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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. 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 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 12 month total. For example, if a student engages in 6 months of part- time OPT prior to degree completion, 3 months of eligibilty will be deducted from their total of 12 months of eligibility and they will have 9 months of full-time OPT remaining. Please be aware, however, if an F-1 student engaged in 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT), he/she is ineligible for OPT. All post-completion OPT is considered full-time.

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 16 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. 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 16 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 up to 90 days 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

Information sessions are typically held in the winter and are listed on the events page of this site.  If you don't see an upcoming session listed, contact your OIS advisor for information.

STEP 2: Prepare and submit OPT Request form to the OIS and receive new I-20

Students on Homewood, Carey, Peabody, or SAIS I-20s:

  • Complete the OPT Request Form and upload it along with all the documents listed on the checklist provided in the form as one PDF through iHopkins.
  • While submitting your OPT request, if you indicated that you will visit an advisor (in case of questions), you may bring your OPT packet to an OIS location during scheduled advising hours for review before mailing it out to USCIS.  If not, then you will be notified via email when your I-20 with the OPT recommendation is ready for pick up.  It is strongly recommended that you see an advisor to confirm your OPT dates and review your application.  
  • Receive a new I-20 with the OPT recommendation on the 2nd page from the OIS.

Students on JHMI I-20s [SOM/SPH/SON]:

  • Upload only the OPT Request Form through iHopkins.
  • Schedule an appointment with an OIS advisor at JHMI via iHopkins.  You will be required to request at least two different time slots for your appointment while submitting the OPT packet and the OIS will do our best to accommodate one of them.  Appointments can be requested for Monday through Thursday 8:30-12 and 1-4.  You will receive an email reply confirming your appointment date and time.  
  • Bring all the documents listed in the checklist provided in the packet for your appointment.
  • Receive a new I-20 with the OPT recommendation on the 2nd page from the OIS..
STEP 3: 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. DO NOT mail the OPT Request form to USCIS.  That form is used for OIS purposes only.  

  • USCIS Form I-765 completed and signed by the student.  The code for question 16 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 recommend 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". An example of what the check should look like can be found on the USCIS website.
  • 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 recormmendation (recommendation can be found on page 2).  This is the document you will receive at your OPT appointment.
  • Copies of all pages of ALL other form I-20s that have been issued to you by ALL SCHOOLS ATTENDED.
  • 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 4: 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 application to the appropriate USCIS office, based upon 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 U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

USCIS
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

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 U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

USCIS
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

If sending by express mail or courier delivery:

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

 
STEP 5: 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. 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 passed.  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 we take any action.