Optional Practical Training (OPT)
What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is off-campus employment authorization in a student’s field of study for twelve months after completion of the academic program. Students in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) majors may also be eligible for an additional 17-month extension for OPT. For more information on the 17-month 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. Complete the OPT online workshop. If you have further questions after completing a workshop we recommend you speak with your ISSS advisor. **Please note: this presentation is best viewed in Firefox or Chrome browsers. Please view in full-screen.** After viewing the slideshow, please access this webpage.
2. Come to ISSS during advising hours and bring the following documents with you:
- Complete the OPT e-form in iStart. (Look under “F1 Practical Training”) Upon submission, a new I-20 will be generated.
- Original Completed USCIS Form I-765
- Two (2) passport-style photos. 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. Advisor will review your request and issue you two new I-20s with the OPT recommendation (one for your personal record, 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 or pick up a mailing instructions checklist from ISSS.
Mailing Addreses for USCIS
Regular U.S. Postal Delivery:
U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), P.O. Box 660867, Dallas, Texas 75266
Express Mail Delivery (e.g. Federal Express, USPS, DHS):
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), ATTN: AOS, 2501 S. State Highway 121 Business, Suite 400, Lewisville, Texas 75067
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 Checking the Status of an Application
After ISSS issues your new I-20s, you will mail your signed, new I-20 with your OPT application materials to USCIS. USCIS may take on average two to three months to process Form I-765 for OPT. You can check the status of your case once USCIS sends your application receipt (Notice of Action) to the ISSS office (approximately two to three weeks after mailing your application). You can use the SRC number located on the upper left hand side of the document to check your status online at the USCIS website.
If it has been more than 90 days past the RECEIPT date on your Notice of Action Form and USCIS has still not adjudicated your application, you should 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.
After securing employment, you are required to report your employment information to ISSS by submitting an OPT Employer Report. You must complete all required fields in the OPT Employment Report. Additionally, you must report any changes in employment within 10 days of the change by submitting a new OPT Employment Report. Students on the 17-Month STEM Extension also required to submit an OPT Employment Report every six months. If you have exceeded your unemployment limit while on OPT, please contact an ISSS advisor.