How to Apply for F1 OPT

Step One: Gather Information

  • How do I choose the start date for my OPT card?

    You are allowed to pick a start date any time within the 60 days following the end of your program (i.e. your graduation date or end of exams). If you are an advanced PhD student and you need an earlier start date of your OPT, there is more leeway in determining your program end date (talk to an advisor at the Office of Global Learning if you are in this situation).

    When choosing the start date for your OPT card, the most important priorities to weigh are:

    1) Choose the earliest day that you might want to start working (you cannot begin working BEFORE the start date on the OPT card and until you receive the card). What if someone offers you a job with the stipulation that you start the day after graduation? Plan for any possibility. [PLEASE NOTE: on campus work authorization ends when your registration ends, so if you want to continue in an on campus job once you are no longer registered, that job must be in your field, and you must have received your OPT card.]

    2) If you want the latest possible day to start your work authorization, the latest day you may choose as your start date for the OPT card is 60 days after your graduation or last day of registration (whichever is earlier). 

    REMEMBER: You may NOT change these dates after you apply for OPT.

Step Two: Request an I-20 updated with the Recommendation for OPT from the Office of Global Learning

Step Three: Download and complete the I-765 form and the G-1145 form

  • Tips on Filling out the I-765

    These are not complete instructions and do not go over every box. These are just tips for some of the boxes that are not self-explanatory.
    Note: We suggest that you print and send in the paper version of the I-765 and NOT submit the I-765 on line because the on line submission requires you to schedule and complete an in person biometric appointment and this usually causes delays in the processing of your OPT application.

    Part 1:
    • Check first box 1a “Initial permission to accept employment” if you are applying for OPT for the first time.
    • If you are applying for a STEM extension, check box 1c “renewal.”
    • Use 1b if you have lost you OPT card and are applying for a replacement.

    Part 2, Your U.S. Mailing Address: This must be a US address at which you can receive mail for at least the next 3 ½ months. You cannot use a forwarding address. If the card is sent to an address with a forwarding order, or if you cannot receive mail at the address you use, your card will be returned to the immigration service and destroyed. If you want to use a friend’s address, you need to make sure your name is on the mailbox. If you want your department to receive mail for you, check with your department first.

    Part 2, Other Information #8 & #9: Leave the Alien registration number or USCIS account number blank if you do not have one (you would only have one if you applied for OPT before). If you have applied for OPT before, the USCIS number is on your OPT card.

    Part 2, #12 Previous use of I-765: If “yes,” include copies of supporting documentation (previous work card, approval notice/receipt notice, etc…).

    Part 2, #14-#17: You may choose to apply for an SSN through your OPT application if you want to. It will not delay your OPT application.

    Part 2, #21a: This is your I-94 record number which you will find at this website.

    Part 2, #27 Eligibility Category: For F-1 OPT, fill out as follows:
    o For POST – Completion (after graduating) OPT: ( c ) ( 3 ) ( B )
    o For the STEM extension of OPT (see FAQ #10 below): ( c ) ( 3 ) ( C )
    o For OPT PRIOR to graduating, summer only: ( c ) ( 3 ) ( A )

    Part 2, #28-28C: If you are applying for the STEM extension, you must also complete this section with your degree field and your employer’s “E-Verify” number.

    F1 students leave #29-31b blank.

    Part 3: Certification: Sign with blue ink and enter today’s date.

    Part 4 & 5: Skip and leave blank.

    Part 6: Include dates of any previous work authorization such as CPT. Fill in 1a, 1b & 3d. In 3d, write “CPT Authorization: mm/dd/yyyy to mm/dd/yyyy” if it was CPT.

    Keep a copy of the completed I-765 for your records.

Step Four: Get Passport Photographs

Step Five: Print your I-94 Record

  • Pull up your I-94 record here.
  • You will need to have your passport in front of you in order to retrieve your I-94 record.
  • Print out the "most recent entry" page.

Step Six: New I-20 and Old I-20's

  • Two to five days after submitting your I-20 request, you will receive your updated I-20 with our Office of Global Learning advisor recommendation for your OPT on page 2.
  • Sign the updated I-20 on page 1.
  • Make a copy of page 1 and 2 of the updated I-20.
  • Gather all of your previous I-20s. If you do not have your previous I-20s, request copies of all of your previous forms using our on line form.

Step Seven: Putting it all together

Put together the items below, keeping a copy of your completed I-765 form for your records:

  1. Your completed I-765 form (see instructions above for completing. Keep a copy for your records.
  2. Form G-1145 (you only need to include this if you want to receive electronic notices from USCIS).
  3. A copy of page 1 and page 2 of the updated I-20 from the Office of Global Learning Advisor recommendation for OPT on page 2.
  4. A print out of your I-94 record "most recent entry" page from the I-94 website.
  5. A copy of photo page (identification page) of your passport with passport expiration date.
  6. A copy of the most recent F1 visa page of your passport (even if expired) (Canadians won't have this).
  7. A copy of ALL previous I-20s that have been issued to you for your current degree program.
  8. A photocopy of your previous OPT card or other work card (EAD) if you have had one.
  9. Two NEW passport type photographs from within the last 30 days (See sample in the OPT packet). You may NOT use photos that you have previously used for a visa or passport. Print your name and I-94 number lightly in pencil on the back of each photo. Put the photos in an envelope and attach it to front of I-765. Do NOT cut the photos!
  10. FEE: The fee is $410; You may send a personal check, money order or a cashier's (bank) check drawn on a U.S. bank. Make checks payable to the Department of Homeland Security. Attach the check or money order to the front of the I-765.

Step Eight: Mailing the Application

  • Keep a copy of your I-765 for your records!
  • Staple all the documents together.
  • You will send your application to the appropriate address for USCIS depending on the return address you used on your I-765. Please check this website for the proper mailing address for your application.
  • Mail your application to USCIS using some form of mail that has a tracking number and proof that your application has been received: USPS certified mail with a return receipt, federal express, UPS, DHL, etc.
  • USCIS must receive your application no more than 30 days beyond the date the Office of Global Learning creates the I-20 with your OPT recommendation and no more than 60 days beyond your graduation date (USCIS will deny the application if you do not meet these deadlines.)
  • You may not begin working until you receive the OPT card, and until the start date printed on the card.

Final Notes

  • After mailing in the documents, you will receive a notice (Form I-797) stating you need to wait for 60 to 90 days to receive your EAD. With the receipt notice, you can check your case status on line.
  • In general, it can take about 3 to 3 1/2 months to get your card.