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Can I get OPT for a Second Master’s (MS/ MBA) in USA, One year?

Some of you might be in a situation where you realized after a couple of years of work life that your first master’s (MS) in the US was not the right one in your desired field of interest and decide to do a second Master’s in the US. Some of you might even be passionate about quitting your current job and going back to an F1 visa to study for a second master’s.

It would be good if you got to know about the OPT(Optional Practical Training) rules related to doing a second master’s.  In this article, we will look at the OPT rules for second masters. For background, you may read Working on OPT vs CPT in US.

Do you get OPT for a second Master’s (MS/ MBA) in US ?

Short answer: NO (in most cases). Unless you have not used up all of your 12-month OPT after completing your first master’s degree. Even if you applied for 12-month OPT and got it approved by USCIS(irrespective of whether you used it to work or not) then you would not be eligible for another OPT for that level.

Let me explain with an example. Let’s say first you graduated with an MS in Computer Sciences and have worked on OPT for 12 months or applied for 12 months OPT and got it approved. After a couple of years, you decide to convert to an F1 visa and do an MS in Marketing or an MBA in Finance as a full-time student…Although your second master’s belongs to a different major, you will NOT get a year OPT period because you have used 12 months of OPT (or even applied for it and got it approved).

DHS rules state that “Twelve Months of Regular OPT is available for each Higher Level of Study” ( see the below screenshot from the DHS.gov website). You get 12 months OPT for one-degree level, even if in different fields or majors”. i.e. you get one 12-month OPT for a Bachelor’s, One for a Master’s, and one for a Ph.D. The number of degrees in different majors at one level does not matter. You only get one OPT for one level. Check DHS.gov website for more info.

Options for getting a second OPT ? 24 STEM OPT Extension?

USCIS says you can split your 12-month full-time OPT period between two master’s degrees. Even though it sounds like you can do it, it may be difficult for students to plan for their OPT of second masters down the lane after a few years…talk to your DSO( designated school official) or international advisor at your school for more info.

STEM Degree, Options to get STEM OPT

If your degree falls under the STEM Category and you have not used your 24-month STEM OPT extension for your first degree, either master’s or bachelor’s level, then you may be eligible to use that 24-month OPT extension. You will need to speak to DSO on this and get this clarified.

As per USCIS, you can use your 24-month extension, even if your current degree or new (second master’s) does not fall under the STEM category. See the below screenshot of the same. Read Official USCIS OPT STEM Extension FAQs .

Eligibility for STEM OPT for a previous STEM Degree
Eligibility for STEM OPT for a previous STEM Degree

Impact of NOT having OPT for second Masters

Not getting 12 months of regular OPT for a second master’s in the US puts you in a difficult spot with no time left for your job search or do an extended internship. You need to have an H1B sponsor right after graduation. Unfortunately, it can be one of the hurdles you would have to deal with when you take up a second master’s degree.

If you are considering a second master’s, I highly recommend you talk to your prospective school’s International student advisor or DSO and get advice before jumping in on it. If you do not follow the rules and engage in unauthorized OPT or CPT, you are violating student status, and it will have an impact when you apply for an H1B petition…

Also, you can discuss with a qualified attorney if you are unclear on any of these topics. Also, read the references below for more clarification.

What are your thoughts? Any OPT-related info about Second Masters?

You should read  Will I get CPT to work from Day One in Second Masters ?

Additional References :

Image credit :https://openclipart.org/detail/169684/graduation


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  1. Dear Kumar,
    I earned my first master’s (STEM) 2 years ago, applied for the OPT, was approved, and used that for 3 months before my new program (PhD at a different school, STEM) started. As you would know, OPT terminates when one starts a new degree. In this case, did I indeed only use 3 months and the other 8-9 months were saved, or did I use up my master’s level OPT? My group and the department in my current school ran out of money and I’m in a situation where I should graduate with a second master’s now. Will I be able to get the remaining OPT months by applying with the second master’s? Have you seen the actual cases being approved? Thank you very much for this article and your commitment.

