OPT Application at a Glance

Step 1: Determine OPT eligibility

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.

Step 2: Consider Your OPT Start Date and Filing Timeline

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 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.

Step 3: Apply for an OPT I-20 from the ISSO

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.

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.

To prepare for filing with USCIS, you will need to collect the necessary Documents to Submit to USCIS.

WARNING

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.

Step 5: Submit Your Application to USCIS

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 the 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.

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 EAD 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 and address information in 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.

Please review our SEVP Portal Information webpage for more information, as well as our Reporting Requirements webpage for guidance on SEVP Portal employment reporting.

When you receive your EAD, please submit a copy of it to the ISSO via our Upload Copy of EAC eForm.

Contact The UMass Lowell International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO)

Please contact the ISSO during our Advising Hours (Tuesday-Thursday, 2-4 p.m.) with any questions related to your OPT application.