International Student and Scholar Services

Optional Practical Training (OPT)


Please note:

Until further notice, USCIS is delaying both the increase of their Form I-765 filing fee and the release of the 10/2/20 edition of the Form I-765. Students applying for OPT, STEM Extension, and Severe Economic Hardship work authorization should submit the 08/25/20 edition of the Form I-765 and pay the original $410 filing fee.

What is OPT?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary off-campus employment for practical training directly related to an F-1 student’s major. Unlike Curricular Practical Training (CPT), OPT does not need to contribute to a student’s degree plan (e.g. internship credit)—and is most often used after graduation.

Key Aspects

There are three kinds of OPT:

  1. Post-Completion (most common) – up to one year of work authorization granted after a student completes all course requirements
  2. STEM-Extension: up to 2 years of additional Post-Completion OPT for students with STEM degrees
  3. Pre-Completion (uncommon) – up to one year of work authorization granted before a student completes all course requirements
    1. CIS requests that any students interested in Pre-Completion OPT contact a CIS advisor—and consider CPT instead

Students need to apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for OPT authorization with the help of a Designated School Official (DSO) from CIS.

Employment can begin when the student receives an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card from USCIS.

Eligibility 

  • Student has been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year
  • Student is not enrolled in an intensive English-language or certificate program.
  • Student has not exceeded 12 months of full-time CPT
  • For Post-Completion OPT: student will be completing all course requirements for their major by the end of the semester—or is in their 60-day grace period after completing all course requirements.
    • At SCSU, graduate students can apply for and engage in Post-Completion OPT while they work on their thesis, capstone paper, or comprehensive examination.

OPT Administrative Processing Fee

While working in the U.S. on OPT, the Center for International Studies is still federally required to maintain, update, and report on students' SEVIS records until all employment authorization has concluded.  This fee offsets the expenses of mandatory SEVIS compliance of employment reporting requirements, Cap-Gap requests, processing of travel authorization, federally required address, and employment requirements.

Things to Know before Applying

  • The earliest a student can apply for Post-Completion OPT is 90 days before their program end date.
  • The latest a student can apply for Post-Completion OPT is 60 days after their program end date (USCIS must receive the application by this time).
  • USCIS usually takes about 3 months to process OPT applications.
  • The application fee is $410.
  • When granted, authorization is usually valid for one year.

Steps for Applying

The student must first submit the following to the Center for International Studies:

To apply, students will need to mail a packet of application materials to USCIS with the help of a Designated School Official (DSO) from CIS. These are the steps:

  1.  Review the Eligibility requirements and Things to Know before Applying above to determine if you are eligible. If you are unsure, you can contact CIS for guidance.
  2. Pay the $100 OPT Administrative Processing Fee.
    • While you are working in the U.S. on OPT, CIS is federally required to maintain, update, and report on your SEVIS record until all employment authorization has concluded. This fee offsets the expenses of all SEVP-mandated employment reporting.
    • To pay, send an email requesting the processing fee to be added to your account.
      • To: Gregory, Kimberly K. kkgregory@stcloudstate.edu
      • Cc: Nelson Ramos, Kristy M. kmnelsonramos@stcloudstate.edu 
      • Subject: $100 OPT Administrative Processing Fee
      • Text: Last name, first name, Tech ID, personal email
      • Pay the processing fee in one of the following ways:
        • Online – through e-Services; Mastercard, Visa, Discover, or E-Check accepted
        • Phone – call the Cashier’s Office at (320)308-4012; 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday – Friday
        • In-person – Administrative Service Building, Room 123; 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday – Friday
  3.  Contact CIS for assistance with your OPT application, submitting the following documents via email or the CIS front desk:
    • Receipt of $100 OPT Processing Fee payment
    • Completed OPT Request form
    • Completed Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization PDF)
      • Please be sure you are using the 05/31/22 edition (date found at the bottom left of the form).
      • You should download the PDF form and type the required information. USCIS scanners often misread handwritten forms, which could delay processing. The scanners do not read information that is grayed out, highlighted, or corrected with correction fluid or tape.
      • Guidance for Completing Form I-765
      • Form G-1145
        • You should download the form and type the required information, since USCIS scanners often misread handwritten forms, which could delay processing.
          • Use your personal email address.
  4. DSO will review your completed documents, request your OPT work authorization in SEVIS, and create an updated I-20 with the OPT request. (The request will be found on page 2 of the I-20.)
  5. When the processing is finished, CIS will email you with your new I-20 and your application materials with the DSO’s comments.
  6. Print two copies of your new I-20: one to submit to CIS and one to keep. You should print these in color and sign them in blue ink.
  7. Gather everything in the Complete List of Application Materials below.
  8. Make copies of all application materials for your records.
  9. Mail your application packet to USCIS.

