Optional Practical Training (OPT)

What is OPT?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is for F-1 visa holders only.

OPT is a benefit, not a right. It is an opportunity to gain temporary work experience in a field directly related to your academic major(s).

OPT employment must be full-time, which is defined as at least 20 hours per week (this includes volunteering).

Eligibility

You are eligible if you:

  • are in “good standing” with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • have been enrolled full time for at least two academic terms.

You are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT per degree level (Bachelors, Masters, PhD).

Please read this OPT Overview  (.pdf) for more information about OPT and for the application process.

Eligible students may apply 90 days before program completion and during the 60 days grace period.

You may not begin employment until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and employment is allowed only within the period of authorized dates on the EAD. 

OPT Timeline.
Text "Students may begin applying for OPT 90 days before their program end-date." "The OPT start date must be during the 60-day grace period."

STEM OPT Extension Eligibility

Individuals who have majored in STEM fields are eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT. STEM classification is based on the specific CIP code of the major – not the emphasis or focus. This extension is applied for in conjunction with their employer.

If you are currently on OPT, you are eligible to apply for the STEM OPT Extension if you:

  • maintaining F-1 status on OPT
  • are employed in a paid full-time position
  • your company utilizes e-verify
  • you are a STEM major in accordance with approved STEM Majors. View a complete list of approved STEM majors.
  • have been enrolled full time for at least two academic terms.

Applying for OPT & STEM OPT Extension

The OPT application process now takes place online through MyUSCIS. Please read all of the instructions below before applying. ISS recommends creating a digital file folder to prepare your OPT documents.

In advance of submitting your online OPT application, it is recommended that you prepare the following digital files:

All documents must be in a certain format and no more than 6 MB per file: JPG, JEPG, PDF, TIF, OR TIFF. See the exception for photos.
Checklist:

  • OPT recommendation I-20 from ISS (issued no more than 30 days ago for Post-Completion OPT applications, and no more than 60 days ago for STEM applications)
  • Your passport bio page
  • Your F-1 visa
  • 2”x2” recent passport photos Must be 600×600 pixels; no more than 6 MB: file must be a JPG, JPEG, TIF, OR TIFF – NO PDF. Check the guidelines.
  • Your most recent I-94 record
  • Any previous EADs (for STEM Ext only)
  • Previously issued CPT I-20s and/or OPT I-20s (if applicable)
  • Official transcript for the degree upon which your STEM extension application is based (for STEM Ext only)

You should proceed with the online application process very carefully. The system allows you to submit your application without all required evidence, which can lead to requests for evidence and additional difficulties. This means you must be very careful to ensure that everything is included before submitting the online application.

Filing Your I-765 and OPT Application Online

For Post-Completion OPT, USCIS must receive your OPT application no more than 30 days after your OPT recommendation I-20 was issued.

 *For STEM OPT, USCIS must receive your OPT application no more than 60 days after the OPT recommendation I-20 was issued.

The following instructions are intended to help answer the most common questions about applying for OPT via USCIS’s online filing system. These instructions do not specify every single question on the MyUSCIS online I-765 application. If you have questions that are not answered here, please contact Hannah Thomas or Jill Munro.

1. Create or log into your MyUSCIS online account.  Visit How to Create a USCIS Online Account for more instructions

2. Select “File a Form Online” and choose “Application for Employment Authorization (I-765)”.

3. Getting Started

  • Select the type of OPT that you are applying for (“what is your eligibility category?”):
    • c)(3)(B)  Post-Completion OPT
    • *(c)(3)(C) STEM Extension
  • Select your reason for applying:
    • Initial OPT: “initial permission for employment” is the right choice.
    • *STEM OPT Extension: “renewal of my permission to accept employment” is the right choice.
  • Unless a lawyer or accredited representative is preparing your OPT application for you, no one is assisting you with this application.

• *FOR STEM OPT APPLICANTS ONLY:

  1.  What is your degree? “Bachelors” and the CIP code found on your I-20
  2. What is your employer’s name as listed on E-verify? Write your employer’s name as listed in the e-verify system (this should also match your I-983).
  3. What is your employer’s E-Verify company identification number or a valid E-Verify client company identification number? Write your employer’s E-verify number. This is usually 4 – 7 digits. E-verify number is not the same as EIN. Check with your employer if you do not know your employer’s e-verify number.

