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Optional Practical Training (OPT) Application Basics

Optional Practical Training is defined as 'temporary employment for practical training directly related to the student's major area of study.' An F-1 student who has maintained lawful F-1 visa status for at least one academic year may be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT may be granted before or after completion of their program, however limitations apply. A student is allowed a maximum of 12 months of full-time OPT for each increasing degree level. You do not need a job offer in order to apply for OPT and having a job opportunity does not expedite the process. Some students may be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT, see OPT STEM Extension for details.

Pre-completion vs. Post-completion OPT

Students may apply for full-time pre-completion OPT provided all coursework has been completed and they are working full-time on a thesis or dissertation; otherwise, students may only apply for part- time OPT (20 hours or less) during their degree program (except during normal schools breaks when pre-completion OPT may be authorized for full-time).

A student is eligible for post-completion OPT once:

1.     You have completed all degree requirements OR

2.     You are a graduate student and have completed all degree requirements with the exception of the thesis/dissertation.

Full-time vs. Part-time OPT

Part-time OPT is deducted at half the rate of full-time OPT towards the 12 month total. For example, if a student engages in 6 months of part- time OPT prior to degree completion, 3 months of eligibility will be deducted from their total of 12 months of eligibility and they will have 9 months of full-time OPT remaining.

All post-completion OPT is considered full-time.

Impact of CPT

Part time CPT has no impact on OPT.  Please be aware, however, if an F-1 student has engaged in 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT), he/she is ineligible for OPT.

When to Apply for OPT

Pre-completion OPT

Students applying for pre-completion OPT can mail their applications to USCIS up to 90 days before their requested OPT start date. In order to begin working, the student must have the EAD card and have reached the start date on the card. On Form I-765, section 20 should be completed as follows: (C)(3)(A).

Post-completion OPT

Students applying for post-completion OPT can apply up to 90 days before the date that they will complete their course of study and must submit their OPT application to USCIS NO LATER THAN 60 days after the date that they will complete their course of study. Please see below for a visual representation of the application timeline. For most Bachelor's and Master's students, the day that degree requirements are completed is the last registered class day or the end of the semester. For doctoral students, the date on which degree requirements are completed varies by school. See an OIS Advisor for specific details. Once a student has completed all degree requirements, regardless of whether the date of graduation is weeks or months later, that student is considered to have finished their program, regardless of the end date on the I-20. OPT applications must be received by USCIS no later than 30 days after the I-20 with the OPT recommendation is issued and the OPT start date should be within 60 days from the program end date.  Applications filed too early or too late will be rejected by USCIS. On Form I-765, section 20 should be completed as follows: (C)(3)(B).

 

Requesting an OPT Start Date

When applying for OPT, you will need to select an OPT start date. That date must be within 60 days after the end date on your I-20. For example, if you finish all degree requirements by April 15th, the last day you may request to start your period of OPT will be June 15th. The date you request as the start date does not necessarily mean that is the start date that will be approved. Therefore, please note: You must have the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in your possession and the start date on the EAD must be reached before you may engage in employment. Also, once you have completed all degree requirements you may not continue to work in any capacity until you have received your EAD. This includes on- campus employment.  It is often advisable to discuss the OPT dates with an OIS advisor.

Application Timeline for Post-Completion OPT

An OPT application can be submitted up to 90 days before the program completion date and cannot be received by USCIS more than 60 days after the program completion date. Once you have requested an OPT start date, it cannot be changed.  It can take 90 days or more for you to receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. If you wish to begin working immediately upon completing your degree requirements, you should plan to apply for OPT as soon as you are within 90 days of your program completion date.  If you have applied for OPT and have not received your EAD card by the time you reach your requested start date, you may not begin to work. You must have your EAD and have reached the start date on the EAD in order to work. The start date on your EAD card may not be the same as the date you requested.

 

OPT Application Process

STEP 1: Attend an OPT Information Session in person or online

In-person information sessions are typically held monthly and are listed in the OIS Weekly Update Newsletter you receive to your email.  If you would like to take the session online instead of attending an in-person session, we do offer an eCourse presentation that can be accessed using this link or in your iHopkins account embedded into the OPT Presentation and Quiz eForm.