Complete List of Application Materials

  • Completed Form I-765 (instructions)
    • Click here for help in filling out the I-765 –(A link to the Information below in the grid on a PDF)
  • Copy of most recent I-20 (pages 1 and 2)
  • Copy of all previous I-20s (pages 1 and 2)
  • Copy of I-94
  • Color copy of passport photo page
  • Two (2) full-face, passport-style photos
    • The photos must be identical and in color with a plain background.
    • They should be no more than 30 days old when your application is filed to USCIS.
    • Photos can be obtained at Walgreens, Walmart, or a local photography shop.
  • Include your photography receipt with the photos to prove they are recent.
  • Write your name and I-94 number in pencil on the back of the photos.
  • $410 application fee in the form of a money order payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"
  • All past Employment Authorization Document (EAD) cards (if applicable)
  • Student Health Insurance Petition for Refund (if applicable)

Mailing to USCIS

Make sure you mail your application packet within 30 days from the date the CIS advisor recommends your off-campus work authorization in SEVIS (this date is shown on the signature line on your I-20). Also make sure your application arrives at the USCIS office no later than 60 days after your program end date (to be safe, we recommend you do not wait until the last minute).

You can mail the packet via the U.S. Postal Service or courier service (FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc.) to one of the corresponding addresses:

U.S. Postal Service
USCIS
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036

Express mail and courier services:
USCIS
Attn: NFB AOS
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Students are responsible for mailing their own applications to USCIS.

We encourage using a tracked mailing system (e.g. USPS certified mail, FedEx, UPS) to ensure safe delivery.

Filing Online to USCIS

USCIS now offers F-1 students the option to file the I-765, application for Employment Authorization, online for Post-Completion OPT. To file online, you must first create a USCIS online account. A USCIS account allows you to submit your forms, pay your fees online, track the status of your case, receive notices from USCIS, communicate with USCIS through a secure inbox, and respond to any requests for evidence. 

Note: Only file your application online AFTER CIS has processed your Post-Completion OPT request and provided you with a new I-20 that shows Post-Completion OPT "requested" at the top of page 2.

For further guidance on the online submission process, please read our Guidance for Applying for Post-Completion OPT Online. Please contact the Center for International Studies if you need assistance. 

Make sure that you submit your online application within 30 days from the date the CIS advisor recommends your off-campus work authorization in SEVIS (this date is shown on the signature line on your I-20). It must be submitted to USCIS no later than 60 days after your program end date

Approval 

  • USCIS usually takes 3 months to process OPT Applications.
  • Within 2 weeks of receiving your application, USCIS will mail you a Form I-797 Receipt Notice to the mailing address you provide on your Form I-765.
  • If your application is returned with a Request for Further Evidence (RFE), you should contact a DSO for assistance. We will likely need to create a new I-20 for you.
  • When your application is approved, USCIS will mail you the following separately:
    • Form I-797 Approval Notice
    • EAD card
  • You can begin working—paid or unpaid—only after you have received the EAD card.
  • You should submit a copy of your EAD to your employer. 
  • If your application is denied, USCIS will mail you a notification.

Reporting Your OPT Employment

You have a total of 90 unemployment days available during your year of Post-Completion OPT. The unemployment count starts on your OPT start date and ends only when your employment is reported in SEVIS.

You can report your OPT employment through your SEVP Portal or the CIS OPT/STEM Extension Employment Reporting page.

OPT requests

OPT requests can be entered into SEVIS starting Sept. 20, 2019.

Due to the high volume of applications, processing times may be more than seven business days.

Applications will be processed in the order in which they are received.

Processing does not begin until a complete application is submitted.

Connect With Us