Optional Practical Training

F-1 students who have maintained their status and have completed one academic year of study in the U.S. may be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Approval for OPT is recommended by a DSO (Designated School Official) and granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The USCIS may take 90 days to process your application. Once you receive an EAD from the USCIS, it is impossible to revoke it. You cannot work while you are waiting for the EAD to arrive.

What is Optional Practical Training?

Optional Practical Training is temporary employment related to the area of study indicated on your Form I-20. You may use your OPT time during your course of study or after the completion of your studies. You are allowed a maximum of 12 months during your entire academic career in the US.

Part time employment is 20 hours per week or less. Full time employment is 21 hours or more per week. You may apply to use your OPT time as you wish during your academic career in the US per the following guidelines:

  1. While school is in session (part-time only)
  2. During vacation (part-time or full-time)
  3. After completion of all course work but before completion of thesis or dissertation (part-time or full-time)
  4. After completion of your studies (full-time ONLY)

To apply for OPT that will be used after completion of your studies:

  1. View Presentation PDF icon here (Please know that you are required to go over carefully all the information on this presentation)
  2. Apply no earlier than 90 days prior to the program completion date listed on your I-20.
  3. Complete the OPT Application Eform (You can find a link for OPT Eform in the presentation above).
  4. Submit E-Form
  5. Within 10 business days you will receive an email to schedule appointment to review documents.
  6. Receive OPT Recommendation I-20 from CISP (Please know that you cannot apply for OPT with USCIS without OPT Recommendation I-20 from CISP).
  7. Schedule OPT application review with CISP Advisor.
  8. A job offer is NOT required to apply.

Form I-765 FAQs (download form here)

Complete the form online, using the fillable form.

1 1a-c Check one of the three boxes at the top of the form. For OPT, select "initial permission to accept employment."
2 1a-c Enter your legal name.
2 2a-4c Other legal names you may have used or leave it blank if this is not the case.
2 5a-e Enter the address where you want your EAD card mailed.  Please keep it mind processing times.  You may enter the CISP address.
2 6 If you enter the CISP address or enter a mailing address different than your U.S. Physical Address, select "No."
2 7a-d Enter your U.S. Physical Address if you selected "No" for 6 (Part 2).
2 8 Enter Alien Registration Number.  If you do not have one, leave it blank.
2 9 Enter your USCIS Online Account Number.  If you do not have one, leave it blank.
2 10 Select gender
2 11 Select marital status.
2 12 Select "Yes" if you have previously filed an I-765.  You will need to include copies of previous EAD cards with the application if you have.
2 13a Select "Yes" if you have received a Social Security Number.  Otherwise, select "No."
2 13b Enter your Social Security Number if you have it.  If you do not have a Social Security Number, leave it blank.
2 14 If you want the Social Security Administration (SSA) to issue you a Social Security Card, select "Yes."  Otherwise, select "No."
2 15 Select "Yes" or "No" for disclosure authorization for a Social Security Number.
2 16a-17b Enter names of parents if you are authorizing disclosure of information for a Social Security Number and Social Security Card.
2 18a-b Enter country or countries of citizenship.
2 19a-c Enter place of birth.
2 20 Enter date of birth (MM/DD/YYYY)
2 21a Enter most recent I-94 number.  You can obtain your most recent I-94 here:
2 21b Enter most recently issued passport number.
2 21c If you have a travel document, enter the number here.  If not, leave it blank.
2 21d Enter the country that issued your most recent passport.
2 21e Enter the expiration date for your most recently issued passport.  Your passport should be valid 6 months into the future at all times.
2 22 Enter the most recent date of arrival to the United States.  You should be able to find this on your most recent I-94.
2 23 Enter the place of arrival into the United States for your most recent entry.  This should be the place of initial entry where you went through customs.
2 24 Enter your immigration status when you last arrived to the U.S.
2 25 Enter current immigration status.  
2 26 Enter SEVIS number.  This number is on the upper left of the first page of your I-20. 
2 27 (C) (3) (A) for pre-completion OPT, (c)(3)(B) for post-completion OPT, and (c)(3)(C) for a 24-month STEM OPT extension is the OPT code. see page two of the Form I-765 for an explanation of the codes
2 28 If you are not applying for the STEM OPT Extension, leave this blank.
2 29-30 Leave blank
3 1 Check the appropriate box.
3 3-5 Enter your contact information in the appropriate fields.
3 7a-b Sign and date.  Signature must be in black ink, and it must be a "wet" signature.  The signature on the I-765 should be less than 30 days old when received by USCIS.  
4-5 1-7;1-8 Leave blank unless interpreter/preparer prepared form.
6   Complete this section if you have had CPT or OPT authorized previously and/or if you had a previous SEVIS ID number.  For 3a-d, 4a-d, 5a-d, etc. please folllow the examples in this guide:PDF icon I-765 Part 6 Guide.pdf



The CSU International Center will mail the following to USCIS (For both OPT to be used before and after completion of studies)

  1. A photo copy of your SEVIS Form I-20 with the recommendation for OPT (sign the copy)
  2. A photo copy of your passport ID pages (make sure that photo is clear)
  3. A photo copy of your Form I-94 card 
  4. Two passport photos (effective September 1, 2004)
  5. Original Form I-765 
  6. Copies of all previous CPT Form I-20s
  7. $410 Check made payable to US Department of Homeland Security

Form I-765 application must be sent to a designated USCIS Lockbox facility. Applications will be reviewed and sorted at the Lockbox facility, and complete applications will be forwarded on to the appropriate Service Center for processing.
There is an ability to request an E-Notification of the receipt of the application at the Lockbox facility by including the Form G-1145, “E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance” to the first page of the application.  There is more information about USCIS Lockbox facilities here.

