We understand the importance of OPT!
How to Apply for OPT
Please read the following instructions carefully. Although we in ISS provide information, the OPT application is your application. We do not approve the application or have the authority to influence the process. If there is a request for information or to correct a problem, USCIS will notify you of the request but it is your responsibility to respond. Please note that if you choose to travel, it could be difficult to respond to requests from USCIS about your application.
Gather the Following Documents
- Completed OPT Request Form (form must be signed by your academic adviser before you submit it to GGS)
- Completed G-1145 Form (optional; it signs you up for email/text message notification of your application’s arrival at USCIS)
- Completed I-765 Form
- For help completing the I-765, please see the I-765 Completion Guide
- Photocopy of all previously issued I-20s (pages 1 and 3)
- Photocopy of passport identification page
- Photocopy of F-1 visa page
- Two passport-style photos
- Printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94
- Photocopy of previously issued EAD (if applicable)
- Form I-765 filing fee (extra $85 biometric services fee is not required for OPT applications) paid by money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you pay by check, you must make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Choosing an OPT Start Date
- The “start date” is the date your work permission begins. You cannot work earlier than the start date, but you can start working later.
- Your requested start date must be within 60 days after your program completion date. For example, if you graduate or complete your program June 8, your start date can be no later than August 7.
- Changing the requested OPT dates after the application has been mailed to USCIS can be very difficult. Choose your dates carefully.
- Lightly print your name and your I-94 number in pencil or felt pen on the back of each photo.
- USCIS photo instructions (see the “Required Documentation” section on page 13)
- The photos must have been taken within the last 30 days (do not use the same photos used for your F-1 visa application; USCIS might notice and will return the application).
- The two photos should have a white background.
- They should be printed on thin paper with a glossy finish, and be unmounted and unretouched.
- The photos should show a passport-style, full-face image, with both ears visible.
- The photos should be 2 by 2 inches, with the distance from the top of the head to just below the chin about 1 3/8 inches.
Submit your completed OPT application (except the USCIS filing fee check/money order/credit card form) to the ISS front desk. An GGS adviser will review your application, note any items missing or needing to be changed, and will issue a new, updated I-20 with an OPT recommendation printed on page 2. No appointment is necessary – allow 10 business days for processing.
You will receive an email from your GGS adviser or the GGS office (firstname.lastname@example.org) to pick up the application materials and new I-20. You will receive a pink checklist indicating the final application materials that must be mailed to USCIS.
After You Mail Your OPT Application to USCIS
USCIS will send you a receipt notice (I-797 Notice of Action) confirming receipt of your OPT application, assigning a “receipt date,” and assigning a receipt number. Carefully review the notice to make sure your name is spelled correctly. If it is not, contact your GGS adviser immediately.
You may use the receipt number on your receipt notice to check the status of your application online. It is normal for your case status to say “initial review” for most of the 3-5 month processing period.
You may not begin employment until USCIS approves the OPT application and you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Authorized OPT dates will be on your EAD.
You must report your practical training/employment to GGS. If you do not report your practical training/employment to ISS, the U.S. government will terminate your F-1 SEVIS record 90 days after the OPT start date printed on your EAD card. A terminated SEVIS record cancels the OPT authorization and requires you to leave the U.S.