OPT Application Process
When Should I Apply for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training?
You may submit your OPT application to USCIS as early as 90 days before, and as late as 60 days after your program end date (NOT graduation date). USCIS clearly distinguishes the end of your degree requirements and your graduation day.
OIA advises submitting your OPT application 90 days before your program end date.
MD students will meet with OIA to submit their applications around Match Day.
STEM extension applicants may file no earlier than 120 days from the end date of your current OPT, and no later than the day before the last day of your OPT.
You do not need an employment offer to apply for OPT.
Choosing Employment Dates
You may choose a start date for employment any time within 60 days after your program completion date. For example, if you complete your program on May 20, you may choose to begin employment any time between May 21 and July 20.
For MD students, the OPT start date will be the start day of their residency.
Please keep in mind that you are not permitted to begin working until you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. Currently, OPT applications can take up to 90 days to be approved. You are not permitted to begin working until the date indicated on the card, even if you receive your card earlier.
What Documents Do I Need to Apply for OPT?
Please make an appointment with OIA, and bring the following items:
- Form I-765 (can be found online or in our office) completed in blue ink. Instructions for I-765 can be found here. In item 3, use an address where you can receive mail for the next 3-6 months. The U.S. Postal Service will not forward USCIS mail even if you change your address. It is also very difficult to change your address with USCIS once they have received your application. In line 16, write “( C ) ( 3 ) ( B ).”
- Two (2) passport style photos made to USCIS’s specifications. USCIS will NOT process the application if the photos are unsatisfactory. The best place to obtain good photos is at Jefferson Medical Media, 5th floor of Jefferson Alumni Hall (pay by check or cash only). Other stores produce unsatisfactory photos for the same exact price. You may also use the "Passport Photo Tool" provided by the U.S. Department of State.
- Copy of your transcript with your name on it: an unofficial copy from BannerWeb or the Registrar's Office is sufficient, as long as your name appears on it.
- Letter from your advisor stating that you are a student in good standing, and specifically stating your expected program completion date (NOT graduation date) in the format of month, day and year. A letter listing only month and year is NOT sufficient.
- $380.00* money order or personal check made out to “Department of Homeland Security.” Please write "I-765: F-1 OPT" in the memo section. If the name and address appearing on the check does not match the name and address that you provide on Form I-765, you should use a money order instead of a check (money orders are available at the post office or your bank for a small fee).
- Passport, I-94 card, and all I-20 forms issued to you. If your passport does not have your signature in it, bring a photo ID that has your signature on it.
- The exact date (month, day and year) you would like to start working (no more than 60
days after your expected completion date).
- Clear copies of any previously issued EAD cards.
- Information about any previous F-1 OPT or CPT (dates and length of time).
Please note that you will also have to pay for the FedEx mailing fee (about $30)
*Fees are subject to change. Please check with OIA or the USCIS application form before submitting a check or money order
Traveling Abroad During OPT
Students who have already completed their programs and have a pending OPT are strongly advised not to travel.
Once your OPT application has been approved and you have received your EAD card, you may travel outside the US as long as you have the following documents:
- Passport that is valid for at least 6 months into the future.
- Valid F-1 entry visa. If you do not have a valid F-1 entry visa, you must go to a U.S Embassy or consulate to apply for one. It is possible that the consular officer will not issue you a new entry visa merely to complete your OPT. Students without valid F-1 entry visas are strongly advised not to travel.
- I-20 with OPT recommendation endorsed for travel by OIA representative.
- Proof that you have a job to return to in the U.S., such as a letter from your supervisor or offer letter from human resources describing your job.