Optional Practical Training (OPT)

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). *Please know that you cannot submit OPT application with USCIS before receiving your OPT recommended I-20 from CISP advisor. If you submit OPT application with USCIS without OPT recommended I-20, your application will be rejected. 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.

* Attention! I-765 OPT or STEM Extension OPT filing fee increase: USCIS recently announced new fee increases that will go into effect April 1, 2024. Any applications submitted to USCIS on or after April 1, 2024, will need to include the new fee amounts or they will not be accepted by USCIS - Online Filing (F-1 OPT, STEM OPT Extension) will increase from $410 to $470 & Paper Filing will increase from $410 to $520.

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 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. After completion of all course work but before completion of thesis or dissertation 
  2. After completion of your studies 

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

  1. View the OPT Powerpoint Presentation (Please know that you are required to go over carefully all the information on this presentation)
  2. Complete the OPT Application Eform to CISP by logging into CISP Portal (Apply no earlier than 90 days prior to the program completion date).
  3. Within 10 business days you will receive an invitation email to book the I-765 group review session (Please know that if you have not received an email invitation yet, you cannot book the review session. You should wait until receiving an invitation email from CISP advisor).
  4. Attend the I-765 group review session (All group review sessions will be in person. We do not provide an online review session).
  5. Receive OPT Recommended I-20 from CISP (Please know that you cannot apply for OPT with USCIS without OPT Recommended I-20).
  6. File for Application for Employment Authorization (I-765) with USCIS. You may file online or mail application to USCIS.

*A job offer is NOT required to apply.

Option 1) If filing for OPT via online with USCIS:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 12, 2021 that F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM OPT 24-month extension now have the option to file their applications online. 

Online filing is a simpler and more convenient process than mail filing, since the system allows you to submit your application with less required documents. This means you must be careful to ensure that everything is included before submitting the online application with USCIS. Please know that you must receive OPT endorsed I-20 from CISP to complete online filing with USCIS. Do not complete your online filing before having a meeting with CISP advisor to receive your OPT endorsed I-20. The general suggestions below are not intended to be legal advice. They are simply general suggestions for how you might proceed when completing the online I-765 application.

* Recommended Steps for Completing Online filing through myUSCIS:

The online filing option allows F-1 students to apply for the Post-completion OPT EAD, upload supporting application documents, pay the $470 filing fee, track the status of their application, communicate with USCIS through a secure inbox, and respond to Requests for Evidence (RFE).

First: Create your online USCIS account: – Click here for instructions on how to sign up. 

Second: From the student’s myUSCIS account, under File A Form, select “Application for Employment Authorization (I-765)”. For Post-completion OPT, choose (C)(3)(B). It is the student’s responsibility to complete the Form I-765 application fully and accurately in accordance with USCIS instructions. Students may use the guide below for additional assistance.

Third: Students must have copies of the following documents ready to upload when filing the Form I-765 through myUSCIS:

  1. Signed OPT endorsed I-20 (all pages) (a CISP advisor will provide this to you): Student must print I-20 and sign the Student Attestation section in ink. 
  2. Recent passport-style 2x2 color photograph (JPG, JPEG, or PNG): Must comply with U.S. Department of State passport photograph requirements (If needed, use this photo tool
  3. Scanned copy of passport page that includes photo, passport number and expiration date: Passport must be valid for at least 6 months from application date
  4. Scanned copy of visa page
  5. Most recent electronic Form I-94 
  6. Copies of previous EAD Cards (if any)
  7. All prior I-20’s with CPT or OPT authorizations

Final Step: Filing Fee—Prior to submitting the Form I-765, the student will be prompted to complete the $470 filing fee payment online. Payment can be completed by electronic bank transfer or with a credit or debit card.

Option 2) If filing for OPT via Mail (UPS or Fedex) to USCIS, gather all your documents below and mail them to USCIS: 

  1. Two passport photos (white background, 2x2 inches cut, your full name and I-94 record# should be on back of photos)
  2. $520 check or money order made payable to Dept. of Homeland Security
  3. G-1145 Form
  4. Completed and signed original I-765 (all 7 pages, make sure to sign it and fill out date of signature on page 5)
  5. New OPT I-20 (front & back pages, issued no more than 30 days before USCIS will receive the application, make sure to sign it and fill out Date)
  6. Current I-94 (front and back)
  7. A copy of passport: ID page, proof of validity 
  8. A copy of F-1 visa page & stamp (if applicable) 
  9. A copy of all previous I-20s (front & back pages) related to current degree program (with CPTs on them if you had)
  10. Job offer letter (if you have a job offer)
  11. A copy of previously issued EAD cards (if applicable)

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 an original, "wet ink" signature.

Form I-765 FAQs (download form here)

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 an original/ "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


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 (DSO) 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 24 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 beenauthorized 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 log into TD system to submit OPT employment reporting form to us. Then, we will update your employment information in Sevis. Or, you can go to SEVP portal to update your employment information yourself. But, please know that you must report it to CISP, although you updated it in SEVP portal yourself. 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 safe.
  • If you experience anything unusual regarding the processing of your application, please contact an advisor in CISP, who will assist when possible.