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Applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT)

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) requires a two-part application process: 1) Request the OPT recommendation from the International Services Office (ISO) on an updated I-20, and 2) Submit the required application materials to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The application can take several months for processing. You may NOT begin working until authorization is granted.

Once the OPT is approved, it is impossible to change or cancel the requested employment dates. If you are considering a transition to a work-based immigration status, such as H-1B, the dates you select may also impact your ability to maintain work permission during that change.

Schedule an appointment with an ISO advisor to review your plans before applying.

1. Obtain OPT recommendation from the University

Complete and submit the OPT Departmental Recommendation Form (PDF) to request the OPT recommendation.

You may want to consider these common OPT decision factors when choosing your employment dates, especially for post-completion OPT. Once the form is received, an ISO advisor will process your request and issue a new I-20 based on the expected completion date and requested employment dates.

You will be notified by email when the new I-20 is available.

2. Submit Application to USCIS for Employment Authorization

Collect the necessary materials and mail the completed application to USCIS for processing. Applications may be filed up to 90 days before your I-20 end date and no later than 60 days after completion of your program requirements.

Additionally, the USCIS application must be received within 30 days of the date your OPT recommendation is submitted in SEVIS by ISO. The OPT Application Checklist (PDF) includes details on these filing requirements and mailing instructions.

USCIS Forms

Links to the relevant USCIS forms:

Begin Work After Work Permission Is Granted

Once the application is approved, USCIS will issue the Employment Authorization Document (EAD card). Employment is authorized ONLY for the dates listed and ONLY in your field of study, as indicated by the major on your I-20. OPT work permission is NOT employer-specific and you may change employers at any time during the authorization period.

When your EAD card is issued, please give a copy to ISO for your records.