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. 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).
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.
This type of OPT is uncommon because it requires F-1 students to submit an application with a fee to the United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) and it may take 3 - 5 months to be approved. Additionally, USCIS will deduct these periods of OPT used from the 12-month post-completion OPT authorization period. For example, if you participated in 3 months of pre-completion OPT, you would be eligible for only 9 months of post-completion OPT.
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. Note that OPT approval may take 3 - 5 months to be processed by USCIS, so you will need to plan ahead.
Option 1- Physical Mail
Option 2- Online
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.
Your OPT approval may take 3 - 5 months to be processed by USCIS, so you need to plan ahead. The earliest you can apply is 90 days BEFORE your program end date on your I-20, but NO LATER than 60 days AFTER your program end date. 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.
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.
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.
You cannot change the program end date and the requested OPT start date once we enter the OPT recommendation in your SEVIS record.
Each document you print for your application 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 "do-not-reply.SEVP@ice.dhs.gov." 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.
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.
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.
Students must inform us within 10 days of changing to another nonimmigrant status such as becoming a permanent resident/green card holder, H-1B, J-1 etc. Note that your OPT 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.
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.
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.