OPT Application at a Glance

Please carefully review the below sections for important information on how to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT)

  • Before you can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), please review our What is OPT webpage, as well as our Eligibility Requirements webpage to confirm you are eligible to apply for OPT.

    We Recommend to review this OPT Planning Tool provided by Study in the States.

  • Your post-completion 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. You must make this decision before applying for an OPT I-20 from the ISSO and before your send your application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (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, which is 90 days prior to your program completion. You may file as late as 60 days after your program completion, though this is not recommended. Please review our Filing Timeline webpage for more information.

    Students may file for Pre-OPT no sooner than 90 days in advance of the requested Pre-OPT start date. To be eligible for Pre-OPT the student must be enrolled full-time for one academic year, provided that the period of employment will not start prior to the completion of the full academic year.

  • You must complete and submit the ISSO OPT eForm to:

    1. Confirm your program completion date;
    2. Confirm your requested OPT start date; and
    3. Arrange for your academic advisor to confirm the 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 the Documents to Submit to ISSO before submitting the eForm.

    Apply for your OPT I-20

  • 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.


    Please be aware of some essential filing tips as you are preparing your application to send to USCIS:

    1. Be sure to sign your Form I-20 in black ink, as electronic signatures will not be accepted. For students filing via mail, the Form I-765 must also be signed in black ink.
    2. USCIS must receive your OPT application within 30 days of the OPT I-20 issuance and before the expiry of your 60 day grace 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.

  • Once you have received your OPT I-20 and have collected all of the required documentation, you must submit your completed OPT application to USCIS. This can be done either via mail, or via U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) online I-765 filing system.

    For information on applying via mail, please review the Documents to Submit to USCIS webpage.

    For information on applying online, please review the Online I-765 Filing Guidance webpage.

    Please note that the processing window for OPT applications can span 2-3 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.

    Premium Processing

    Request for Premium Processing is now available to students applying for Pre-OPT, Post-OPT, and STEM Extension. USCIS will accept Form I-907 requests, filed either via paper form or online, together with Form I-765. To file Form I-907 online, an applicant must first create a USCIS online account. Should you decide to file a Premium Processing request, you will be required to pay the I-907 fee. This is in addition to the standard application fee for the Form I-765.

    Important: Students are not required to file an OPT or STEM OPT Extension application with Premium Processing; this is just an available option now.

  • If your application is approved, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). When you receive your EAD, please submit a copy of it to the ISSO via the Upload EAD e-form.

    You can begin your employment on OPT only after receipt of your EAD and on or after the start date listed on your EAD.

    You should receive an email from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) with instructions on how to create an SEVP Portal Account. ISSO REQUIRES that students on OPT use the OPT reporting e-form to report all OPT changes and updates. Use of the SEVP Portal is optional and does not include all fields required for reporting. If you choose to set up an account in the SEVP Portal, you must also update your address and OPT employer information in the OPT reporting e-form.

    It is imperative that you maintain accurate employment and address updates. Failure to update ISSO with employment or address changes may affect your immigration status and future benefits.

    Please review our Reporting Requirements webpage for additional guidance on OPT employment reporting.