OPT Application at a Glance
Step 2: Consider Your OPT Start Date and Filing Timeline
Your Post-OPT start date must fall within the 60-day window following your program completion date. Please review How to Choose Your Post-OPT Dates to determine when you should request your OPT to begin, a determination you must make when applying for an OPT I-20 from the ISSO and before your send your application to USCIS.
Because OPT applications can take several months to process once submitted to USCIS, it is recommended you apply for OPT as early as you are eligible to, 90-days prior to your program completion. You can, however, file as late as 60-days after your program completion, though this is not recommended. Please review our Filing Timeline webpage for more information.
Step 3: Apply for an OPT I-20 from the ISSO
You must complete and submit the ISSO OPT eForm to:
- Confirm your program completion date;
- Confirm your requested OPT start date; and
- Arrange for your academic advisor to confirm the aforementioned program completion date.
The eForm will also require you to submit the relevant information and documentation for a ISSO advisor to issue you a new I-20 recommending OPT for your requested dates. Please review our OPT eForm instructions before submitting the eForm.
Step 4: Access your OPT I-20 and Prepare for Filing with USCIS
Once the ISSO advisor has approved your OPT eForm, you will receive instructions on how to access your new OPT I-20. Please review the I-20 to ensure accuracy before signing the document on page 1 in black ink.
You will need to collect all relevant documents to include in your eventual submission to USCIS.
Warning: Please be aware of some essential filing tips as you are preparing your application to send to USCIS:
- Be sure to sign both your Form I-20 and Form I-765 in black ink, as electronic signatures will not be accepted
- USCIS must receive your OPT application within 30 days of the OPT I-20 issuance and before the expiry of your 60-day period following your program completion date
Failure to abide by these filing guidelines and otherwise submit a complete OPT application to USCIS may result in the denial of your application and, in some cases, the forfeiture of your OPT eligibility.
Step 5: Submit Your Application to USCIS
Once you have received your OPT I-20 and have collected all materials required of an OPT application, you must mail the application to USCIS at the appropriate USCIS Lockbox for processing.
The ISSO strongly discourages the use of USCIS's myUSCIS online portal to file for OPT, and would strongly recommend mailing a physical application to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox.
This processing window could span two to three months or more. You should receive a Receipt Notice for your application within a week or two of filing, and will receive an Approval Notice and Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card once USCIS has approved your application.
Step 6: Report Your Employment to the SEVP Portal
Once your OPT application is approved and you have reached the start date listed on your card, you should receive an email from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) with instructions on how to create an SEVP Portal Account. You will use the SEVP Portal to report any and all employment changes, as well as any address changes while on OPT.
It is imperative that you maintain accurate employment/address reporting on the SEVP portal. Failure to update the portal with employment or address changes is a status violation and may result in status termination by SEVP.
When you receive your EAD, please submit a copy of it to the ISSO via our Upload Copy of EAC eForm.