Graduate School of Medical Sciences
A partnership with the Sloan Kettering Institute


What is Optional Pratical Training (OPT)?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a type of work authorization that allows F-1 students to get work experience related to their major field of study. Your work must be related to your major in the medical sciences at Weill Cornell Medicine. You may apply for OPT during and/or after you are enrolled as a full-time student for one academic year. Students are eligible for 12 months of OPT for each higher level of study (e.g. a student may have 12 months for a bachelor’s degree and another 12 months for a master’s degree).

The optimal scenario is to have a job offer with start date before applying for and starting OPT. It is legal to interview for employment and be offered one months in advance. One cannot work, however, until after the OPT has been approved and one has received the EAD card.  Having a start date for work eliminates 90% of uncertainty involved with choosing one's OPT validity period.

There are three types of OPT:


Pre-Completion OPT

Pre-Completion OPT is a work authorization that allows F-1 students to work off-campus in a position directly related to their field of study BEFORE you complete your program of study. Students may work part time (20 hours or less per week) while school is in session or you may work full time when school is not in session.

USCIS will deduct pre-completion OPT days from the 12-month post-completion OPT authorization period. For example, if you participated in 3 months of part-time pre-completion OPT, your post-completion OPT days would be deducted at the rate of 3 months x 1/2. You would then have 10.5 months of post-completion OPT remaining. If you participated in 3 months of full-time work, then your remaining post-completion OPT days will be 9 months.

Pre-completion OPT is not frequently used. Most students prefer to utilize all OPT days during post-completion.


Post-Completion OPT (12 Months)

Post-Completion OPT is a work authorization that allows F-1 students to remain in the U.S. and work in their related major field of study AFTER completing their program of study. Post-completion OPT extends your F-1 status even though you are no longer an enrolled student, and also extends the F-2 status of any dependents who are with you. 

Processing times depends on the type of service requested. If one chooses premium processing, then USCIS will adjudicate decision within 30 days. If this is not selected, then it may take upwards of 2 months.

Important Facts for Post-Completion OPT
  • The EARLIEST you can submit your application to USCIS is 90 days before the program end date on your I-20.
  • The LATEST you can submit your application to USCIS is within 60 days from the program end date on your I-20. USCIS will not accept applications received 60 days or more after the program end date on your I-20.
  • You can apply for OPT without a job offer.
  • You are allowed a total of 90 days without employment from the start date on your EAD. Students who exceed more than 90 days of unemployment will begin to accrue unlawful presence, which may  jeopardize your immigration status, as well as re-entering the U.S.


How to Apply: Pre-/Post- Completion OPT

Students have the option of either sending an application via physical mail or completing it online via USCIS's website.

Please read the following instructions carefully. It is the student's responsibility to prepare the documents and file the application accurately and in a timely manner. We do not process nor approve your OPT application AND we do not have the ability to influence USCIS processing time.


When to Apply?

Starting on March 6th, 2023 and April 3rd, 2023, USCIS began accepting premium processing for OPT applications. The I-907 Request for Premium Processing Service is $1,500. USCIS will then process one's request in 30 calendar days.

Weill Cornell Medicine students have reported the following times. For those who select premum service, approvals have been 2, 4, and 15 calendar days. For those who do not selected this service, approvals have taken between 35 and 60 calendar days.

The earliest one can apply for post-completion OPT is 90 days BEFORE your program end date on your I-20, but NO LATER than 60 days AFTER your program end date. Pre-completion OPT should be filed as soon as possible after consultation with the Office of International Student Services. We encourage you to apply as early as possible.

For PhD students, you have the flexibility to determine your program end date based on your thesis defense date. Your program end date on your I-20 is the date where you are no longer enrolled as a full-time doctoral student. Additionally, this will be the Graduate School termination date, which means your stipend and health insurance will be terminated, and you must move out of WCM student/family housing.

WCGS default termination date (same as the program end date on I-20) is 60 days from your thesis defense date OR on or before your degree conferral date, whichever occurs first.

After your program end date on your I-20, you are no longer eligible to engage in on-campus employment as a student or receive stipend. Thus, it is important to discuss with your PI before finalizing a program end date.


