Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an employment authorization most students use after graduation to gain work experience in their field of study.
OPT is granted for a duration of 12 months (extensions are available for STEM majors) per educational level.
Steps for Gaining and Maintaining OPT Authorization
Step 1: Complete the OPT I-20 Request in WildcatSync
- Log into WildcatSync, find the OPT I-20 Request and fill it out.
- With your academic advisor, complete the OPT Advisor Recommendation form (PDF) and upload to the OPT I-20 Request.
- Submit the request form and allow 3-5 days for ISP to issue a new I-20 that will include the OPT recommendation.
Step 2: Gather Materials
To be completed while ISP is preparing your updated OPT I-20.
Prepare the items below, which are required by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as part of the OPT application:
- Form I-765.
- Create a USCIS account. Review this helpful Steps to Apply for OPT Online guide.
- If you choose to file online, first make sure that you contact ISP for your OPT I-20 and upload this document within your online application.
- Gather $410 to be paid online
- Fees are subject to change. Check the status of the fee increase before submission of your OPT application to USCIS.
- Two passport photos (2″x2″). Make sure the photos meet U.S. government specifications.
- Your most recent I-94 record
- Your most recent F-1 visa
- Your passport biographical page.
- If your visa was stamped in your old, expired passport, include a copy of the biographical and/or expiration page of that passport as well.
- Copies of all previous I-20s with CPT/OPT or a different SEVIS ID number
- New I-20 with OPT recommendation from ISP
Step 3: Schedule an OPT Application Review
After you are informed that your OPT I-20 is ready, schedule an appointment with an ISP advisor to review the completed OPT application. When you come for the appointment you are expected to have all of the above items (review Step 2) so that ISP can review the material that is otherwise ready to be submitted to USCIS.
Step 4: Submit the USCIS application and payment
You must submit these to USCIS within 30 days of ISP recommending you for OPT.
- Log back into your USCIS account.
- Make any necessary changes after your appointment with an ISP advisor.
- Submit the application and make the payment. Your application has not been submitted until you have completed the payment.
Step 5: Wait
It will generally take USCIS at least 90 days to process the OPT application and there is no way to expedite the process. For this reason, it is important that you apply for OPT at least three months before you hope to have the work authorization and begin your employment. You may not begin working until your OPT is approved, you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the USCIS, and the approved start date arrives.
Step 6: Maintain F-1 Status During OPT
Remember that throughout the entirety of your OPT, your legal immigration status is F-1. If you need to renew your visa, it would be an F-1 visa for which you apply. You must maintain a valid travel signature on your I-20 if you are traveling internationally. Travel signatures are valid for 6 months while on OPT.
Within 2-3 days before/after your approved OPT start date, you will receive an email instructing you to set up your SEVP Portal. The link will expire after 14 days, so do not delay. You are required to report employment and address updates through the portal. While on OPT, students are required to report any of the following within 10 days:
- A change in name or residential address
- The name and address of your employer. If you have more than one employer, you must provide each employer's name and address.
- The name and address of any new employer(s)
- Any change to any employer's name or address
- Any period(s) of unemployment, including those days between the end of one job and the beginning of the new job
- If you decide to cease OPT and depart the U.S. (also report to ISP)
- If you change to another immigration status in the U.S. (also report to ISP)