International Students and Scholars Office

Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)

What is Post-Completion OPT?

It 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 field of study.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for granting authorization for OPT. Learn more about Optional Practical Training

Looking for information about the 24-month STEM OPT Extension? Click here.


You are required to meet all the following criteria to be eligible to apply for OPT:
  • You are currently in F-1 status.
  • You have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year (two semesters) or will complete one academic year by the date the OPT approval begins.
    • Some students who have changed their visa status to F-1 and who have been continuously enrolled in a full-time degree program for at least 1 academic year at a SEVP approved school may qualify for OPT prior to 1 year in F-1 status. See an International Student Advisor for more information.
    • If you started your program from abroad, semesters completed outside the US as a non-F-1 student will not count towards the one academic year requirement. 
      • For example, if a student started their program from overseas in Spring 2022, their enrollment in Spring 2022 will not count towards the one academic year of full-time enrollment. See SEVP guidance
  • You have not been authorized for a total of 12 months of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Part-time CPT does not affect OPT.
  • You do not need a job offer first; you can apply for the 12-month OPT authorization without a job offer.
  • You have not previously completed 12 months of OPT at the same degree level.
  • You are eligible for 12 months of full-time OPT per academic level, when changing to a higher educational level.
    • For example, you may apply for 12 months of OPT after completing a bachelor’s degree and then another 12 months after completing a master’s degree.
  • You may apply for OPT authorization during your academic program, after your program completion, or a combination of both. 

When to Apply

The OPT application process involves two major parts. First you must apply for an OPT recommendation on your I-20. Then you must submit an OPT application packet, including a signed copy of your OPT I-20, to USCIS.

  • You can apply for OPT up to 90 days before and up to 60 days after your expected program completion date (the last day of the finals week).
  • USCIS must receive your full and complete OPT application no more than 60 days after your expected program completion date.
  • In addition, USCIS must receive your application within 30 days of when the ISSO recommends your OPT.
  • You must be physically present in the United States at the time USCIS receives your OPT application. 

Generally, we recommend applying for OPT as early as possible. Waiting can cause further delays and you may not get a full 12 months of OPT. Additionally, applying early increases your chances of being able to reapply if your application is rejected or denied.

Note: If you are applying for OPT after your expected program completion date, you must submit your OPT application to USCIS before making any exit from the United States. If you exit the United States after your program completion without applying for OPT, you will be ineligible to return in F-1 status to apply for OPT.

OPT Start Dates

The chart below should be used for information purposes only. Each student is responsible for ensuring their OPT start date falls within 60 days of their program completion date, and USCIS receives their application during the application filing period explained in the "When to Apply" section.  Click here to use Date Calculator.

International Student Advisors are unable to calculate the dates for students.


Program Completion Term: Program Completion Date: Earliest OPT Start Date: Latest OPT Start Date: Application Filing Period:
Summer 2023 8/11/2023 8/12/2023 10/10/2023 5/13/2023 - 10/10/2023
Fall 2023 12/17/2023 12/18/2023 2/15/2024 9/18/2023 - 2/15/2024
Spring 2024 5/17/2024 5/18/2024 7/16/2024 2/17/2024 - 7/16/2024

Disclaimer: OPT dates are subject to change without advance notice. 

Upcoming Events

Application Steps

Click HERE to view the upcoming events schedule.

Some things to consider when choosing your OPT start date:
  • Determine your graduation start date. 
  • The requested start date must be within 60 days of your program completion date. It can be as early as the day after your completion date and up to 60 days after that.
  • It is not guaranteed that you will be approved for the start date you request. Your approved start date will appear on your EAD card and may be later than your requested start date, depending on when you apply for OPT and how long it takes USCIS to approve it. The USCIS guarantees a processing time of 90 days. Please note that you may not begin working until your approved EAD start date, regardless of the requested date on your I-20.  
  • Do you have travel plans? If you plan to travel, especially internationally, you should consider choosing a start date outside this time. View the Travel webpage for more information about travelling while on OPT. 
  • If you have a job offer, discuss with your employer an appropriate start date based on when you have applied for your OPT (consider the 2.5 to 5 month processing time).
  • If you don't have a job offer, you should consider where you are in your job search and when jobs typically start in your field and make your best estimate of when you'd like to begin working.
  • Days of unemployment only begin after the approved start date listed on your EAD.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of an early vs. late start date.
    • If you choose an earlier start date, you may be able to begin your employment earlier, BUT if you don't find a job, you will begin accruing unemployment days sooner.
    • If you choose a later start date, your unemployment days will begin accruing later, BUT you'll have to wait longer to begin employment.
  • Changing the requested OPT dates after the application has been mailed to USCIS can be very difficult. Choose your dates carefully.

You may reference the "OPT Start Dates" chart. However, you are responsible for ensuring your OPT start date falls within 60 days of your program completion date. Click here to use Date Calculator.

You have the option to mail in your application or submit your application online. 
Do not submit Form I-765 to USCIS until you receive an OPT I-20. Doing so may delay or result in denial of your application.