STEP 2: Take the OPT Quiz

The Post-Completion OPT request process is comprised of a group of two eForms which are located in iHopkins.  The first eForm is the OPT Presentation and Quiz. To ensure that you have reviewed the presentation and have a basic understanding of OPT, you are required to complete a brief quiz.  You must get at least 8 of the 10 quiz questions correct before you can proceed to the Post-Completion OPT Request eForm.

To access the eForms:

  • Go to http://iHopkins.jhu.edu.
  • Click on blue Login button under Full Client Services for Students & Scholars.
  • Login with your JHED ID and password.
  • Once logged in, click on "Post-Completion OPT Quiz and eForm” group in the menu on the left, then click on "OPT Presentation and Quiz."
STEP 3: Prepare and submit OPT Request form to the OIS and receive new I-20

After you pass the OPT quiz, you must complete the “Post Completion OPT Request eForm”.  This eForm will be routed to your Academic Advisor via email for review and approval.  Upon approval from the Academic Advisor, the OIS will review the eForm and create your new I-20. If you choose option 2 below, your I-20 will be created when you meet with an advisor.

You have three options for receiving your new I-20.*

  1. You can have your I20 mailed to you.   
  2. You can indicate times you are available to meet with an OIS advisor to go over your application and ask any additional questions you might have. You will receive the I-20 during that appointment.
  3. OR you can request to pick up the I-20 without going over your OPT application.

*Please note: If you would like to pick up the I-20 in Washington, D.C. or the JHMI Campus, you are not eligible for option 1 or 3.

STEP 4: Prepare OPT Application

You will be responsible for compiling the documentation that is required as part of the OPT application.  Below is a list of documents that must be submitted to USCIS.  This information is also available as a pdf checklist.

  • USCIS Form I-765 completed and signed by the student.  The code for question 20 is (c)(3)(b) if you're filing for post-completion OPT (this is the most common) and (c)(3)(a) if you're filing for pre-completion OPT.  We highly encourage single sided printing for all USCIS forms.
  • USCIS Form G-1145 for email/text notification updates regarding your application.
  • Check or money order in the amount of $410 made payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security".
    • You can also pay by a US credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transaction (PDF, 260 KB).  However, be aware that this new process is subject to a higher level of USCIS errors that have resulted in the OPT application being denied and requiring students to refile.   If you use a credit card and the application is rejected, you still are subject to the filing window.
  • 2 Passport-style photographs that meet USCIS specifications found on Form I-765 instructions.
  • Copy of pages 1 and 2 of I-20 with OPT endorsement (endorsement can be found on page 2).  This is the document you will receive at your OPT appointment.
  • Copy of your current I-94 Arrival/Departure Information.
  • Copy of your current, unexpired passport id page.
  • Copy of your current F-1 visa stamp (Canadians are exempt from this requirement).
  • Copies of front and back of any previous work authorization cards (EADs) that you have ever been issued.
STEP 5: Mail the OPT Application to USCIS

You MUST mail your OPT application to USCIS within 30 days of the date that your most recent I-20 (the I-20 with the OPT recommendation on page 2) was signed by an OIS advisor.  Failure to submit your application during this time frame WILL result in a denial of your application.  Send the application to the appropriate USCIS office, based on the address used on the I-765.  You are advised to make a copy of your entire application.  Be careful that the address you use on the I-765 is one at which you may receive mail.  Applications should be mailed via express mail such as Fed Ex or UPS so that the package can be tracked and delivery confirmed.  

USCIS Dallas Lockbox should be used if your address is in:

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, or West Virginia

USCIS Phoenix Lockbox should be used if your address is in:

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Guan or the Northern Mariana Islands

If sending by express mail or courier delivery:

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

If sending by express mail or courier delivery:

USCIS
Attn: AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

 

STEP 6: Receive OPT Card and Begin Employment

Approximately 2-3 weeks after submitting the application, you will receive a receipt notice containing a receipt number. With this number, you can track your case online at www.uscis.gov. Be sure that you receive the mailed receipt in addition to the email notification.  If you have not received the receipt within a month, call or email OIS for advice.  When you receive the receipt notice, it is important that you check the spelling of your name to make sure there are no errors. If you find an error, contact USCIS at the phone number provided on the notice. Within approximately 90 days of submitting your application, you should receive an approval notice and your EAD. You may begin working once you have the EAD card and the start date on the EAD card has been reached.  Please note that USCIS considers this to be your personal application for benefits and will not talk to OIS about its progress.  Only if there is trouble with the SEVIS recommendation for OPT can the OIS take any action.