Off-Campus Employment (Internships)
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.
How to Apply for OPT:
USCIS now offers two different filing methods:
- Online at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765 or
- Mail to USCIS Service Center (address will be provided with OPT Requested I-20)
You must file using only one of these methods (not both)
Most of our student now file online with great success!
Regardless of filing method, do NOT file with USCIS until you have obtained the OPT Requested I-20 from the Office of International Services.
How Do I Request an I-20 for my OPT Application?
- Review OPT Presentation
- Submit the Request I-20 for OPT Application E-Form at https://iStart.usf.edu
Common Questions When Filling Out the Online Application
The online application will require you to upload a copy of a Government ID. In many cases this is the passport, but if you have had an EAD card in the past, they will ask for that instead.
If you have had an EAD card in the past, the A Number will be the USCIS# found on the front of that card. Many students applying for Post-Completion OPT will not have an A Number and so can leave that blank.
This does not apply to you if you have a passport so you may leave it blank.
- Try using a different browser (Safari is not compatible with the online application)
- No Selfies
- Do not wear a white shirt for the photo
Starting April 3, 2023, USCIS is accepting premium processing applications/requests with the filling of the Form I-765 for the OPT employment authorization application. Premium processing Form I-907 is filed at the same time you file form I-765 and the additional fee is $1,500. The premium processing timeframe is 30 calendar days after USCIS receives all necessary documentation. USCIS accepts both online and paper filings of Form I-907.
More information is available at this link: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/all-forms/how-do-i-request-premium-processing
Please note that the 30-day window starts when you properly file the Form I-907 and pay the premium processing fee.
* To request premium processing on a pending OPT application that you have previously filed online:
- Go to USCIS My Account
- Choose “File a Form Online”
- Choose “I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service” in the drop-down menu under “Select the form you want to file online.”
- Click “Start Form”
- Your pending OPT case should display under “Add Premium Processing to a Case.”
Online Filling Tips
- Help with Online Form I-765 can be found: https://redbus2us.com/i765-form-online-for-opt-stem-opt/
- You will see a final summary of all your entered information before you complete your online OPT application. CAREFULLY REVIEW that summary before paying and finalizing your application. Once finalized, answers cannot be changed.
What Happens AFTER I File My OPT Application with USCIS?
Receive Receipt Notice from USCIS (upload to iStart)
- If you filed Online: You will have access to your receipt notice immediately through your online account
- If you filed by Mail: You should receive your receipt notice by mail within 2-4 weeks
Track the progress of your OPT on USCIS website
- https://www.uscis.gov - click on Check your Case Status
Receive EAD card from by mail from USCIS (Upload to iStart)
Employment Reportings & SEVP Portal
REPORT ALL EMPLOYMENT CHANGES IN iStart under F-1 Practical Training – Report within 10 days of the change.
- New Job: Submit Report New OPT Employment E-Form
- Job Termination/Resignation: Submit Report End of Employment E-Form
- Job Updates such as change of supervisor, work address: Report Update to Existing OPT Employer E-Form
The SEVP Portal is good way to review your OPT employment information. You can see more information here about how to use it: Study in the States SEVP Portal Help. We strongly recommend you submit changes through iStart to ensure proper reporting of your employment.
If you get locked out of your Portal you can request a reset in iStart through the Reset SEVIS Portal Account E-Form.