12 Months of OPT - Application Procedures
When to Apply
Apply early! Do not wait for a job offer. You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. Allow three months for processing by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), plus additional time for obtaining your academic adviser's signature on the OPT Request Form, Office of International Student Services (ISS) processing, and mailing to USCIS. You cannot work until you receive OPT approval.
You may submit your application to USCIS as early as 90 days before your program end date and up to 60 days after your program end date. (Your program end date is the last day of your final semester, including final exams week, according to the academic calendar.) Please note that your OPT application must arrive at the USCIS Service Center within 30 days of the OPT I-20 issue date, or the request will be denied.
ISS strongly encourages you to apply for OPT three months prior to your program end date. Though USCIS will accept your application up to 60 days after your program end date, you cannot begin work until the application is approved. A delayed application may result in delayed work authorization and/or loss of full OPT eligibility (12 months) due to the three-month processing time by USCIS.
How to Apply
Please read the following instructions carefully. Although ISS provides the 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, we will notify you of the request but it is your responsibility to respond. Please note that if you choose to travel while awaiting approval of the application, it could be difficult to respond to requests from USCIS about your application. Please be sure you check your College email regularly and be sure that the ISS office has a working telephone number for you.
You can pickup a packet of information and forms related to your OPT application at the ISS office.
- Complete your OPT application. (See below for details.)
- Submit OPT application to the ISS Office. (See below for details.)
- Mail the OPT application mail to USCIS. (See below for details.)
Step 1: Complete Your OPT Application
Gather the Following Documents:
- Completed Optional Practical Training Request Form
- Completed I-765 Form
- 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 (see Photo Specifications below)
- Copy of your electronic I-94 information which can be obtained at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/
- $380 check or money order payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" (Do not postdate your check. The date format for your check should be as follows: month/day/year)
- Completed G-1145 Form (optional; it signs you up for email/text message notification of your application's arrival at USCIS) - https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/g-1145.pdf
Your OPT Request Form
- Request form must be signed by your academic adviser before you submit it to ISS.
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 April 29, your start date can be no later than June 28.
- Changing the requested OPT dates after the application has been mailed to USCIS can be very difficult. Choose your dates carefully.
Show Photo Specifications
- 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 unmounted, printed on thin paper, glossy, and not re-touched.
- 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.
- Lightly print your name and your I-94 number in pencil on the back of each photo.
- Passport-style photos can be obtained at the Lycoming County Courthouse, 25 W. Third Street, Williamsport; the James V. Brown Library, 19 E. Fourth Street, Williamsport; Triple A, 1 East 6th Avenue, South Williamsport; or Walmart, 1015 North Loyalsock Avenue, Montoursville.
Completing your I-765
- Item 3: Your Receipt Notice and Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) will be mailed to the address you provide. In most cases, we recommend you use our ISS office address: One College Place, Campus Box 158, Williamsport, PA 17701
- If you will leave campus before you receive your EAD please be sure the mail room has instructions to forward your mail to the ISS office. Our office will need a photocopy of your EAD card. If you use our office address, we will automatically make the photocopy after receiving the EAD and will email you to pick up your card. If it is mailed to your address, you must provide us with a copy. See "Frequently Asked Question" number 10 (below) for mailing options from ISS to your new address.
- Item 10: Use the number from your I-94 print-out. It is an 11-digit number. If you do not have your I-94, please go to https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/.
- Item 11: Check "yes" only if you have previously received an EAD card from USCIS. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) does not require a "yes" answer because CPT is not authorized by USCIS.
- Items 12, 13, 14, 15: Use the information on your I-94. You can retrieve your I-94 at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/. In some cases you may have made recent short trips to Canada or Mexico, which are not reflected by your current I-94. This is standard and it will be fine to use the information from your I-94 anyway. If you have changed to F-1 status within the U.S., include a copy of your Approval Notice.
- Item 16: Use the applicable code:
- Pre-completion OPT: (c)(3)(A)
- Post-completion OPT: (c)(3)(B)
- Item 17: Leave blank unless you are a STEM major applying for the 17-month OPT extension.
- Certification: Sign the form in blue ink.
Step 2: Submit Your Completed OPT Application to ISS
Make an appointment with the ISS office where your completed OPT application will be reviewed for missing information or revision. When the OPT application is finalized, ISS will issue a new, updated I-20 with an OPT recommendation printed on the back page, make copies of your application package, and return to you for mailing.
Step 3: Mail Your Application to USCIS
- Review the checklist and your application to make sure it is complete.
- Sign your OPT-endorsed I-20 at the bottom of page 1 before photocopying it and mailing it to USCIS.
- Mail your application within 30 days of the new OPT-endorsed I-20 being issued. Late applications will be denied by USCIS.
- Do not mail your original passport, I-94, or I-20;
- It is recommended you send your application by certified mail, return receipt requested;
Mail the entire application to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox:
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries:
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
For Express mail and /Courier Deliveries:
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business
Lewisville, TX 75067
- If your I-765 mailing address is outside Pennsylvania State, review the USCIS mailing instructions to find the correct lockbox location.
- E-Notification: If you want to receive an e-mail and/or a text message that your Form I-765 has been accepted at a USCIS lockbox facility, complete Form G-1145 E notification of Application/Petition Acceptance and clip it to the first page of your application.
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 case number. Carefully review the notice to make sure your name is spelled correctly. If it is not, contact ISS immediately.
You may use the case 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 2-3 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. Be sure to review the reporting and employment requirements you must follow after OPT approval.