When to Apply for OPT
Application processing can take 2~4 months.
Apply as early as you are eligible to start applying!!
Must be RECEIPTED BY USCIS no earlier than 90 days prior to your requested start date (IMPORTANT: the requested OPT start date must be after one academic year enrollment requirement is met).
Must be RECEIPTED BY USCIS no earlier than 90 days prior to and no later than 60 days from the program completion date (i.e. I-20 end date). See exceptions for students working on thesis/dissertation/final project equivalent.
**If your current I-20 end date is in a future semester, the end date will be shortened to reflect the anticipated completion at the time your OPT recommendation I-20 is issued.
- Possible driver’s license renewal problems (in most cases, cannot renew until OPT is approved)
- May not get the OPT dates you requested. If the application is pending past your requested start date, USCIS should still give the entire period you are eligible from the date the application is approved.
- However, depending on how late you apply, you may not get the full 12 months that you were initially eligible for due to the 2~4 month processing time. By law, post-completion OPT must end by the 14th month after your program end date, so if the OPT period goes beyond that mark due to late adjudication, the OPT end date will be cut short to the 14th month mark.
- Possible late rejection of application. By the time you find out that it was rejected and try to reapply, you may be ineligible due to being past 60-days from I-20 end date.
How to Apply for OPT Checklist
- Understand what OPT is! Are you eligible? When can you apply?
- For various OPT topics, videos, samples and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), visit our OPT page.
- Complete USCIS forms I-765 (required) & G-1145 (optional but recommended to receive email notification)
- Read and sign the “Responsibilities While on Post-Comp OPT” Form [pdf] - for post-comp OPT only
Scan the following documents as separate PDF documents (if multiple pages within the same category, scan as 1 multipage PDF)
- Signed ISS form “Responsibilities While on Post-Comp OPT” – for post-comp OPT only
- Completed USCIS Form G-1145
- Completed & signed USCIS Form I-765 (pages 1 & 2) - (scan as 1 multipage PDF)
- Passport page(s) showing your name, photo, and expiration
- Most recent Electronic I-94 record; or paper I-94 card (front and back)
- Visa (most recently used when last entering the U.S.)
- If any, previously issued Employment Authorization Documents (EADs)
Log into iHawk
- Complete all associated e-forms under "F-1 Practical Training" --> " OPT I-20 Request"
- Upload the scanned supporting documents as prompted in the e-forms.
- Forms 1 – 4 may be submitted in any order.
- If needed, watch the “How to Choose Your OPT Dates” video before submitting Form 1.
- Form 2 asks for your academic/graduation advisor’s email address as it requires that they verify your anticipated degree/program completion. You should visit with your advisor before submitting this form.
- The final form 5 becomes available only once the first four forms are in status. (If form 2 shows this means that your academic/graduation advisor has not yet completed their verification.)
After submitting Form 5, call or visit the ISS office to make an OPT appointment with an ISS immigration advisor. Your OPT I-20 request will not be reviewed and processed until you attend this OPT appointment.
- ISS advisor verifies your F-1 status and creates a new OPT I-20
- If applicable, the advisor shortens your program end date in SEVIS and on your new I-20.
BRING TO APPOINTMENT
Completed Original Forms (see above):
- I-765 form
- G-1145 form (optional), for email/text message notification of application receipt
- Responsibilities While on Post-Comp OPT form
- Paper I-94 (if you have one); or printout of your Electronic I-94 record
- Passport ID page(s), visa and I-94
- Previously issued EADs (Employment Authorization Document), if any
Also bring for a complete application:
DO NOT file yet if you have not been issued an OPT Recommendation I-20!!
- Pre-Completion OPT: Application must be receipted by USCIS no earlier than 90 days prior to your requested start date.
- Post-Completion OPT: Application must be receipted by USCIS no earlier than 90 days and no later than 60 days from program completion date (i.e. I-20 end date).
- All OPT applications must be receipted by USCIS within 30 days of the ISS advisor’s recommendation on the new I-20.
- Assemble and fasten the application materials together in the order listed below.
- Mail the application in a verifiable manner (such as certified mail with proof of delivery receipt).
- Students using a Kansas address should send their application to Arizona
- Note: Typically forwarded and processed in Virginia
For US Postal Service
For non-US Postal Service (ex. FedEx, UPS, etc):
USCIS Attn: AOS
- $410 - U.S. check or money order made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (See Example)
- 2 passport style photographs taken within 30 days of filing your application and should not have been used for anything else.
- gently print name on the back, without damaging the photo
- place the photos in a clear plastic ‘ziploc’ sandwich bag, if possible
- do NOT put a staple through the photo or trim the size of the photo
- G-1145 (optional)
- I-765 original, signed in blue ink
- New OPT I-20 photocopy, signed by the ISS advisor on pages 1 & 2, AND signed by student on page 1. You keep the original I-20.
- Screen shots from SEVIS showing any previous CPT or OPT (if applicable)
- Electronic I-94 printout or Photocopy of Paper I-94 front and back
- Visa photocopy, most recently used when last entering the U.S.
- Passport page photocopy showing your name, photo and date of birth
- Photocopies of all previously issued EADs, if any
You should keep copies of all documents sent to and received from USCIS.
Tips for Preparing OPT App Documents
- How do I choose a start date? [video]
- How do I complete the I-765 form? [pdf sample]
- Passport photo requirements
- How do I write out the application fee check? [sample image]