare for the new life ahead. 

Most employers understand that a fresh graduate would need sometime to prepare for relocation, and are willing to be flexible if your 1st day of work falls within this time period. Even though the job might require an immediate start after your date of graduation.

Secondly, if you still have not received any job offer(s) at the time of graduation, this sweet spot gives you the peace of mind to continue job searching without worrying about accruing OPT unemployment days just yet. 

Nevertheless, while you may be unable to predict when you get an offer of employment, obtaining a valid OPT EAD card can guarantee that whenever your job offer comes you would be able to start working. 

And that my friend is a much better gamble!

I truly hope you found this information helpful.

I wish you the very best of luck in your OPT/STEM OPT job search endeavors!

If you've got questions or feedback for me, follow me on LinkedIn @SojourningScho1 and let's chat!

DISCLAIMER: The content in this blog and on this website is presented as general information only and is NOT legal advice. I am not a licensed attorney, and so the information presented in this blog and anywhere else on this website should not be construed to be formal legal advice. If you need personalized legal advice, you may contact a licensed attorney. 

Chuky Ofoegbu


With almost a decade of experience pursuing higher education in the United States, I fully understand the pain points foreign students endure. I created this website to help foreign students successfully navigate their way through the challenges they will face while living in the United States.

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