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Optional Practical Training (OPT) is granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and allows an F-1 student in the U.S. to be authorized for temporary work, or training, directly related to his/her major area of study. OPT can be authorized before or after completion of studies. The total period of authorization cannot exceed the equivalent of 12 full months during a program of study. Part-time pre-completion practical training (20 hours a week or less) is subtracted from the available 12 months at half the full-time rate; full-time authorization is 21 or more hours a week. Post-completion OPT is available after completion of all degree requirements. Authorization is only available on a full-time basis (21-40 hours/week).
Students currently in lawful F-1 status who have been a full-time student for a full academic year are eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training. You are not eligible for OPT if you have been authorized for 12 months or more (in aggregate) of full-time CPT authorizations during your current program of study. An offer of employment is not required for Optional Practical Training.
To be granted OPT, you must file an OPT application with USCIS to receive an Employment Authorization Document (also known as an EAD card). An EAD card is the document issued by USCIS that provides evidence that the holder of the card is authorized to work in the United States.
On the OPT application (USCIS form I-765), the student will designate a proposed begin and end date of the work authorization. USCIS will authorize the start date as either the date stated on the application or the date the Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) is approved, whichever is later.
Students who apply for Post-completion OPT will be authorized for the time period (i.e., duration) requested on the application. However, the end date will be no later than 14 months from the date of completion. A student may not begin working until they receive the valid EAD card, and its start date has been reached.
You must choose an OPT start date within the 60 days following your completion date. Completion of studies occurs when you complete all the requirements for your degree; this is generally the last day of your final semester of study (not necessarily the date of your graduation ceremony).
Considerations: Choosing a start date can be complicated. If you think that you will get a job offer soon after graduation, or if you already have a job offer, choose the earliest day that you might want to start working. If you anticipate that you will need more time to be offered a job, you may want to choose a start date closer to the end of the 60-day period following your completion date. Remember: You may not change your OPT start/end date after you apply for OPT.
Departing the U.S. after completing your studies but before you receive your EAD card may be possible, but it is not recommended. After receiving the EAD card granting your OPT work permission, you must obtain a travel signature from UW-Platteville International Student and Scholars Services for re-entry into the U.S. You must provide a photocopy of your EAD card to ISSS in order to obtain the travel signature.
Travel endorsements while on OPT are only valid for six months from the date of signature. Besides the travel endorsed I-20, make sure you have a valid passport, F-1 visa stamp, and the EAD card for re-entry into the US; proof of employment is recommended. If you are applying to renew your F-1 visa stamp while on OPT, proof of employment is required at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate.
Students can apply for this authorization up to 90 days in advance of or 60 days after their degree completion date. The deadline for USCIS to receive a post-completion OPT application is no later than 60 days after degree completion or the OPT opportunity is lost. Processing time at USCIS can vary. Students are encouraged to apply for OPT well in advance of the proposed employment begin date or the expected date of completion/graduation date. Note: Please be certain about the proposed employment dates and/or date of completion as it is nearly impossible to alter or cancel an OPT recommendation once it has been entered into a SEVIS record.
Before Filling Out Your OPT Application
Note that the U.S. Post Office will not forward mail from the U.S. Government. Therefore, think about where you will be living at the time you expect to receive your EAD card and use that address on your application. If you are unsure of where you will be, you can use the UW-Platteville International Student and Scholar Services office address. However, if you do move before you receive your EAD card, make sure you change your address online at the USCIS website.
OPT Application Process
- Fill out an OPT Request Form. The student should complete Part I and have the Academic Advisor complete and sign Part II.
- Download the following forms from the USCIS website and type your responses:
- Make an appointment with International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). The application process will take approximately an hour.
- Students must bring the following documents to this meeting:
- Completed OPT Request Form (both Part I and II)
- Completed I-765 form
- Completed G-1145 Form
- Copies of all I-20s that have ever been issued
- Copy of valid passport and F-1 visa
- Copy I-94 Card (this should be in the passport)
- Two passport-sized photos on a white background with full-frontal pose with name and I-94 number written (lightly in pencil) on the back of each photo.
- A $380.00 money order made payable to Department of Homeland Security.
5. Make a copy of all of your application materials before sending them to USCIS.
6. IMPORTANT: USCIS must receive your application no more than 60 days after your completion date. USCIS must receive your OPT application within 30 days from the date when your OPT I-20 was issued by ISSS.
Students should include the following in an 8.5" x 11" envelope:
- Form G-1145: clip to the first page of the application.
- Form I-765 (original)
- 2 passport photos with name and I-94 number written lightly in pencil on the back. (Clip to right side of Form I-765.)
- Money Order or Bank Check for $380 made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (can be purchased with a credit card at the U.S. Post Office for a cost of about $1.50). (Clip money order to left side of Form I-765.)
- Photocopy of I-94 card (both sides)
- Photocopy of previous EAD, if applicable
- Photocopy of 'new' OPT I-20 (pages 1 through 3, single sided) - don't forget to sign document
- Photocopy of ALL I-20s (all 3 pages, single-sided) that have ever been issued
- Photocopy of passport biographical page(s)
- Photocopy of F-1 visa
- Put an "X" in the box that says "permission to accept employment"
- Name: Type last, first, and middle names exactly as they appear on your passport and I-20. If you do not have a middle name, write "(none)."
- Other names used: If you have not used other names, write "(N/A)."
