Optional Practical Training (OPT) provides F-1 students with an opportunity for hands-on work experience (work authorization) related to the academic field of study.
You are eligible to apply if you meet the following criteria:
- You are currently in active F-1 status.
- You have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year in the U.S. or will complete one academic year by the date the OPT approval begins.
- You have not exceeded 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization. (Part-time CPT does not affect OPT eligibility.)
- You do not need a job offer first; you can apply for the 12-month OPT authorization without a job offer.
- You have not previously completed 12 months of OPT at the same degree level.
- You are eligible for 12 months of full-time OPT per academic level. For example, you may apply for 12 months of OPT after completing a bachelor's degree and then another 12 months after completing a master's degree. Extensions may be granted to students in STEM fields. See the “STEM OPT Resources” link for more information.
- You may apply for OPT authorization during your academic program, after your program completion, or a combination of both.
When to Apply
Apply early! Do not wait for a job offer. You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. Allow three months for processing by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You cannot work until you receive OPT approval.
You may submit your application to USCIS as early as 90 days before your program end date and up to 60 days after your program end date. (Your program end date is the last day of your final semester, including final exams week, according to the academic calendar.) Please note that your OPT application must arrive at the USCIS Service Center within 30 days of the OPT I-20 issue date, or the request will be denied.
We strongly encourage you to apply for OPT three months prior to your program end date. Though USCIS will accept your application up to 60 days after your program end date, you cannot begin work until the application is approved. A delayed application may result in delayed work authorization and/or loss of full OPT eligibility (12 months) due to the three-month processing time by USCIS. Your OPT start date can be set for no longer than 60 days after your program end date. Therefore, if you wait until 60 days after your program end date to apply, you could potentially lose 3 months of OPT due to the USCIS processing time, and the USCIS will not adjust your start date.
How to Apply
Submitting Your OPT Application Online
On 4/12/2021, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) can now file their form I-765 online if filling under the pre-completion, post-completion, and the STEM extension categories. We HIGHLY recommend you apply online and not via paper application. A paper application slows the process down and leaves more room for error.
Note that you should proceed with the online application process very carefully. The system allows you to submit your application without all required evidence, which can lead to requests for evidence and additional difficulties. This means you must be very careful to ensure that everything is included before submitting the online application. The general suggestions below are not intended to be legal advice. They are simply general suggestions for how you might proceed when completing the online I-765 application.
Recommended Steps for Completing the I-765 Application Online
- Create your online USCIS account
- Gather the following documents:
- Digital 2x2 color passport photo that meets USCIS specifications
- A scan of your passport photograph page
- A scan of the front and back of any previous EAD cards (if applicable)
- A scan of any previous I-20s with CPT or OPT information (if available)
- A digital copy of your I-20 with an OPT recommendation:
- Must be issued within the last 30 days for post-completion OPT and within the last 60 days for STEM extension OPT.
- Request the "OPT Requested I-20" by completing the form.
- The I-20 must be signed by an ISS advisor and by you. You can use a digital or handwritten signature.
- Your most recent form I-94 (Select: “Get Most Recent Form I-94")
- A credit card with which you can pay the filing fee
- File the I-765, Application for Employment Authorization form online
Post-completion OPT, Category C3B
- Basis of eligibility
- Select C3B
- Reason for applying
- Select "Initial permission to accept employment"
- Have you previously filed Form I-765?
- Check No if you have not previously applied for work authorization with an I-765
- Check Yes if you have previously filed an I-765 (provide evidence)
- Is someone assisting you with completing this application?
- Check No
- Your Name
- What is your current legal name?
- Have you used any other names since birth?
- Your contact information
- How may we contact you?
- Daytime telephone number
- Email address
- What is your current U.S. mailing address?
- Is your current mailing address the same as your physical address?
- Describe yourself
- What is your gender?
- What is your marital status?
- When and where you were born
- What is your city, town or village of birth?
- What is your state or province of birth?
- What is your country of birth?
- What is your date of birth?
- Your immigration information
- What is your country of citizenship or nationality?
- What is your Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record Number?
- When did you last arrive in the United States?
- Date of Arrival
- Place of arrival (airport)
- Status at last arrival
- Select F-1 unless you changed your status after your most recent arrival
- What is the passport number of your most recently issued passport?
- What is your travel document number (if any)? likely leave this section blank
- What is the expiration date of your passport or travel document?
- What country issued your passport or travel document?
- What is your current immigration status or category?
- Select F-1
- What is your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Number?
- Take a look at the top left of your most recent I-20. Your SEVIS ID is listed there.
- Other Information
- What is your A-number?
- Check “I do not have or know my A-Number.”
- What is your USCIS Online Account Number?
- Check “I do not have or know my USCIS Online Account Number.”
- Has the Social Security Administration (SSA) ever officially issued a Social Security Card to you?
- Do you want the SSA to issue you a Social Security card?
- If you do not have a social security number or do not have your card, you should check “yes.” You will need to complete the required information so that the SSA can issue you a social security card.
- What is your A-number?
- How may we contact you?
- 2x2 photo
- Form I-94 (Select: “Get Most Recent Form I-94")
- Previous Employment Authorization Document if applicable.
- If you do not have a former EAD, you should upload a copy of the photo page of your passport here.
- I-20s with former CPT or OPT details, if applicable. You should include previous degree level CPT and OPT here if available. If you do not have these document available, see “Additional Information” below.
- Form I-20
- This is the I-20 you will receive from Dr. Brooke after submitting your OPT I-20 Request Form. DO NOT upload a previous I-20 without an OPT recommendation from the last 30 days on page 2.
- If you have previously authorized CPT or OPT and do not have former I-20s with these details, you should do the following:
- Section: Evidence
- Page: Post-completion CPT or OPT
- Question: Post-completion CPT or OPT
- Additional Information:
- Type of previously authorized practical training (CPT, OPT, etc.)
- Dates of previously authorized practical training
- Application status (approved, denied, or withdrawn)
- Degree Level (bachelors, masters, PhD, etc.)
- Receipt or Card Number if known
Review and Submit
- Review your application
- Read and agree to the “applicant’s statement”
- Digitally sign
- Pay the application fee
- Submit your OPT application
OPT: Work, Travel and More
In order to work or travel under the OPT program as an international student, there are certain reporting requirements for work authorization and training purposes.
H-1B Cap Gap Extension
H-1B is a work visa that is sponsored by an employer. Students commonly transition from Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization, part of F-1 status, to H-1B status. There are a limited number of H-1Bs available each fiscal year, for most employers, and this limit is often called the "H-1B cap."