How To Choose Your Post-OPT Start and End Dates

graphic showing that the window to apply for post-OPT is 90 days prior to your completion date and 60 days after your completion date. your start date for post-OPT must fall within the 60 day grace period after your completion date

When can I apply for my post-Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

You can apply for post-completion OPT up to 90 days prior to your completion date.

You can also apply for post-OPT during the 60-day grace period following your completion date, though this is not recommended, as it can take 90+ days for USCIS to process OPT applications. Make sure to only submit your post-OPT application once you are confident that you will successfully complete your degree. If you submit a post-OPT application and then do not finish your degree, it will jeopardize your OPT.

Important Reminders While Applying for Post-OPT & Choosing a Start / End Date

  • You should not travel outside of the United States with a pending petition with USCIS.
  • Your start date must fall in your 60-day grace period following your completion date.
  • Your post-OPT end date should be 365 days from your start date unless you used pre-OPT, which would be deducted from your 12 months of post-OPT (part-time pre-OPT gets deducted 1/2 time).
  • The sooner you apply, the more flexibility you have with a start date that best fits your case.
  • You cannot change the start date once you submit the application - choose wisely!
  • It can take 90+ days to receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • You cannot work until you receive the EAD and until the start date listed on the EAD is current.
  • You cannot apply for post-OPT if you have a pending pre-OPT application with USCIS. You will need to wait until you receive your pre-OPT EAD.
  • Important questions to consider: Are you already looking for a job in your field? How long do you anticipate it will take for you to secure a full-time position? If you have already secured employment, have you discussed when you will begin with your employer? How long is it taking others in your field to secure OPT employment? 
  • Remember that you can only have a total of 90 days of unemployment while on post-OPT. The unemployment clock starts from the start date listed on the EAD. It is critical that you report all OPT employment changes (start, finish, concurrent, etc.) to the SEVP portal within 10 days of any employment change. If there is no employment record in SEVIS after 90 days from the start date of the EAD, your SEVIS record could automatically terminate, leaving you out of status.
  • Keep your name listed on your mailbox at all times. USCIS cannot deliver the EAD unless your name is on the mailbox.