4. About You

  • Provide your current legal name as it appears on your I-20 and in your passport
  • Provide a current U.S. mailing address that will be valid for 3-5 months (as long as your OPT application is pending.
    • This is the address where USCIS will send your approval documents, including your EAD, and any other mailings.
    • OPT applicants should provide the ISS mailing address below. Hannah will receive your mail from USCIS, open it, scan and arrange to have the original shipped to you. Here is the ISS mailing address:
      • In care of name: CDI-Hannah Thomas
      • Address Line 1: 1189 Beall Ave.
      • City: Wooster
      • State: Ohio
      • ZIP code: 44691

*For STEM OPT Applicants Only:

If you expect that your personal U.S. address will not be valid in 3-5 months, you should provide the U.S. mailing address of a trusted friend or family member that will be valid in three months.

5. Evidence

  • Upload a 2×2 photo (a 2”x2” recent passport photo).
  • Upload your most recent Form I-94 record (not your I-94 travel history).
  • Upload any previous EADs (STEM Ext. applicants only) a copy of your passport, and a copy of your F-1 visa in the Employment Authorization Document or Government ID section.
  • Upload any and all previously issued CPT I-20s and/or OPT I-20s in the Previously Authorized for CPT or OPT section.
    *STEM OPT Applicants
     DO NOT need to upload CPT and/or OPT I-20s. Only the STEM OPT I-20 is required.
  • Upload your newly issued OPT recommendation Form I-20. This OPT recommendation I-20 must be no more than 30 days old if applying for Post-Completion OPT, and must be no more than 60 days old if applying for STEM OPT. Email Hannah Thomas or Jill Munro if you are concerned that you are too close or are beyond this window. (If you are, your application will be automatically denied)

• *FOR STEM APPLICANTS ONLY:

  • College degree: Upload a copy of your official transcript, showing completion of the degree that is the basis for your STEM OPT extension application.
  • Institutional accreditation: This section can be skipped for College of Wooster graduates. This section is only for STEM OPT applicants who are applying on the basis of a previously earned STEM degree from somewhere other than Wooster.

6. Additional Information

*Add a response only if you:

  • Previously had a different SEVIS ID number while in F-1 status (for example, you studied in F-1 status, left for a leave of absence, then returned to school with a new I-20).
    • Section: About You; Page: Your immigration information; Question: What is your SEVIS number (if any)?; Additional Information: indicate your previous SEVIS ID and the start and end date of your previous I-20(s).
  • Have previously been authorized for CPT or OPT:
    • Section: Evidence; Page: Previously authorized CPT or OPT; Question: Previously authorized CPT or OPT; Additional Information: Whether CPT or OPT, start and end dates of CPT/OPT, whether it was full-time or part-time, pre- or post-completion, and academic level (Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate) at which it was authorized.
  • Hold citizenship in three or more countries:
    • Section: About You; Page: Your immigration information; Question: What is your country of citizenship or nationality? Additional Information: indicate your additional citizenship and upload copies of each passport under the Employment Authorization Document or Government ID section of Evidence.

 7. Review your application

  • Select View Draft Snapshot to retrieve a copy of your draft I-765 for a review meeting with Jill Munro until ISS is fully staffed – you can schedule the meeting on Jill’s Booking link – Schedule a meeting with Jill.
  • After your OPT review meeting:
    • Check that you are submitting your OPT application to USCIS no more than 30 days after the date your OPT recommendation I-20 was issued for Post-Completion OPT, or 60 days for STEM OPT. Do not submit your application if it is outside this timeframe. Contact the PDSO with questions.
    • Verify that all information is correct. Digitally sign and submit your application.

8. Pay the application fee

  • Pay the required application fee of $410 via credit or debit card.
  • Once you pay the fee, your OPT application is submitted and no further changes can be made.

Note: The current OPT filing fee is $410.

USCIS adjusts their filing fees from time to time. Before filing your application it’s a good idea to confirm the fee for the form I-765 Request for Employment Authorization: https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/document/forms/g-1055.pdf

Maintaining your F-1 Status while on OPT

During your period of OPT, your immigration status reporting is maintained by ISS at The College of Wooster. In order to remain in good standing, you are required to report the following information to ISS within 10 days of any change. You are eligible for a total of 12 months of OPT per degree level (Bachelors, Masters, PhD).

  • Your residential address
  • Your employer’s name and address
  • Any changes in your employment (ending a job, changing jobs)
  • Change in immigration status (H-1B, etc.)
  • If you leave the US and will no longer be using your F-1 OPT

To report changes for the above, or report employment, please complete the appropriate request on the ISS Request Forms page.

Please note: F-1 students on post-completion OPT may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during the entire 12-month period of OPT. F-1 students in STEM fields who are granted a 24-month extension for OPT may not accrue an aggregate of more than 120 days of unemployment during the 36-month OPT period. Please maintain a record of your job search process throughout your period of OPT.

Material on this Web site is general and for informational purposes only. It does not constitute or replace professional legal advice, and you should not rely on it solely when making decisions about your immigration status or reporting requirements.