Optional Practical Training (OPT) is 12-month work authorization available to F-1 international students who have been full-time students for at least two consecutive semesters and plan to seek employment in the United States in their fields of study.
To be eligible for OPT, students must...
- be in full-time F-1 status for at least one academic year.
- be seeking employment in the major field of study listed on their current WWC I-20.
- be completing their program of study at WWC.
- be physically present in the United States at time of the application to USCIS.
- NOT have used more than 1 year of full-time CPT during their current degree level (part-time doesn't count).
- You do not need a job offer first; you can apply for the 12-month OPT authorization without a job offer.
- You may apply for OPT authorization during your academic program, after your program completion, or a combination of both.
Applying for OPT:
The application process involves both GEO and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and can take 3-5 months. OPT applications must be received in a specific time frame and the application can be rather complex. Once a student is approved for OPT, they will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS.
- USCIS Form I-765 filing fee (extra $85 biometric services fee is not required for OPT applications) paid by money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.
- Completed Form I-765.
- Copy of OPT I-20
- Copy of your passport identification page
- If your passport is under renewal, annotate page 7 of the I-765 to include the date you requested the renewal. Use part 2, page 3, item 21b as the citation for this annotation.
- Copy of your recent F-1 visa (An expired F-1 visa is okay as long as you are in the U.S. and maintaining F-1 status).
- Optional: previously issued I-20s – we recommend that you include copies of I-20s showing CPT authorizations and OPT authorizations, though this is not a hard requirement. If you have never been authorized for CPT or OPT previously, copies of past I-20s are not required.
- Two passport-style photos
- Lightly print your name and your I-94 number or SEVIS ID in pencil or felt pen on the back of each photo.
- See the USCIS photo instructions in the “Required Documentation” section on page 13.
- The photos must have been taken within the last 30 days (do not use the same photos used for your F-1 visa application; USCIS might notice and will return the application).
- The two photos should have a white background.
- They should be printed on thin paper with a glossy finish, and be unmounted and unretouched.
- The photos should show a passport-style, full-face image, with both ears visible.
- The photos should be 2 by 2 inches, with the distance from the top of the head to just below the chin about 1 3/8 inches.
- We recommend students to place these in an envelope with name and I-94 number or SEVIS ID on them to avoid them being lost in the packet.
- Printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/
- With few exceptions, your I-94 should list your ‘class of admission’ as F-1 and your ‘admit until date’ as D/S.
- Land border crossings are not always documented in the same way that entries via air are. ISS recommends using your most recent date of entrance into the US.
- Photocopy of previously issued EAD (if applicable)
Step # 3: Receive your endorsed I-20 From GEO; Mail to USCIS
- Review the checklist, your new OPT I-20, and any notes on the Form I-765 to make sure it is complete.
- Sign your OPT-endorsed I-20 at the bottom of page 1 before photocopying it and adding it to your OPT application materials.
- Mail your entire application within 30 days of the new OPT-endorsed I-20 being issued. The application must also be received no later than 60 days after your I-20 end date. Late applications will be denied by USCIS.
- Do not mail your original passport, I-94, or I-20.
- Make copies of everything that you send – including the I-765.
- It is recommended you send your application by certified mail, return receipt requested.
- Review the USCIS mailing instructions to find the correct filing location.
Once your OPT has been approved by USCIS, you may begin working on your start date.