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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

As an F-1 student visa holder, you may apply for the Optional Practical Training (OPT) benefit. This benefit will grant you authorization to engage in employment off campus, in a position directly related to your program of study for the duration of 12 months post-graduation. If you wish to receive authorization for this benefit, you will need to complete the I-765 application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The first day to apply for OPT will always be 90 days before the official end date of the semester. 


  • Be in F-1 Visa status.
  • Be physically in the U.S. 
  • Have maintained full-time enrollment throughout your program.
  • Have not completed 12 months of CPT prior.
  • Intend to complete your degree and apply for OPT in your final semester or during your 60-day grace period.
  • Have completed at least one academic year (two full semesters consecutively) as a full-time student on your current SEVIS ID number. Summer and winter do not count.
  • Have not been previously approved for 12 months of full time OPT on the same or higher education level.

Things to Know

  • The earliest you can apply is 90 days before your program end date.
  • The latest you can apply is the end of your 60-day grace period.
  • You will need to be located within the U.S. at the time of your application submission.
  • You do not need to already have employment to apply for OPT and be approved.
  • You are only allowed OPT once per education level (bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate).
  • ISS recommends that you apply early (February/March for spring semester graduates and October/November for fall semester graduates).
  • The OPT application processing time for USCIS is two and a half months to five months. The normal average time is anywhere between 90 and 100 days.
  • OPT must be fully completed within 14 months of your program end date listed on the I-20. Due to this rule, late OPT submissions to USCIS may result in a shorter than expected employment authorization period (less than the normally approved 12 months).
  • The application fee for OPT is currently $410 USD paid to USCIS via credit/debit card.
  • Premium processing is available for applicants at an additional fee of $1,500. This service is only intended to speed up the reviewal process for more time-sensitive cases. It does not guarantee approval.
  • You will need to submit a professional 2×2 passport style JPEG picture to be placed on your EAD card when issued. We recommend you get this done at a local UPS store nearby, have them email it to you, and then attach it to your request.


For initial review of your OPT eligibility, you will need to first submit the OPT request. Once your request is reviewed for total completion and approved, ISS will create the OPT recommendation I-20 and reach out to schedule an appointment with you. Fully completed OPT requests submitted to our office will be reviewed in the order that they are submitted. Together during this appointment, we will work with your newly issued OPT recommendation I-20 and apply for OPT through the USCIS online I-765 application. Your OPT recommendation I-20 and I-765 application to USCIS for OPT needs to occur within 30 days of the issuance of your OPT rec I-20, otherwise the recommendation becomes invalidated.

Prior to your appointment with our office, to submit your OPT application you will first need to create an account with USCIS.

Once the OPT application is submitted to USCIS, the average waiting time for approval is 90 to 100 days. During this waiting period, traveling abroad after the program completion date is not recommended and can result in issues with re-entry and potentially a delay in OPT processing. If an RFE (Request for more Evidence) is issued by USCIS, it must be brought to the attention of the Global Education Office immediately. If approved, you will receive communication from USCIS of your approval and will have your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) physically mailed to you. It is vital that you immediately send a copy/picture of this card to our office for our review. We will need to ensure that the start and end date provided on your EAD card accurately reflect what is listed in your SEVIS record. 

The start date that appears on your EAD card is the first day that you may engage in employment. Any employment prior would be a direct violation of immigration status. Additionally, if you do not have a job by the start date of your EAD, you are granted 90 days of unemployment that you can take advantage of by the government. Whenever it is that you do obtain employment, you will need to inform our office so that we can report this to SEVP and provide an updated I-20 showing your OPT approval and current employer.

After OPT Approval by USCIS

Once approved for OPT, students must report all of their OPT employment within 10 days, once their OPT employment authorization has begun. If no employment is reported, and a student uses their 90 days of unemployment, they would then be considered in violation of immigration status. SEVP then has the right to terminate a student’s record at any time.

When approved for OPT, students will receive an email invitation from SEVP to set up and access the SEVP OPT Portal. Creating an OPT portal account is optional and not mandatory.

You can use the SEVP OPT Portal account to report employment activities during the period of approved post-completion OPT. However, students on OPT will also have the option of having our office manually assist in updating this information directly into the government platform SEVIS. We will also automatically generate an updated I-20 showing your OPT approval and new employment for you.

*Be aware that if you report your employment in the SEVP OPT Portal, you will need to inform the ISS office so that we can create an updated I-20 with the information you placed in the portal. If you do not inform us, our office will have no way of knowing you updated anything in the portal.

Whether you use the portal or have your employment information directly updated by our office, the following must be confirmed:

Self Employed: (yes or no)

If yes, then enter your name in the Employer Name section.

  • Employer Name
  • Employer Address
  • Must be a U.S.-based address 
  • Job Title

Indicate if you are either full time (more than 20 hours per week) or part time (less than 20 hours per week)

Employment Start Date: 

Employment End Date: (if there is one)

Relation to Field of Study: (Explain how the job relates to the degree that qualified you for this practical training experience)

*Please be advised that the Global Education Office cannot update employment details on your record after your OPT employment authorization end date.