DO NOT FORGET TO SIGN YOUR NAME.  Sign in black ink.  The signature must be a "wet ink" signature.

For further information contact:

FAQs about Optional Practical Training (OPT)

1) Should I keep a copy of my application?

Yes. Always keep copies of all official documents that you send through the mail.


2) How can I check on the status of my application?

When USCIS sends you your receipt notice in 2 to 4 weeks, your receipt number which begins with a 3-letter code followed by digits can be used to access information about your application by checking the USCIS website at or  calling the USCIS at 1-800-375-5283.


3) Will I be able to travel outside the U.S. while I am on Post Completion OPT?

In order to re-enter the U.S. after you have completed your program of study; you must have an I-20 which has been signed by a Designated School Official (DS) in CISP in the past six months and your “Employment Authorization Document” (EAD Card). It is recommended that you have an employment letter as well.  You cannot re-enter without your EAD card. If you need a new visa, you should bring your I-20, EAD card and a letter from your employer. You must have a job to re-enter the U.S. while on OPT. Remember there is never a guarantee that you will get a new visa.


4) Why does my EAD card say “not valid for re-entry”?

This means that your EAD card is not valid for re-entry in and of itself. You must have a valid visa, a signed I-20 and your EAD card.


5) What if I change my mind and I want to cancel my application for OPT?

Once your EAD card is approved, you cannot cancel your OPT, even if you only use a few months and then go back to school. You CANNOT recover the remaining months of OPT and use them at a later date. If you cannot complete your studies or you change your mind before the card has been issued, the application for OPT can be withdrawn, your application fee will NOT be refunded.


6) If I work on OPT for a year after I finish one degree and then I go back and get a higher degree, will I get 12 months of OPT when I finish my next degree?

Yes, students who complete one degree and then pursue a higher degree may apply for an additional 12 months in the new program of study. If you pursue a degree at the same level, you will not get additional OPT time.


7) Can I get a continuation of my OPT? What is STEM OPT?

Maybe. If you only applied for 6 months and want the remainder 6 months, no, you cannot get a continuation. If your degree is in a STEM eligible field (specific Science, Technology, Engineering & Math programs) and your employer is using the E-verify system, then yes, you can qualify for a continuation. STEM students with certain CIP codes can apply for an extension of an additional 17 months. If you do not qualify for an extension, your employer must sponsor you for an employment visa, such as an H1B, in order for you to have continuous work authorization.


8) Can I begin working before I receive the Employment Authorization Document?

You may NOT begin employment before you receive your EAD from USCIS; working before practical training has been

authorized by the USCIS constitutes illegal employment that will jeopardize your legal status in the US.

9) What should I do once I have the EAD card and employment? What is the portal?

You only have 90 days of unemployment to continue OPT.  Please go to our website and/or portal to update your employment information. The portal will allow these F-1 students to report personal and employer information directly to SEVP. Through the portal, these students will be able to:

— Add or edit their phone number.

— Add or edit their mailing and physical address.

— Add or edit their employer information.


Follow these mailing recommendations to avoid problems receiving your EAD card

  • Remember the U.S. Postal Service will NOT forward mail from USCIS. You are required to supply your mailing address on the Form I-765. If you think that you might change your mailing address within four months of sending your application to USCIS, please use the CISP office address or the reliable mailing address of a friend or relative. If you use the CISP address, we will contact you as soon as your EAD arrives. 
    • If you wish to use the CISP address, fill out page 2, Part 2, 5A the I-765 according to the following example:
      • In Care of Name (if any)

      • Address in the United States (Number and Street) (Apt. Number)

        2121 Euclid Ave BH 412 

        (Town or City) (State/Country) (ZIP Code)

        Cleveland, OH 44115-2214


If you have a forwarding order on your mail, your EAD card will still be sent back to USCIS, as government mail is not forwarded.

  •  Make sure your name is on the mailbox. The U.S. Post Office will only deliver mail from USCIS to you if your name is on the mailbox. If you live with roommates, make sure that your name is listed on the box separately. If your last name is different from that of your spouse, make sure both names are listed on the box. If your name is not on the box, your EAD may be sent back to USCIS.
  • If you must change your address… Contact the USCIS National Customer Service Center at the number provided on your Receipt Notice at 1-800-375-5283. However, please attempt to avoid this situation as the notification process is NOT fail safe.
  • If you experience anything unusual regarding the processing of your application, please contact an advisor in CISP, who will assist when possible.