Optional Practical Training (OPT)
What is OPT?
- Optional Practical Training. OPT is off-campus employment authorization in a student’s field of study for an initial 12 months after completion of the academic program.
- Students in STEM majors (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) are also eligible for an additional 24-month OPT extension, effective May 10, 2016. The previous 17-month STEM extension remains in effect through May 9, 2016. For more information on the STEM Extension and application procedures, please click here. To review the complete ISSS OPT policy, please review our policy page.
- The student must be in valid F-1 status at the time of application and have been in full-time status for one academic year preceding the application.
- The student must be in the final semester of their academic program (unless applying for pre-completion OPT).
- The student must have no holds on their student record and no balance owed to the university
- The student must have attended an employment workshop within the last year.
- The student must not have been approved for OPT for the same or higher education level.
- Students in the STEM fields who wish to apply for the 17-month OPT extension have additional eligibility requirements. Please scroll down below to see more information on STEM extensions.
How 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 $380 made out to Department of Homeland Security
- Photocopy of passport biographical information (showing passport expiration date & photo)
- Photocopy of F-1 Visa
- 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.
Did you sign your form I-765? If not, it will be rejected.
- 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.
When to Apply
The earliest you can apply is 90 days before completion of studies and the latest you can apply is 60 days after completion of studies. ISSS strongly recommends you apply three months prior to your requested start date to ensure timely processing of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You do NOT have to have a job offer in order to apply for OPT.
Processing Times and Application Status
- Mail your signed I-20 with OPT endorsement request and other application materials to USCIS.
- Once received by USCIS, processing time is 3-4 months.
- You can check the status of your case online when ISSS receives the application receipt (Notice of Action) from USCIS approximately two weeks after applying. Use the SRC number located on the upper left hand side of the document to check your status online at the USCIS website.
- If more than 90 days past the RECEIPT date on your Notice of Action Form with no adjudication of your application by USCIS, consult an ISSS international student advisor. Please note that your OPT application CANNOT BE EXPEDITED. Students may not begin working without receiving the official EAD Card by mail.
Reporting Your OPT Employment
- Automatic Termination of Record: after 90 days if no employment is reported during a post-completion OPT or OPT STEM Extension.
- Report employment via iStart. Click “F-1 Practical Training”, then “OPT & OPT STEM Employment Reporting”.
- Report all employment or changes to employment within 10 days per F1 regulations.
- Students on approved STEM Extensions must submit an OPT Employment Report every 6 months.