Post-Completion Optional Practical Training
Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment authorization that allows F-1 students to work off campus in a position directly related to their field of study AFTER completion of studies. OPT is an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the degree program to off-campus work in the major field. We strongly encourage all graduating students planning to use OPT to mail the application package to USCIS no later than March 1. The steps below outline the OPT application process.
Step 1: Review OPT Eligibility
- Full-time status for one full academic year
- Good academic standing
- No job offer letter required
- F-1 students are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT at each degree level
- All employment must be directly related to the major field of study
Step 2: Submit Certification of Student Eligibility Form
Complete the OPT Request Form and submit the form to the Office of Graduate Programs via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), walk-in hours, or appointment.
Our office will recommend OPT and issue a new Form I-20 to be included in the USCIS OPT application. See Step 3. (Processing Time: 3-5 business days).
Step 3: Complete Form I-765 & Submit OPT Application Materials to USCIS
- Form G-1145 (e-Notification of Application Acceptance)
- Filing Fee: Personal check, cashiers check or money order (see sample)
- Two passport-style photos (see sample) taken within 30 days
- Form I-765
- Copy of new Form I-20 (with OPT recommendation on page 3). Make sure you sign on page 1 (at number 11).
- Copies of all previous I-20s
- Copies of previous EADs (if any)
- Copy of passport biographic page
- Copy of I-94 card (front & back) or automated I-94
- Copy of F-1 Visa
- Submit OPT Application to USCIS (DO NOT use the online form)
Tips for Completing the I-765
- Type this form, then print and sign. Handwritten forms can result in errors on the EAD.
- Question 3: List the address where USCIS will send the receipt notice and EAD. Address should remain valid for at least three months after submission of the application. If you use a friend or relative's address, write "c/o [friend's name]" before you write the address.
- Question 11: If you have submitted this form to USCIS previously, you have applied. If you still have either the receipt or the approval notice from your initial application, the receipt number tells you where it was filed (SRC = Texas, EAC = Vermont, LIN = Nebraska, WAC = California). Dates are the employment dates listed on the EAD. If you were granted or denied, you must attach a copy of the EAD or denial.
- Question 16: Reason code is (c)(3)(B)
- Question 17: Leave blank
Step 4: What Happens Next?
Next Steps Brochure (Hard copy including with your OPT I-20)
While the Application is Pending
Application processing may take up to 90 days. You should receive a receipt notice at the address you listed on Form I-765 in approximately 4-6 weeks. You can use your receipt number to check your case status online.
You may not legally begin working during this time. We do not recommend traveling outside the U.S. after your program end date if you application is pending.
Once USCIS approves the OPT, you will receive an Employment Authorized Document (EAD) card. Please note that the approval notice will be mailed separately from the EAD card. You cannot begin work until you have received the EAD. The EAD will explicitly state the dates you are authorized to work. If you do not have a Social Security Number and will be working in a paid position, you will need to apply for one as soon as you reach the start date listed on the EAD.
Responsibilities during the OPT Period
You must report any of the following changes by filling out the Address Update or Employment/Unemployment forms here. Filling out these forms will notify our office so that we can update SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.
- Address where you live and address where you receive mail, if different. You must do this within 10 days of any change
- Employer name(s) and address(es)
- All periods of unemployment
- Admission into a new academic program
- Change in your non-immigrant status
- Departure from the U.S., if you leave without intent to complete your OPT period
Periods of Unemployment
During post-completion OPT, you are allowed to accrue up to 90 days of unemployment, including any time covered by the H-1B Cap-Gap. Volunteering and unpaid internships of 20 hours per week in positions directly related to your field of study do not count as periods of unemployment and should be reported as employment.