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When to Apply for OPT

Application processing normally takes 2-3 months.  Apply as early as you are eligible to start applying!!

Beginning February 1, 2022, ISS will implement an OPT (Optional Practical Training) fee of $170. On/after February 1, 2022 you will need to pay the fee in the ISS Store and upload your receipt in your iHawk application for OPT.

We are recommding that all students use the USCIS online filing tool to file the I-765 petition (OPT application). You should only submit the petition once you receive a new I-20 from ISS recommending you for OPT.

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 3~5 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

Step 1 Know your stuff!!
  • 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.
Step 2 Create Digital Images (PDF, JPEG, or JPG) of Supporting Documents

Save the following documents as separate digital documents

       (if multiple pages within the same category, create as a single multipage digital document)

  • Passport page(s) showing your name, photo, and expiration
  • Most recent Electronic I-94 record; or paper I-94 card (front and back)
  • Recent passport-style photo (jpeg, jpg or png) (US passport photo guidelines)
  • Previously issued Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), if any (front and back)
  • If attended a school other than KU under a different SEVIS number, any previously issued OPT and/or CPT I-20s
  • POST-completion OPT only:  Signed ISS form “Responsibilities While on Post-Comp OPT
  • PRE-completion OPT only: Transcript or Degree Progress Report printout
Step 3 Start (but do NOT submit) Government’s Online I-765 Application Form
  • Start the USCIS I-765 online form – do NOT pay yet!
    • Go to US Citizenship and Immigration Services and create account
      • After creating account, click on “file a form online”
    • Begin the I-765 form (required)
      • You can upload the following evidence prior to meeting with ISS
        • Passport-style photo
        • I-94 record
        • Passport (upload this under “Employment Authorization Document” section)
      • DO NOT upload an I-20 until you have the OPT recommendation I-20 from ISS
      • Do NOT pay the $410 filing fee until you have received your NEW OPT recommendation I-20 from your ISS advisor during your OPT appointment (filing fee is NON-REFUNDABLE)
  • Create PDF of draft I-765
    • Once the I-765 is completed (other than a few final uploads), but before payment is made, download the “view draft snapshot” PDF from the “review and submit” section of the online application;
    • Save a digital image to upload to iHawk
Step 4 Go to ISS Store and Pay OPT Fee
  • Effective 2/1/2022: Go to the ISS webstore to pay the ISS fee. Please remember this is not the fee to file the I-765 petition.
    • Pay the non-refundable $170 ISS Fee for Recommending OPT (F-1)
      • Check email for receipt as proof of payment to upload in iHawk
      • This is separate from the USCIS application fee
Step 5 Submit OPT I-20 Request via iHawk
  • Login to iHawk
  • Click on "F-1 Practical Training" and then "OPT I-20 Request" and complete all associated e-forms
  • Before submitting form 1, watch the "How to Choose Your OPT Dates" video (OPT webpage)
  • Forms 1 - 4 may be submitted in any order.
    • You will need to upload the following digital images:
      • Passport
      • I-94 (record of arrival)
      • I-765 (government application)
      • Proof of ISS OPT Fee Payment (starting February 1, 2022)
      • Responsibilities While on Post-Comp OPT (ISS handout)
  • Form 2 asks for your academic/graduation advisor’s email address, as it requires that they verify your anticipated degree/program completion.
  • The final form 5 becomes available only once the first four forms are in “complete” status. If form 2 shows “awaiting answer” this means that your academic/graduation advisor has not yet completed their verification.
    • You will need to upload the ISS fee receipt
Step 6 Make an OPT appointment at ISS
  • After submitting Form 5, call or visit the ISS office to make an OPT appointment with an ISS immigration advisor. 
Step 7 Attend ISS OPT appointment
  • ISS advisor verifies your F-1 status and creates a new OPT recommendation I-20
  • If applicable, the advisor shortens your program end date in SEVIS and on your new I-20. 
Step 8 Finish I-765 Online Application and Submit Payment
  • Log back into your I-765 application through the USCIS government website
  • Make edits to I-765 as recommended by ISS advisor
  • Upload Additional Evidence (given to you during the ISS appointment):
    • Upload new I-20 with OPT recommendation (under “Evidence” then “Form I-20”)
    • Upload SEVIS Employment screenshot (under “Previously Authorized CPT or OPT”)
  • Pay attention to any Alerts or Warnings!
  • Pay $410 application fee via bank account, debit card, or credit card
  • Your receipt notice will be automatically generated and available (under “Documents” then “USCIS Notices”)


          What is OPT?            I've Applied, Now What?  


STEM OPT Extension  H-1B Cap Gap OPT Extension

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