How Do I Choose My OPT Start Date?

You can choose the date you would like your OPT authorization to begin, as long as it is within 60 days following your program end date on your I-20. However, please note that you cannot begin employment until the start date on your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Your maximum amount of post-completion OPT is 12 months. Use the OPT Timeline Calculator to determine your OPT start and end dates; when you can request and submit your application to USCIS.


STEP 1: Submit OPT Request to DSO

The first step of the OPT application process is to submit the online F-1 OPT Recommendation Request E-Form to the DSO for an OPT I-20. Please allow up to 7 business days to process your OPT I-20. We will contact you when your updated I-20 is ready to be picked up.

OPT Recommendation REquest

You cannot change the program end date and the requested OPT start date once we enter the OPT recommendation in your SEVIS record.


Step 2: Prepare Your Documents

Beginning April 2021, USCIS has allowed applicants to file for OPT either by paper or electronically online at  We recommend students file online as it will save time and reduce potential problems.  

Below are documents for a paper application. They should be single sided. Make sure you gather and prepare the documents llisted on the "Document Checklist" below to send to USCIS.  

It is important that you go over the checklist and your documents to make sure you have signed and included all required documents. Additionally, you are advised to keep a photocopy of the entire OPT application for your records before mailing it to USCIS.

If you have questions about your application or would like the DSO to review it before sending it to USCIS, please set up an appointment in advance. You MUST print out the form(s) and all supporting documents and assemble in one packet in order for us to review your application.

OPT Application Documents Checklist:

Compile and submit these documents to USCIS in the order listed below. Please note USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of your DSO entering the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS I-20 record. Refer to the "Date Issued" on page 1 of your I-20.

  • Two passport-style photos, taken in no more than 30 days – refer to the USCIS Instructions for Form I-765 (page 25, item C). Gently write your full name in the back of each photo with pencil.
  • Form I-765 filing fee payable with one of the following options. Do NOT include the biometrics fee with the application. You may also use the USCIS Fee Calculator to help determine the filing fee.
    • Credit card using Form G-1450
    • Cashier's check or money order
    • Personal check payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"
  • Form G-1145 (optional; to receive text and/or email notification from USCIS when they receive your application)
  • Original and official USCIS Form I-765. It is best to type the information into the form and make sure you sign it in black ink. Be sure to review the USCIS Instructions for Form I-765 so that you fill out the form correctly.
  • Photocopy of the new I-20 with OPT recommendation
  • Photocopy of your passport biographical page
  • Photocopy of your most recent F-1 visa stamp
  • Print out of your most recent I-94 Travel Record
  • If applicable, photocopies of all previously issued EAD cards, CPT I-20s and OPT I-20s. Only include previously issued F-1 I-20s that show work authorization. No other F-1 I-20s are required or necessary.


STEP 3: Send Your OPT Application to USCIS

Students may either choose to paper file or e-file an OPT application.  International Student Services recommends e-filing via  With e-filing, all your documehts can ge uploaded to USCIS.  Correspondence with them can be conducted inside your I-765 account.

USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of your DSO entering the recommendation for OPT into your SEVIS I-20 record. Failure to mail your OPT application in a timely manner could result in denial of your OPT application.

USCIS may change the Lockbox address from time to time, please review the Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765 page to see where you should file your application.

*Important Notes

  • SEND IT ON TIME! USCIS must receive your application with all of the supporting documents within 30 days of the date your OPT I-20 was issued.
  • We recommend that you send your application to USCIS by FedEx or UPS for tracking purposes.
  • Be sure to include everything listed on the "USCIS Documents Checklist" listed above.
  • Make sure all your forms are signed in black ink.
  • Make sure the mailing address on Form I-765 will be valid for at least 4 - 5 months. Government mail is not forwarded to another address and changing address while your OPT application is pending may cause longer processing time.
    • If you have to change your mailing address while your application is pending, you can update your address online using the USCIS Change of Address webpage.
  • Keep a copy of your entire application for your personal records.

What's Next?