    (additional information is that those 3 months that I worked on the initial OPT were at my second and current institution, working as a research employee before my first semester began. I didn’t do any “declaration of end of OPT” process if there’s any, but the OPT has just been automatically terminated by the new I-20)

    • Redbus,
      As replied in other article, once USCIS approved for 12 months, you technically have used it on paper. Not sure, if you can get that back. Talk to DSO again, if there is anything that can be done. Your best bet is to go for the 24 month STEM OPT.

  2. Hello Kumar, so I am planning to pursue a 2nd masters in math along with the PhD in physics. I had already used part of the 12 month OPT after my 1st masters (physics). I understand that I will only be eligible for OPT for my 2nd masters degree and not for the PhD if I happen to finish the PhD earlier. In that case, will I be eligible to be hired in jobs related to a physics PhD degree (e.g. physics postdoc and faculty position etc) if I am on OPT for the math MS degree?

  3. Hi Kumar
    I am planning to apply for another masters in Computer Science after 1 MS in Electrical Engineering before . I was on H1 and quit my job and left US . Now planning to return back US on again F1 for CS course . My question is what is the chance of getting F1 visa again as it’s same level of course ? Is it prefer to have MBA or Phd course to get F1 visa again ?

  4. Hi,
    I have a query. If I do a STEM-based MBA and get an OPT approved. And upon OPT completion if I am using the OPT extension as well. If I go-ahead for a PhD (STEM-based or non-STEM-based)after the OPT completion will I be eligible to get an OPT again and if it is STEM-based then an OPT extension again?

    Thank you!


  5. Hello there! I currently am on my H1-B … I would like to pursue another MS while working. I believe in that case I do not need a F1 visa. However, midway through my new MS degree if I wish to leave work and do a full-time MS, can I get a F1 or that can get tricky?

    Can I do the switchover while being in US ?

    • Mrinalini,
      Yes, you do not F1 to study. Well, that get’s tricky, the reason is you need to go to F1 status and Change of status can take time and you may be waiting a long time and need to maintain your H1B status….If you step out and go for stamping, you are also in tricky spot, because you are moving from dual intent visa to non-immigrant visa… So, it is tricky. If you have to switchover, faster is to get it outside of US, but has risks.

  6. Hello Sir,
    I am currently doing a BS in systems engineering. I would Like to Know can I do the job in an IT-related area as according to USCIS our OPT should directly relate to our major. My major is vast and uses in a variety of disciplines.
    How should I confirm?

    • Pradip,
      You should check with your DSO, they are the ones, who will recommend it. Also, if you are in doubt, check with an attorney as it will be critical for your future H1B as well.

  7. Hi everyone!

    I got my bachelor degree in Marketing last year and started OPT after. I worked only for like three months and realized that I don’t like it and want to do something else. So I canceled my opt and entered a one year graphic design certificate program. (They also were suggesting opt after). But I did not realize that I’m actually might not be eligible since it’s not higher level than bachelors. But since I did not use my full year opt cans I still try to apply for it? I will greatly appreciate if anyone knows about, because my advisement center wasn’t really helpful.

    • Inna,
      Yes, you could technically use the unused part of the OPT. You need to submit proof to the DSO and USCIS and get OPT for the unused part. You can call ICE SEVIS helpline or setup an appointment with USCIS as well.

  8. Hi, I am a graduate from Master’s degree in Law, while studies were still going on I have applied for OPT and received the OPT ID, but left US right after graduation and haven’t used a day from it. Now I am back to US and studying the degree which falls under STEM Category. Will I be eligible to receive second OPT in this case?

  9. So I finished my MBA(non STEM) and used the entire 1 year period of the OPT. Now if I do a second STEM masters am I eligible for getting the 24 month extension? Please help

    • You maybe eligible for it, if the degree falls under STEM. Your DSO would be the right person to advice…Check with DSO, where you plan to join.

      • USCIS website says:
        “To qualify for the 24-month extension, you must:

        Have been granted OPT and currently be in a valid period of OPT;”


        I am in the same boat and that boat seems to be sinking unless someone can point otherwise.

    • Diwash,

      I did some investigation about OPT when I had to come back for my Second Masters. From what I found out, be it any subject you choose, you can only use the OPT once at each level, meaning doesn’t matter how many Masters you do, you only get 1 chance and same applies to PhD too. So in your case, since MBA falls under Masters and now you are trying for another Masters in STEM, I am not sure if you can really get the 24 month extension. Anyway its better to check with your DSO to get clear information about it. I just wanted to share whatever little knowledge I have on this to see if it helps you.