- Address in the U.S.: Use a residential address that will be valid for 4 months after submission of application. USCIS mail cannot be forwarded to a new address by the postal service. If correspondence will be "in care of" a trustworthy friend or family member in the U.S., write the person's name in block 2 (i.e., C/O John Doe) and the person's address in block 3. Do NOT use a P.O. box as an address.
- Country of Citizenship/Nationality: (Should match the information on your passport.)
- Place of Birth: (Should match the information on your passport.)
- List the mo./day/yr. you were born: Should match the information on your passport.
- Social Security Number: If you do not have a social security number, write "(none)."
- Alien Registration Number or I-94 Number: Use the 11-digit number on most recent Form I-94 (little white card, usually stapled to your passport, OR retrievable online).
- Have You Ever Before Applied for Employment Authorization from USCIS? F-1 curricular practical training (CPT) authorized by ISSS is not employment authorization from USCIS. If you have previously submitted an employment authorization application to USCIS for approval, check "yes" and provide additional information requested in item 11. If you have not ever applied for Employment Authorization from USCIS, check "no" and leave the following fields in item 11 blank.
- Date of Last Entry into the U.S.: Should be on your most recent I-94 card.
- Place of Last Entry into the U.S.: Should be on your most recent I-94 card.
- Manner of Last Entry: Write "F-1 Student"
- Current Immigration Status: If you entered the US last as an F-1 student, list "F-1 student." If you last entered the U.S. as an F-2 spouse or B-2 tourist, etc., enter that information instead.
- Eligibility Category: Post-Completion Optional Practical Training is: ( c ) ( 3 ) ( B )
- 17. Leave this item blank.
Signature, Telephone Number, and Date: Write these items just below the words. Try not to cross the lines above or below when you write your signature.
You have two options for mailing your application to USCIS:
FEDEX (recommended): It is recommended that the student use Federal Express/Express Mail (a very reliable option). The cost is about $20. The Federal Express mail address is:
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
U.S. Postal Service - Certified Mail/Return Receipt: While the cost is less, it may take much longer to be officially received. The mailing address is:
PO Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
Applicants should receive a Notice of Action - OPT application receipt from USCIS 2 to 6 weeks after G-1145 notification. The Notice of Action is an extremely important document. Check to see that name and address are correct.
There is a receipt number in the upper left hand corner that can be used to check the status online through the USCIS website. When the Notice of Action is received, sign up for automatic email updates using this receipt number. There are 2 boxes under the receipt number: one is the date the application was received; the other is the date the notice of action was produced.
If your OPT request is approved by USCIS, you will receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) within 2-4 months of submitting your application.
If you are using your OPT after completion of your degree, you will not be covered by the UW-Platteville health insurance. If you will be unemployed while you search for an OPT employer, or if your OPT employer does not provide you with health insurance, you are strongly encouraged to enroll in a health insurance plan. If you need referrals to health insurance companies, please contact the ISSS Office.
If you do not have a social security number before applying for OPT, do not apply for a social security number until AFTER your OPT start date and AFTER you have received your EAD card in the mail, or else your social security number application may be delayed or denied. Please click here for further instructions on applying for a social security number.
If you apply for OPT (even after you have graduated), you have a legal responsibility to provide the information below to UW-Platteville's International Student and Scholar Services office, since UW-Platteville will maintain your SEVIS record while you are on OPT.
The information/documents listed below must be reported to UW-Platteville International Student and Scholar Services at firstname.lastname@example.org within 10 working days of receiving/changing/updating them.
Please use the "OPT Report Form" to submit these updates:
- Changes in your name, address, phone number, or email address
- A copy of your EAD
- A copy of letter of employment received from employer
- Your employer name and employer address or change in employer/employer address
- Your start date of employment (and termination date, if terminated)
- More than 10 days of unemployment (during initial 12-month OPT, student may not accrue a cumulative total of more than 90 days of unemployment).
- Exit date from USA, if prior to the end date of student's OPT. Note: You must fill out a departure form with the ISSS Office if you "abandon" your OPT and depart the U.S. before completing your OPT.
Please send the OPT Report Form to email@example.com with "OPT Report Form" in the subject line, or mail to UW-Platteville, 1 University Plaza, Royce Hall 105, Platteville, WI 53818.
A student on OPT may not accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment after the OPT start date. A student who has exceeded the period of 90 days of unemployment while on post-completion OPT has violated her/his status unless he/she has taken one of the following actions:
- Applied to continue her/his education by a change of degree level or transferring to another university
- Departed the United States
- Taken action otherwise to maintain legal status
Students must notify the ISSS office of their plans after OPT and fill out a departure form, whether they are transferring, leaving the U.S., changing degree level, or changing status. If a student intends to return home after their post-completion OPT, s/he has a 60 day grace period after the end date on their EAD card to depart the U.S.
If a student is not leaving the U.S. by the end of the grace period, s/he may apply to continue her/his education by a change of degree level, transfer to another university to pursue another academic program, or obtain an alternate status by the end of the grace period. If the student has applied for or has an approved H1-B application, the student may remain in the US and work after the EAD card expires until the H1-B takes effect.
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Dates of Employment Authorization
Choosing Your Start Date
Travel and OPT
How to Apply for OPT
Materials to Submit to USCIS
Instructions for Filling Out Form I-765
Sending Your OPT Application to USCIS
What to Expect after Filing your Application with USCIS
Insurance on OPT
Getting a Social Security Number
OPT Reporting Requirements
Unemployment on OPT
After Your OPT Ends