After Filing the I-765 with USCIS

  • If you applied through USCIS's online website, USCIS will mail you a receipt notice (I-797 Notice of Action) within a day or two to confirm receipt. If you chose to apply via physical postal mail, USCIS will mail you between 3 - 5 weeks confirming receipt of your OPT application. Carefully review your name is spelled correctly. If not, please contact us immediately.
  • Once you receive the Notice of Action, you may use the receipt number to check the status of your application online: Check Case Processing Times
  • Your approval notice of OPT should arrive within 5 months.
  • Remember: You may NOT begin working until USCIS approves your OPT application AND until you have your EAD card in hand. Authorized OPT dates will be on your EAD.
  • You can legally remain in the United States in F-1 status while your OPT application is pending during and/or after your 60-day grace period.


After Your Post-Completion OPT is Approved

  • Once you have received your EAD, you must submit a scanned copy of your EAD (front and back) AND report your employment information immediately by completing the Post-Completion OPT Report E-Form.
  • Make sure you check all of the information on your EAD card and contact us if you notice any mistakes.
  • You need to work an average of 20 hours per week while on post-completion OPT.
  • You must NOT be unemployed for more than 90 days in total during your post-completion OPT.



If Your OPT Application is Denied

  • If you are still within the 60-day grace period, you may stay in the United States for the remainder of the 60 days and re-apply.
  • If you received the notice after your 60-day grace period, you should depart the United States without delay.
  • If you believe you were denied in error, have any questions or concerns, please reach out the DSO immediately.

OPT Reporting Requirements

In order to remain in lawful F1 status while on post-completion OPT, students are required to report all changes to your employment, address or immigration status within 10 days of occurance.

Remember it is the student’s responsibility to maintain their valid F-1 status while on OPT. Failure to meet these reporting requirements in a timely manner will result in termination of your F-1 SEVIS record by the Department of Homeland Security.


Report Your OPT Employment

Once your post-completion OPT has been approved, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires students to report new and any changes to your employment (paid or unpaid) within 10 days of occurence.

As of March 23, 2018, the U.S. government created an online portal for students on OPT and STEM OPT to update certain employment information and physical address directly to DHS. The Student and Exchange Visitor program (SEVP) will send a link with instructions to create an SEVP Portal Account from "" Thus, be sure to check your spam folder.

Students who fail to report or enter their information in the SEVP Portal in a timely manner or otherwise fail to comply with their reporting requirements may be deemed to be in violation of their nonimmigrant status.

We encourage students on OPT to submit any updates to both the DSO at WCGS and DHS.

  • To report or update OPT Employment to WCGS, use the Post-Completion OPT Report e-form


For instructions on how to use the SEVP Portal, please visit SEVP Portal Help

The SEVIS database automatically calculates unemployment days. If you DO NOT report your employement information or if you are unemployed for 90 days or more during your post-completion OPT, DHS will terminate your F-1 SEVIS record and you will be out of status. This means you must leave the United States immediately.


Contact Information Changes

Students on post-completion OPT are required to report and update any changes in U.S. address, phone number, email address or legal name changed within 10 days of the change to both WCGS and DHS.

For change of legal name, you must provide official document(s) to prove your legal name changed when completing the F-1 Student Information Update online form.

  • Report to WCGS with the F-1 Student Information Update e-form.

F1 Info Report


Report Change of Status

Students must inform us within 10 days of changing to another US immigration status such as becoming a permanent resident/green card holder, H-1B, J-1 etc. Note that your F-visa/I-20/OPT/STEM OPT status ends on the effective date approved by USCIS.

You must upload a copy of the Notice of Approval from USCIS when completing the online change of Status form.



Permanent Departure from the United States.

You have a 60-day grace period to prepare for departure following the end of your post-completion OPT period. If you graduated with a degree in the STEM fields, you may be eligible to apply for an additional 24-month STEM Extension OPT.

Ending OPT Early

If you decide to end your post-completion OPT before the end date indicate on your EAD and leave the U.S., you must notify us with the effective date so we can end your SEVIS record in a timely manner.


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    Clive Liew

    Student Services Administrator

    Book an appointment with WCGS International Student Services using SetMore

    Weill Cornell Medicine Graduate School of Medical Sciences 1300 York Ave. Box 65 New York, NY 10065 Phone: (212) 746-6565 Fax: (212) 746-8906

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