  10. I completed my Masters in 2016 and started my job on OPT. I then got my OPT Extension for 2 years. I used only 6 months of the 2 years extension when my H1B was approved that left me with 1 and 1/2 years of unused OPT extension. I might be doing a second masters in the future and was wondering if i could use my remaining extension period for a OPT after the second masters.

  11. Hi,
    I have an MSc from the United Kingdom but now I am planning on pursuing a second masters from the United States. I am looking both normal courses as well as STEM. My question is, am I elegible to get 12 or 24 month OPT if I am doing a second masters? Keeping in mind I have never studied in the US or used OPT? Or if I have done a masters from the UK, will that be an issue in getting OPT after second masters? Please help. So confused!

    • You should be eligible for 12 month OPT for sure. If the degree you pursue is STEM and the CIP code qualifies, then you should be able to get 24 months. In general, the rule is that, if you have not used OPT in first masters, you can use it fully in second masters.

  12. I just graduated 1 month ago and I started working on OPT. And also my H1B got picked today. So I will work on my OPT for less than 6 months out of 36 month(12 + 24 STEM extension). I want to work on H1B for 1 year and I want to do my 2nd master’s after 1 year. Because i have used only 6 months out of my 36 month OPT, Can I use the remaining 30 months for my 2nd master’s??

    • Hello Chinnu,
      I am in almost similar situation as yours. Could you please help me with an update on your situation? what happened? and how you proceeded further?

  13. Hello,
    I completed my M.S degree in Spring 2016 and have been working ever since. I have also got my H1b approved. Working down the lane I have realized that I have chosen the wrong Masters degree and would like to go back to school again to pursue the M.S degree that I want to work on. The problem is I have used my 12 month OPT but my 24 month STEM extension was not processed since I got the approval for the H1b visa.
    My questions are:
    1. Can I use just this 24 month OPT on my second Master’s degree?

    2. Since I go from H1b to F1 visa, will have to go through H1b process all over again after graduation from my second Master’s program?

  14. Hi,
    I finished my Masters in Structural Engineering in May 2016. I applied for my OPT, but then returned to India due to family issues. Later my OPT got denied for wrong date on the check. Now I am willing apply for my second masters in Construction Management. Will I be able to use the full quota of 12 month OPT?
    Also as per the latest changes in the immigration rules, is there any change in the OPT period for STEM applicants?
    Please let me know ASAP, I am in a hurry to decide about it.
    Thanks in Advance

  15. Hi,
    I have done my OPT once after I finished my bachelor degree.
    Now I am getting an Associate degree with different major/field from my bachelor’s.
    My question is that am I able to apply for second OPT after getting an Associate degree?

    • Chris Walker,

      As associate degree is not a higher degree than bachelor’s you will not be eligible for OPT. In case you decide to pursue Masters, then you will be eligible for another OPT.

  16. Firstly, Thanks for your time and suggestions!

    Question: I did my MS in MHA and applied for my OPT last year and got it approved from USCIS. However, I left US as soon I received my OPT – I didn’t work on my OPT. Currently, I am planning to apply for MS in Epidemiology and I am wondering if I will be eligible for OPT for this degree?


    • In general, any unused time period that you have not used on OPT in your first masters can be used in second masters period. I suggest you check with the school that you plan to get the degree to double check.

    • Hello Kumar,
      Your situation is almost close to mine. Could you please help me with an update on your situation? What happened?

  17. Hi,
    I completed my first Masters and my OPT was denied. If I plan to do second Masters will I be eligible for OPT after my second Masters?

  18. Hi ,

    I came to the US and applied for an OPT for my bachelors 10 years ago. I worked 2 months and left to my country. I just completed another bachelors degree. Since it is in a different field and since I got that last OPT 10 years ago, am I eligible for another opt? Thanks

    • Jared,
      Well, I am not sure how it works if you have passed 10 years. I suggest you check with DSO. Technically, if you did not use full of the OPT, the remaining time can be captured in second bachelors degree OPT.