  • Note: Applicants must take a new passport photo that is within 6 months of the application date. 
  • Photos cannot be identical to your current passport photos. 
  • US passport photo requirement
  • Lightly print your name and the SEVIS number on the back of each photo in pencil. Do not use ink pen
  • Place the photos in a small clear sandwich or snack bag

  • Check the current amount
  • Personal Check, Cashier’s Check or Money Order are acceptable. NO CASH
  • Make the fee payable to: U.S. Dept of Homeland Security

The packet includes the following items:

  • Form G-1145, e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
  • Copy of OPT I-20 with your signature
  • Copy of past I-20's with CPT Authorization
  • Copy of passport picture page
  • Copy of most recent F-1 visa with most recent date entry stamp
  • For I-94 click HERE.
  • Application fee
  • Two U.S. passport sized photos


  • Keep a copy of the application materials for you record
  • If you reside outside of California, review the USCIS mailing instructions to find the correct Lockbox location
  • If you live in California mail the entire application to:

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

After filing OPT application (through the mail method), you will:

  • Receive a text or email that USCIS received it (G-1145)
  • Receive the notice of action letter within 2-3 weeks via mail.
    • This is a receipt for the $410
    • Review details for accuracy
    • Provides a case number you can use to check the application status at
  • Receive an EAD card will via the mail approximately 2-3 months later
  • Receive an email to set up SEVP Portal
  • Upload the EAD card on ISSO website   

  • Update your address and employment on SEVP portal


During the period of OPT authorization, you should be employed at least 20 hours per week in activities directly related to your major. It is your responsibility to evaluate how a job relates to your major area of study.

International Student Advisers CANNOT review job descriptions to assess if they are related to your studies.

There are limits to what jobs count as employment and the following employment options are allowed:

  • Multiple employers: you may work in your field of study for more than one employer.
  • Short-term multiple employers (performing artists): musicians and other performing artists may work for multiple short-term employers (gigs). Keep a list of all positions, dates, and duration.
  • Work for hire: contract employment in your field of study
  • Employment in your field of study through an agency or consulting firm.
  • Volunteer service: you may work as a volunteer or unpaid intern in your field of study as long as this does not violate any labor laws.


You cannot exceed 90 days of unemployment between the start and end date of your post-completion OPT authorization (the dates on your EAD).
  • Each day (including weekends) that you do not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment. There is no grace period after 90 days of unemployment.
  • Prior to reaching the unemployment limit, you should prepare to transfer to another school, change education level, depart the U.S., or change to a different immigration status.

Reporting Requirements

The U.S. government checks that students with OPT authorization are engaged in practical training experience (work/internships/unpaid professional experience) related to their major area of study.

If you do not report your practical training/employment, the U.S. government may cancel your F-1 SEVIS record 90 days after the OPT start date printed on your EAD card. This cancels OPT authorization and requires you to leave the U.S.

Report your OPT employment updates using the SEVP OPT reporting portal. Learn about the portal on the SEVP Portal Help page.

Report the following changes using the SEVP Portal:

Email your assigned International Student Advisor and request help with the following SEVP portal issues:

  • Reset password or change your email address
  • Unlocking a locked portal account
  • Never received the link to set up your account

Email your assigned International Student Advisor to report the following changes:

  • Final departure from the U.S. (if earlier than your OPT end date)


Frequently Asked Questions

The only way to change the address USCIS uses for your OPT-related mail is to submit an official change of address to USCIS using their website tools.

The U.S. Postal Service can’t forward official government mail (like OPT cards) to a new address.

Between 3-5 months from the date USCIS receives your application, though it can be faster depending on the time of year.

No. The 60-day grace period does not apply to students who are waiting for the government to process their OPT application.

As long as your application arrived by the government’s deadlines, you can stay in the US and wait until it is processed.

You are still an F-1 Student while your OPT application is pending. OPT is a benefit of F-1 status, it is not a new visa type or status.

The answer depends on your situation.

If you were issued a new I-20 with the OPT recommendation but have not yet mailed your application to USCIS, contact your assigned International Student Advisor and notify us of your change in plans. The Advisor can cancel the OPT recommendation.

If you have already mailed your application to USCIS, a request can be submitted to USCIS to stop processing. Your application fee will not be returned, and we cannot guarantee that your request will be honored. Also, contact your assigned International Student Advisor and notify us of your change in plans.

If you have received your EAD card and wish to cancel the authorization, a cancellation in this situation is highly unlikely. OPT applications are not meant to be canceled.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to estimate.

The authorization depends on when the application arrives and the workload at USCIS. If they process your application after your requested start date, they might push back the start date to their day of processing, up to 60 days after your program end date. However, there is no way to predict what date it will be.

Approximately two to three weeks after USCIS receives your application. You might verify with your bank whether your check has been cashed. If so, the NOA is likely on the way.

Yes. You can upload a copy online.

  1. Wait to receive a job offer so you can show your EAD to your employer.
    1. The correction process may require you to mail the incorrect EAD to USCIS. Ideally, you should wait to request the correction after your employer has copied your EAD for hiring purposes.
  2. To correct the EAD, submit a request through the USCIS website to correct a typographic error.

If you lose your card, you must apply and pay for a replacement.

Complete a new Form I-765 and resubmit it to USCIS with all supporting documents, including the fee. Email your assigned International Student Advisor and request an updated I-20.

We recommend you keep your EAD at home (not in your wallet) because of the expense and time in applying for a replacement.

You can apply for either pre-completion OPT or post-completion OPT.

There are advantages and disadvantages to consider when deciding which option works best for you. We recommend you schedule an appointment with your assigned International Student Advisor to further discuss your options.

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