Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary work authorization that gives F-1 students an opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical off-campus work experience in the student’s field of study for a maximum duration of one year per educational level.
Students may use some or all of the available 12 months of practical training during their course of study or save the full twelve months to use after completion of program. Authorization for optional practical training is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and can take 90 days to obtain. It is important that students apply for the authorization at the earliest possible date through International Services.
In order to apply for OPT, F-1 students must be in full time student status for at least one full academic year in a degree seeking program preceding the submission of the OPT application. They must also be maintaining valid F-1 status at the time of the application and intend to work in a position directly related to their major field of study.
When Can I Apply for OPT?
Post-Completion - 90 days prior to completion of coursework or degree completion (graduation) OR up to 60 days after the degree completion date
How to Apply
The OPT application process consists of multiple E-Forms that are made available to you as your application progresses. When ready to begin, login to iStart and click on the “OPT Application” E-Form under “F-1 Practical Training - Apply”.
You will follow these general steps:
- OPT Quiz E-Form: After reviewing the OPT Guide and the OPT Presentation, take the quiz and score 100% to move on to the next E-Form. You may take the quiz more than once.
- OPT Application E-Form: Verify that your address and phone number are up to date in OASIS. If they are not, you need to update your information (see ADDRESS UPDATES). Then, list your level and degree(s) and select the type of OPT you are applying for. If this is for OPT after graduation you will select Post-Completion OPT.
- Academic Approval E-Form: To request confirmation of your eligibility for OPT, you will need to enter in
the contact information for your department as indicated in the E-Form. Please make
sure the information you enter is correct or they will not receive the request.
- While waiting for them to respond the following icon will appear next to this selection in iStart:
- Once your department submits their response this will change to the following icon indicating that the E-form is now pending review by our office:
- Please allow 3 business days for processing after your department has responded.
- OPT Packet Preparation E-Form: Prepare your application packet materials by uploading copies of your documents for verification. Please be sure to read all of the instructions and follow the Sample I-765 and Common Mistakes on the I-765. Make any needed corrections to your OPT Packet as per the email you will receive after your OPT Packet Preparation E-Form is approved. After submitting, allow 5 business days for processing.
- OPT Dates Request E-Form: to submit your desired OPT dates. Allow 3 business days for processing.
- Once you are instructed to do so, pick up your OPT Requested I-20 Packet which includes your new I-20 with the OPT Request on page 2, a cover letter, and instructions on what to do next. Sign this I-20 and make a copy of all three pages for your final packet.
- Use the Instructions to put together your final OPT Packet that you will mail to USCIS. There is a sample packet in the waiting room of our office to give you an idea of how your final packet should look. You can also view a sample OPT packet HERE. The final packet must be receive by USCIS within 30 days of the date the I-20 requesting your OPT was issued and it also must be received prior to the end of your grace period or your request will be denied. You should track your package to USCIS to make sure it arrives.
What to do after mailing the application to USCIS
- Once you mail your application it can take up to 4 weeks for USCIS to mail you a receipt notice. Upon receipt of the notice, review it for any errors and upload it in iStart to the “OPT Upload I-797” E-form.
- You need to allow up to 5 months for the EAD Card to arrive. This is what authorizes your OPT Employment. Upon receipt of the card, review for any errors and upload it in iStart to the “OPT Upload EAD Card” E-form. Once you mail your application it can take up to 4 weeks for USCIS to mail you a receipt notice. Upon receipt of the notice, review it for any errors and upload it in iStart to the “OPT Upload I-797” E-form.
- Keep your US address current in OASIS. Any address changes must be reported within 10 days of the change.
Employment Updates & SEVP Portal
- Report all employment updates in iStart. Any New, End, or Update to existing OPT employment must be reported in iStart within 10 days of the change by submitting the appropriate e-form under “F-1 Practical Training – Report”.
- The SEVP Portal is another way to report employment updates. You can see more information here about how to use it: Study in the States SEVP Portal Help. Please note there are limitations to what you can update especially regarding STEM OPT. We recommend you submit changes through iStart to be sure updates are complete.
- If you get locked out of your Portal you can request a reset in iStart through the Reset SEVIS Portal Account E-Form.