  19. Hi,

    I graduated in MS (Computer Science) from a University(A) which Lost accreditation , 6 months after My graduation.

    Currently I am on my first OPT (Completed 8months) and I am planing to join in another University(B) to do MS in CS again(Public University). I might get my new I-20 from University(B) in a month or so.

    Question: After completion of my 2nd Masters in University(B), Can I apply for OPT/STEP OPT with University(B) as I didn’t use my 12 months period in my first OPT ?

    If I can’t apply for OPT/OPT Extension, what are the other options do I have ?

    I really appreciate your response.


  20. Hello!

    I am in a tricky situation and could really use some help 🙂
    I finished my MS and applied for OPT. I am currently waiting on my EAD Card. I have also applied for a PhD and should hear back from universities by the end of next month. Ideally, I want to work three months, then after I get a new I -20, go home for a month and then come back in time for my PhD. In this case, how will my OPT status work and do you think, in general, this is a safe thing to do?
    I heard today from somebody that if I get a new I-20, I will be moved from OPT to student status, and therefore will not be allowed to work anyway (Then I can go back home! 😀 ) Is this true? Sorry for all the questions, please help! Thank you!

    • If you are either studying or working on OPT, you are on F1 status. I suggest you speak to DSO on the automatic conversion thing. Until the school starts, I do not think it should apply. Eithercase, I suggest you speak to DSO at the new school, where you plan to do PhD. Travel can always be tricky during OPT…

  21. Hi,
    I finished my master then applied for OPT and worked for only 3 months in summer. Afterwards, I went back for school for PhD and worked as OPT for 1 year and now in H1B.

    Now I plan to go back to school for a second MS in a different STEM field, can I apply for OPT to use the rest of 9 months from my master OPT?

    Thank you

  22. Hey i jus completed my masters in cs and applied for opt and got approved since 2 months and i am on opt now.
    Now i want to do second masters again from stem feild.
    Will my opt get cancelled automatic ally and can i use it after 2nd masters and subsequent ly obtain stem?

    • Ram,
      You will need to work with your DSO to update your F1 status from OPT to student in school. Whatever OPT period is left, you can use it for second masters, provided it satisfies all the requirements. You should check with DSO at the new school you plan to apply to avoid confusions.

  23. Can you get CPT during second Masters?

    I finished my first Masters in Electrical Engineering in December 2013. I had used CPT for internships (full time in summer, part time in last semester) during that first Masters. I was working on F1 OPT from January 2014 to September 2014. As my employer had filed for H1B in that year only and as I was successful in lottery, I changed to H1B status on 1st October, 2014. I am currently working on H1B visa.

    I am now thinking of going to school full time on F1 Visa for a second Masters in Computer Science, by changing status to F1 from H1B. During this second Masters, after completing two semesters, will I be able to get CPT to do a full time internship during the summer and/or a part time internship during the fall/spring semester? I know I won’t get OPT again at same degree level. But will I get CPT?

  24. Hi,
    I studied a MBA 6 years ago, and I applied for the OPT which was granted, but for family reasons I had to come back 1 month before the starting date of the OPT, therefore I did not use it, also I did not applied for the SSN! Now I am studying another in Master Engineering approved for the Stem extension program! Should I apply for the OPT again?
    Any suggestions!!!!

    • Enrique,
      Technically, you are eligible for OPT as you have not used any of the OPT period in your past degree. Speak to DSO at the school you are you currently studying to get confirmation.

  25. Hello, sir, i have question,
    I am pursuing my Bachelor of Science in Computer Science so after bachelors, I can apply for OPT . After finishing that OPT if I complete MSCS then I can get another OPT or not?

    • Hi
      I did an MBA and used a 12 month OPT afterwards. I am currently in a STEM MIS program. Would I be able to apply for an OPT or STEM extension?

      • Did you get to figure out if you are eligible for OPT extension after your second Masters degree? I am in the exact same situation, just finished my second Masters in a STEM field now. What are your finding? That be helpful. Let me know. Thanks

  26. Hi,
    I’ve received a master degree in 2011, and got 12 months opt. But after 3 months, I returned to my home country, and find a job there. Now i want to apply another master program in the US, can i have an opt when i graduated?
    Thank you!

