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Filing Form I-765: OPT & STEM OPT

The following instructions will guide you to prepare your initial application for F-1  12-Month Post-Completion OPT or  24-Month STEM OPT  only. For other USCIS application purposes, including a replacement authorization document, please consult with ISO first.

As of April 2021, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)  announced that F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) can now file their application materials online, in addition to the paper filing method. Applicants for F-1 OPT and STEM OPT will need to decide whether to apply:

PLEASE NOTE: The information below is compiled from government resources, including the USCIS Form I-765 Instructions and Form Filing Tips, as well as ISO's understanding of the OPT/STEM application process. This guidance is not legal advice and ISO staff cannot assist with preparing or mailing your application materials. Staff are available to review your application materials (see below), but ultimately you are responsible for ensuring the accuracy, completeness, and timely filing of your application.

Application Steps:
PrepareReview  |  File

Preparing Your Application Materials

In addition to the application form itself, you will need to include a fee payment, photos, and various supporting documents. These materials are detailed below.

All document copies can be in black and white OR in color, as long as they are clear and accurate reproductions of your original documents. Do not send any of your original immigration documents to USCIS.

  • APPLICATION: Form I-765

    Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization  is the appropriate application for F-1 Optional Practical Training.  The form, application fee, and supporting materials must be filed with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) within your eligibility period

    Mailing Address: You must provide an address where you can securely receive mail for at least 6 months after applying. The US Postal Service cannot forward government mail if you move, however the online application portal may allow you to update your address if the authorization card has not yet been issued. Alternatively, some OPT/STEM applicants are able to use their employer's address.

    Some graduating students may not have a reliable address when applying for OPT. If you need to use ISO's mailing address on the Form I-765, please note that USCIS communications will be delivered to the University on your behalf, and then routed to ISO via UR Mail Services. The transit time to our office will not be reflected in your USCIS case/shipment status. Upon approval and issuance of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD card), if you are unable to collect your documents in-person, ISO will require a courier shipment to deliver those elsewhere at your expense (USPS is not permitted). As needed, ISO's mailing address should be listed as follows:
    In Care Of: University of Rochester ISO; Address: PO Box 270446, Rochester, NY 14627.

    ISO Filing Guides:  We strongly recommend that you consult the appropriate resource materials below to prepare your application according to your intended filing method.

    Online Filing Guides

    Paper Filing Guides

  • FILING FEE: $410

    The filing fee for Form I-765 is currently $410.00.

    This is subject to change in the future. Please use the USCIS Fee Calculator to confirm the current fee for Form I-765 at the time you file your application. To use the Fee Calculator, you will need to input the correct eligibility category: (c)(3)(B) for Post-Completion OPT or (c)(3)(C) for the STEM OPT Extension.

  • PHOTOS: US Passport-style

    Photo Requirements

    You are required to submit 2 identical, recent photos that meet US passport photograph requirements. Please review these requirements carefully as you obtain your photos. ISO does not recommend re-using photos from previous applications.

    Passport-size photos can be taken and printed at many convenience stores (such as CVS). Alternatively, you can take, size, and print your own photos.

  • COPY: Recommendation I-20

    You must submit a copy of your  OPT or STEM OPT recommendation I-20. This document must be signed on page 1 and 2 by an ISO advisor, and must be signed/date on page 1 by you. You must obtain this recommendation from ISO before filing your application. 

    Please note USCIS must receive your application within a specific amount of time after your OPT or STEM OPT recommendation is issued:

    • 12-Month OPT recommendations are valid for 30 days 
    • 24-Month STEM OPT recommendations are valid for 60 days

    Please plan accordingly. Submitting your application with an expired recommendation will likely result in denial of your application. If you have not yet requested your recommendation I-20, please revisit the OPT and STEM OPT application process instructions as needed.

  • COPY: Previous CPT/OPT I-20s

    ISO recommends that you submit copies of  previous I-20s with CPT or OPT authorizations. These should be arranged in chronological order, with the most recent on top and the oldest on the bottom.

    ** Please note: if filing for your STEM OPT Extension, it is assumed that you’ve already submitted your previous CPT/OPT I-20s when you filed for your 12-month Post Completion OPT and would not be required to submit in your STEM OPT Extension application. However, this is a personal decision and up to you to decide.

  • COPY: Passport

    You must include a copy of your current, valid  passport ID page. If your passport is currently expired or going to be expired in the next 6 months, please consult an ISO advisor.

  • COPY: I-94 record

    You should include a printed copy of your most recent I-94. You can look up your most recent I-94 online. If you look up your I-94 and notice that any of the details on that document appear to be incorrect, please contact an ISO advisor.

    You do not need to include your full travel history.

    In rare cases, students may have received a paper I-94 stapled to their passport (upon entry through a land border), without an update to the online I-94 system. If your only I-94 document is a paper I-94 stapled to your passport, you should include a copy of the front and back of this card.

    Students who entered F-1 status by filing Form I-539 Change of Nonimmigrant Status and have not traveled internationally since changing status may find their most recent I-94 on their change of status approval notice (I-797).

  • COPY: Previous/current EAD(s)

    You must include copies of any current or previous Employment Authorization Documents (also know as EADs, EAD cards, OPT cards, etc) that you have been issued. Include a copy of the front and back of each card.

    • All students applying for the 24-Month STEM OPT extension have a current EAD and may have previous EADs.
    • Students who are applying for 12-Month Post-Completion OPT will not have any current EAD, but may have previous EADs.

    You may have a previous EAD if you have been authorized for OPT at any prior degree level, or if you have been authorized for another type of work authorization that requires an EAD. If you are including multiple EAD copies, ISO recommends labeling them accordingly.

  • COPIES: Supplemental Evidence for STEM OPT ONLY

    Proof of STEM degree

    STEM OPT applications require proof of your STEM degree. ISO recommends including both diploma (required) and transcript (optional). The proof of your degree must include the name of the degree and the date it was awarded.

    12-Month Post-Completion OPT applications do not require any proof of degree, regardless of your specific major/program.

    Accreditation Summary (as needed)

    If applying for the STEM OPT extension based on a  previously earned STEM degree, you should provide evidence that the degree is currently accredited by the US Department of Education and certified by SEVP. If the previously earned degree is from the University of Rochester, you can find the statement of accreditation status on the  Office of the Provost's website. If the previously earned degree is from a different university, please contact that university directly.

Reviewing Your Application

ISO highly recommends that you have your application materials reviewed by an ISO advisor before submitting them to USCIS, which generally reduces the chance for errors and processing delays.

Whether filing using the paper or online method, you are welcome to use our online OPT/STEM review process, which you can to access via our  URcompass client portal. Under the menu for 'F-1 Practical Training', please use the form for USCIS Application Review for OPT/STEM to upload the materials you would like reviewed. An ISO Advisor will review your documents and typically provide feedback through email. Alternatively, if you have questions/concerns about the application, you may also schedule a virtual appointment to screenshare and discuss the materials with an advisor.

Filing Your Application

If you are filing ONLINE:
You will finalize the application by completing the applicant statement, digitally sign, and pay the application fee. Once your application is submitting you will receive your receipt notice by email shortly after.

If you are filing BY MAIL:
Your completed application and materials must be mailed to a USCIS lockbox for initial processing. Please consult the  USCIS Lockbox Facilities webpage to determine the appropriate shipping address. Be sure to request a  tracking number for your package and monitor the shipment to confirm timely delivery of your application.

Once your application has been successfully filed with USCIS, please consult the  Applying for OPT or  Applying for STEM OPT pages for next steps while your application is pending and after approval.