Optional Practical Training (OPT)
What is OPT?
- OPT is a benefit of the F1 student visa that provides authorization for off-campus employment in a student’s field of study. The initial period of OPT approval is 12 months per degree level.
- STEM majors (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) are eligible for an additional 24-month OPT extension, effective May 10, 2016. For more information, please click here. The ISSS policy on OPT is on our policy page.
- Be in active F-1 status at the time of application with one full academic year (Fall + Spring) completed prior to application.
- Be in the final semester of your academic program.
- Have no holds on your student account and no balance owed to GSU
- Completion of an ISSS employment workshop within the last year.
- No previous OPT approval for the same or higher education level.
- The STEM-OPT 24-month extension has additional requirements. Please see below.
Applicants may apply for OPT up to 90 days before completion of studies or until 60 days afterwards. ISSS strongly recommends application three months prior to your requested start date to ensure timely processing. A job offer is not required to apply for OPT.
1. Attend an in-person employment workshop provided at ISSS. For dates, times and how to sign up, click here:
2. If you cannot attend in person, watch the online OPT online presentation below. If you have further questions, speak with your ISSS advisor. Note: this presentation is best viewed in Firefox or Chrome browsers and in full-screen. After viewing the slideshow, please access this webpage.
3. Prepare your application and visit ISSS during advising hours with the following items:
- Completed OPT e-form in iStart. (Look under "F1 Practical Training") Upon submission, a new I-20 will be generated.
- Completed USCIS Form I-765
- Signed Form I-765. Failure by the student to sign form I-765 is the #1 reason an application is returned or rejected.
- Two (2) passport-style photos not more than 30 days old. NOTE: PHOTOS MUST MEET U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE SPECIFICATIONS See http://travel.state.gov/ for details
- Personal check (recommended) or U.S. money order for $410 made out to Department of Homeland Security
- Photocopy of passport biographical information (showing passport expiration date & photo)
- Photocopy of F-1 Visa. *Note: As of Nov. 1, 2016 eye glasses will no longer be allowed in new visa photos. However if you have a current or expired visa in the US, you do not need to apply for a new visa to obtain OPT. For more information please see the US Dept. of State U.S. Visas page.
- Photocopy of Change of Status I-797 receipt if you changed status to F-1 inside the U.S. (if applicable)
- Photocopy of I-94-front and back (dark enough to show the red stamp on the front of it)
- Photocopy of Full Time CPT I-20s (if applicable)
- Photocopy of previous EAD cards (if applicable)
- Job offer letter (optional)
3. Your advisor will review your request and issue two new I-20s with the OPT recommendation (one for your personal record, and one to be signed and mailed with your application). ISSS will contact you when your new I-20s and application materials are ready for pick up.
4. Mail all application materials with new signed I-20 with OPT recommendation to USCIS. For mailing addresses see below.
Unsigned I-765 forms will be rejected by USCIS!
- Regular U.S. Postal Service Delivery: U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), P.O. Box 660867, Dallas, Texas 75266
- Express Mail Delivery with Tracking (e.g. Federal Express): U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), ATTN: AOS, 2501 S. State Highway 121 Business, Suite 400, Lewisville, Texas 75067
- Note: ISSS cannot access US Postal Services on campus during Federal Holidays or University Closings. If you expect delivery of your OPT card during an extended closing, such as the annual winter break, you may want to consider using your personal address at your own risk.
- OPT Receipt (Notice of Action): approximately 2 weeks. USCIS will mail a receipt called a "Notice of Action" once your application is received for processing.
- Application Status: 24/7. Available on the USCIS website with the SRC number indicated on the Notice of Action.
- OPT Approval: approximately 6-8 weeks for processing and delivery of your EAD card to ISSS. Students are emailed by ISSS the same day their EAD cards are received, except during weekends and holidays.
- I-20 with OPT Approval: 3-5 days. ISSS recommends requesting an updated form I-20 via iStart that indicates "OPT Approved" once you receive your EAD card.
- Delayed Processing: If more than 90 days have passed after the receipt date on your Notice of Action, contact your ISSS advisor. Please note that OPT applications CANNOT BE EXPEDITED. Students may not begin working without their official EAD Card.
Reporting OPT Employment
- Report all employment or changes to employment within 10 days per F1 regulations by logging into iStart. Complete the Employment Reporting e-form under the "F-1 Practical Training" tab.
- Automatic Termination of Record: after 90 days of no employment reported during the approved period of OPT or OPT STEM.
Effective February 2015, all students who are approved for OPT must read and sign My OPT Responsibilities Form before receiving their EAD (OPT) card in ISSS.
Can I travel outside of the U.S. while my OPT application is pending?
You are always free to leave the U.S.; however, ISSS strongly encourages you to not travel while your application is pending. Exiting the U.S. while your application is pending could result in USCIS denying your application. By exiting the U.S., USCIS may view your exit as an abandonment of your application. If an emergency situation occurs that may require you leaving the U.S while the application is pending, ISSS strongly encourages you to seek advice from your international student advisor. Please be aware that your application could be denied. However, cases have occurred where the student left the country while his/her OPT was pending and their OPT was approved.
Can I travel outside of the U.S. after my EAD Card has been issued?
Yes. If you travel outside the U.S. while on OPT, you will need the following: (1) Travel signature on page 3 of I-20 (2) EAD Card (3) Original employment letter showing you have valid employment (4) Valid Passport and (5) Valid Visa. If you try to re-enter the U.S. without proof of valid employment, you may be denied entrance by Customs and Border Patrol (CPB). ISSS also recommends you travel with original copies of your academic transcripts. Click here for more information regarding travel.