    • Lixue,
      You may not be eligible for claiming back 9 months of OPT as you have consumed only 3 of your total eligible 12 months. I suggest you check and clarify with the DSO, when you apply to the program on this.

  27. If I go for a second Master’s directly after the first Master’s and if I do NOT apply for OPT after the first Master’s, will I get OPT after my second Master’s??

    For example, my first Master’s will end in December 2016 and my second Master’s will begin in January 2017, and I did not apply for OPT during/after my first Master’s. So, in that case, when I finish my second Master’s around May 2018, will I be eligible for OPT? Some of my friends tell me that because I did not apply for OPT after my First Master’s, I might not be able to apply for OPT again. Is that true?

    Please help me, Sir.

    • Koushik,
      Technically, you should be eligible for OPT. I suggest you speak to the DSO of both the schools, where you are planning to apply and your current school. Dont listen to friends or even me. DSO is your best advisor.

  28. Hi!,
    I finished my MS in Engineering and used six months out of my approved twelve months OPT . Eleven years later I am doing part time MBA. Half way through my MBA, I converted to full-time (with an I20) starting winter semester with one year of course work (Three quarters) left. I have two questions.
    1.) Will I be able to recapture the six months of unused OPT from first masters at the end or in middle (Summer) of the of my MBA.
    2.) Can I use a CPT for internship in summer, given that I was one year partime student and only six months into the program fulltime?
    Thanks in advance for your answer.

    • Yogesh,
      1. You may be able to capture 6 months…but, I am not sure. I suggest you check with the DSO as they will be best person to confirm that.
      2. This is tricky as well, it varies by school. Typically good schools require that you are in program for couple of semesters before doing CPT…but, there are always exceptions based on school. I suggest you check with DSO as well on this as rules vary by school.

  29. Hi,

    I finished my first masters then got OPT and finished then applied to extensions used only 3 months of extensions, then went back for a PhD now I want to not continue my PhD and switch back to a second masters, do you think I get OPT at all.


    • Well, Usually OPT for one level of degree and it can vary. I am not sure, if you can use the OPT extensions in second masters…technically OPT is for your area of expertise…if your second masters is in the same area, you may be eligible..again, I am not sure. I suggest you check with the DSO of the school, where you are planning your second masters to get confirmation.

    • Ninad,
      It depends on the reasons for denial and hard to tell. The general idea is that, if you have not used OPT, then you can leverage in second masters.

      • I am a bit confused because many people say that i wont be able to avail my opt for second masters and many say i will be able to avail my opt after second masters because i couldnt use the opt the first time…..also, how does it work with cpt?

          • what if i transfer to another university for second masters and i didnt use my opt in the first masters? will i be eligible for opt after the completion of second masters in another university?

          • You might get it! It happened the same for me. I studied a MBA, applied for OPT and got the card, but left the country before the starting date with applying the SNN! I graduate from another master in engineering with Stem option and I got the OPT approved again.

            Best luck

  30. What if I don’t apply for the OPT for my first masters and jump straight into my second masters the next semester, will I be able to apply for the OPT after that?
    Also, as both fields will be in STEM list, will I be eligible for the extension?

    • Ankita,
      If you have not used any OPT in your first masters, you can use the unused OPT period in your second masters. Regarding extension, please check with the DSO.

    • Hi Leandro Avila,

      I am in the same situation, do you remember what did you wrote in the application about previously received OPT? I mean there is a question specifically stating that you need to check if you had received OPT previously.

      Thank you!

  31. Hello There,
    i have question if i complete my first masters in business administration and if i take OPT for one year and than after completed my OPT and than i start MS still am i Eligible for OPT for MS?
    can you please explain to me i am confused.

  32. Hello,

    I have a small question regarding second masters. Do we have to have a H1B sponsor of H1B visa right after the second masters?

    • Bhargav,
      It totally depends on your OPT situation. If you have OPT valid, you do not need it until your OPT expires, but you will need H1B visa after that to work

  33. hey , i am pursuing the masters degree from M.E in India then i want to pursue the another master degree from abroad like in us or australia so will it be possible to go for the second masters after getting the masters degree from hometown state


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