F1 Work Post-Grad: OPT

12 month (regular) Post-Completion OPT

  • OPT is a benefit of F1 student status that allows you to work off campus in your field of study.
  • You will receive at least 12 months of full time OPT when you complete a program in the U.S.
  • You can apply for OPT no more than three months prior to finishing your degree (or the end of your registered student status if you are an advanced PhD student).
  • You MUST APPLY before you leave the U.S. after finishing your program. If you leave the U.S. after you finish your degree without yet applying for OPT, you are no longer eligible.
  • You may not begin working until you receive the OPT card, and until the start date printed on the card.
  • Read the OPT frequently asked questions section for more details.
  • Read information about the STEM OPT extension here.

Watch a short video about OPT here

Types of Employment Allowable on 12 month (regular) OPT:

F1 OPT authorizes you to be paid for work in your major field of study for the degree program from which you just graduated. You must be employed while you are on OPT, and are only allowed 90 days of unemployment. Below are the types of employment within your field that are allowable for the 12 month (regular) OPT period:

  • Multiple employers. A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student’s degree program and, for pre-completion OPT, can not exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours.
  • Short-term multiple employers (performing artists). A student, such as a musician or other type of performing artist, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration.
  • Work for hire. This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment, where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by the Department of Homeland Security, the student must be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract period and the name and address of the contracting company.
  • Self-employed business owner. A student on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student must be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to the student’s degree program.
  • Employment through an agency or consulting firm. A student on post-completion OPT must be able to provide evidence showing he or she worked at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.
  • Paid employment. A student must work at least 20 hours per week when on post-completion OPT.
  • Unpaid employment. A student may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work must be at least 20 hours per week for a student on post-completion OPT. A student must be able to provide evidence acquired from the student’s employer to verify that the student worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.

How to Apply

Step One

Step Two

  • If you fill in the I-20 request on line, you will get an email that your I-20 is ready within 2-5 days.
  • If you filled in the paper copy of the “ISSO information sheet,” bring that to the ISSO and sign in.  It will take the ISSO 2 - 5 days to create the udated I-20.
  • Your new I-20 will include our ISSO advisor recommendation for your OPT on page 2. You will send a copy of this new I-20, after you SIGN it, with your application.

Step Three

  • Be sure to keep copies of everything you mail for your own records!
  • Mail the documents listed below to the USCIS at one of the addresses below if the return address on your I-765 is in New York State.  If your return address is NOT in New York State, read page 7 in the OPT packet to find out where to send your application.
  • USCIS must receive your application no more than 60 days beyond your graduation date AND no more than 30 days beyond the date ISSO creates the I-20 with your OPT recommendation. (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.

Mailing Addresses for OPT

If the address you list on your I-765 is in New York State, then mail your application to one of these two addresses in Dallas, Texas:

For U.S. Postal Service deliveries:

PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

For Express Mail and courier service deliveries (FedEx, UPS, etc):

Attn: AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121
Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

Items to Include in OPT application

  1. Form I-765
  2. If you want to receive electronic notices from USCIS, attach form G-1145 available from www.uscis.gov.
  3. A copy of page 1 and page 2 of the new I-20 from the ISSO with the OPT recommendation on page 2.
  4. A print out of your US Admission Record from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov
  5. A copy of photo page (identification page) of your passport with passport expiration date.
  6. A copy of the 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 US Admission Record number (from the I-94 record) 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. Checks may be made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. You may send a money order or a personal check drawn on a US bank, NO CASH. Attach to the front of the I-765.
  11. If you are applying for the STEM extension, you must also include a copy of your transcripts or diploma as long as it states the degree field.

Final Notes

Staple all above documents together and send by certified mail with a return receipt OR federal express (so that you have a tracking number and proof that they received your application). 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.