Optional Practical Training
Applying for OPT
What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
Optional Practical Training is used by students to gain work experience in their field of study after completing a degree program. There are certain other situations in which OPT may be possible prior to the completion of a degree program.
How long can I do OPT?
Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regulations allow up to 12 months of OPT at each degree level for a student in F-1 status. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students are eligible for an extension of 24 months of OPT. For information about STEM OPT, visit our STEM OPT page.
When can I apply for OPT and How?
An application for post-completion OPT can be filed up to 90 days prior to the student's completion date and no later than 60 days after the student's program completion date.
How long does the OPT application process take?
It may take the government agency (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS) up to 90 days or more to process an OPT application. Your International Student Counselor may be able to provide a current estimate of processing times. However, processing times are unpredictable so it is always best to apply early! You cannot begin working until you have received your Employment Authorization Card (EAD) in the mail from the government agency and until the start date listed on the EAD card. The ISSS office is not responsible for the length of time required to process your OPT application.
Step 1: Learn about OPT (watch the OPT video by clicking on the black and white Optional Practical Training presentation button below)
Watch the Presentation!
Step 2: Apply for OPT
Once you have watched the linked OPT Presentation and are ready to apply for the OPT
When you come in for your OPT appointment, bring in all of the required documents for your OPT application so your counselor can review them for completeness and accuracy. This OPT Checklist has a list of everything you need. Included in this list are the following forms:
- Academic Adviser's Statement of Program Completion Form. The first thing you will need to do is to make an appointment with an academic adviser in your department to determine when your academic program will end. Your academic adviser will have to fill out and sign the Academic Adviser's Statement of Program Completion Form
- The I-765 form. Fill out what you can. If you are unsure of anything leave it blank and check with
your counselor when you come in (The USCIS I-765 instructions state that this form can not be signed electronically but must be signed in ink and by hand).
- You can also file the I-765 form online (recommended!). You will first need to create a USCIS online account and will need to work closely with your international student counselor. For instructions on how to complete the online application, after working with your international student counselor,follow this link to view our YouTube video
- The OPT Acknowledgment Form shows your understanding of the OPT regulations and your intent to follow them. It is not part of the OPT application.
- The G-1145 Form will allow USCIS to send you via email or text message your OPT receipt number (not required for the online application).
Your counselor will review your application materials and answer any questions you might have, and provide a handout regarding how to file your application.
Step 3: Wait for your EAD Card
NOTE: USCIS will send your EAD card to the address given on your I-765 form. It is critically important then that you keep USCIS informed of any address changes. You must do so at the USCIS website. Remember, you can't start working until you have your EAD card and until the start date on the EAD card.