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 and commensurate with the degree level. 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.
Basic Information about OPT:
• After degree-completion, OPT authorization is needed to work ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE (paid or unpaid) within the United States. All OPT employment must be in a job that is related to the student's degree program and commensurate with the degree level.
• The total period of OPT authorization cannot exceed the equivalent of 12 full months during a program of study.
• No job offer is needed before applying for OPT.
• OPT is available to F-1 students once per each degree level (Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD).
• OPT is granted (or denied) by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) , but you must get an I-20 with the OPT recommendation from the UW-Platteville ISSS Office before applying for OPT.
• During Your OPT period:
○ You remain in F‐1 status: OPT is not a status.
○ UW-Platteville holds your SEVIS record.
○ We (ISSS) are still your advisors/visa sponsor!
• Applying for OPT involves working with:
○ Your academic department
○ International Student and Scholar Service (ISSS) Office
○ U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS)
Types of OPT:
Available BEFORE completion of studies and authorized on either a full-time or part-time basis. Not very common for students to apply for pre-completion OPT. 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.
Available AFTER completion of studies and authorized only on a full-time basis (21-40 hours/week). Most common type of OPT. Post-completion OPT is available after completion of all degree requirements.
STEM Extension OPT
Available to certain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree holders who are about to finish their regular 12 months of OPT and wish to request additional 17 months of OPT. STEM Extension OPT Link.
Maintaining OPT Eligibility
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.
Dates of Employment Authorization
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.
Choosing Your Start Date
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.
Travel and OPT:
Rules and Regulations for Travel on 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 signatures while on OPT are only valid for six months. 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 highly recommended. If you are applying to renew your F-1 visa stamp while on OPT, proof of employment in the U.S. and proof of ties to your home country are required at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. Even if you have all of the documents listed above, there is always a risk of not being able to renew your visa or re-enter the U.S.
Applying for OPT:
When to Apply for OPT: 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 Applying for OPT: 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.
How to Apply for OPT
PLEASE NOTE: PRIOR TO MEETING WITH AN ISSS ADVISOR REGARDING OPT, YOU WILL NEED TO COMPLETE THE ONLINE OPT WORKSHOP AND ACHIEVE A SCORE OF 70% OR HIGHER ON THE OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING QUIZ ON YOUR ISSS ACCOUNT.
1. Complete the online OPT workshop here.
2. Log in to your online ISSS account. (To access your online ISSS account, go to /isss. Click on "ISSS Log In." Log in to your online ISSS account with your ISSS account username and password.
3. Once you are logged in, click on "Search Programs." (left side of page in black box underneath "Your Home Page")
4. In the dropdown box next to "Show:", select "Requests" and click "Search."
5. Click on the authorization (i.e. OPT, CPT, etc.) for which you would like to apply.
6. Click on "Apply Now" and select the year for which you will be receiving the authorization.
7. Complete the Optional Practical Training Quiz on your online ISSS account (in the OPT Program Application). You must achieve a score of 70% or higher.
8. Complete all of the required OPT forms, recommendations, and assessments. Click "Submit" after you have completed each form.
9. Documents that you must upload to your online ISSS account include:
○ Completed OPT Request Form
○ Completed Form I-765. Please type your responses on this form. Instructions for filling out Form I-765 are included on this webpage.
○ Completed Form G-1145. Please type your responses on this form. This form allows you to receive an email and/or a text message that the application has been accepted at USCIS.
○ Copies of all I-20s that have ever been issued
○ Copy of valid passport and F-1 visa
○ Copy/print-out of I-94 Record
10. Request that your academic advisor, department chair, or dean of your department complete the Recommendation form on your online ISSS account.
11. After you have submitted all of your OPT Request application materials to your ISSS account, please make an appointment with International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) by calling 608-342-1726 or by stopping by the International Programs front desk in Royce Hall.
12. ISSS will review your request with you at your appointment and process a new I-20 with the OPT recommendation for you within 10 business days. ISSS will notify you via email when you may pick up your I-20 with the OPT recommendation from the International Programs front desk.
13. Make a copy of all of your OPT application materials before sending them to USCIS. Please include the following in your OPT application package that you send to USCIS: 1) 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; 2) money order made payable to Department of Homeland Security (click here to verify current USCIS fee to file I-765).
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.
Materials to Submit to USCIS
Students should include the following in your OPT application packet:
• Form G-1145: clip to the first page of the application.
• Money Order or Bank Check for $410 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.
• 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.)
• I-94 printout
• Copy of previous EAD, if applicable
• Copy of 'new' OPT I-20 (pages 1 through 3) - don't forget to sign document
• Copy of ALL I-20s (all 3 pages, single-sided) that have ever been issued
• Copy of passport biographical page(s)
• Copy of F-1 visa
Instructions for Filling out Form I-765:
Click here to view the I-765 printable instructions.
Sending Your OPT Application to USCIS
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 $30. Click here for instructions on how to Fedex your OPT application directly to USCIS from the ISSS Office. The Federal Express mail address is:
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
Your other option is:
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
What to Expect after Filing your Application with USCIS
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.
Insurance on OPT
If you are using your OPT after completion of your degree, you will not be covered by the UW-Platteville health insurance plan after the end of your current enrollment period. See the ISSS Health Insurance webpage for dates of insurance enrollment periods. 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. Student Assurance Services (SAS), the health insurance company that provides health insurance to current international students at UW-Platteville, also offers coverage for OPT students; however, OPT students must arrange enrollment in the OPT insurance plan by contacting SAS directly. Please see the bottom of the ISSS Health Insurance webpage for SAS contact information.
Getting a Social Security Number
If you do not have a social security number (SSN) before applying for OPT, you may either apply for a SSN by requesting one on Form I-765 when applying for OPT, or you may choose to apply for a SSN by applying directly through the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you apply directly through the SSA, you may 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.
OPT Reporting Requirements
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. Another option is to update your address, phone number or employer information directly via the SEVP Portal (see below for more details).
The information/documents listed below must be reported to either the UW-Platteville International Student and Scholar Services Office or to the SEVP Portal within 10 working days of receiving/changing/updating them.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to submit these updates:
• Changes in your name, address, phone number, or email address
• 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 upload the following on your online ISSS Account (OPT Application):
• A copy of your EAD card
• A copy of letter of employment received from employer
Please use the "OPT Report Form" on your online ISSS Account to submit these updates:
• Your employer name and employer address or change in employer/employer address
• Your start date of employment (and termination date, if terminated)
• Your job title
• Your supervisor's name, email, and phone number
• 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).
The SEVP Portal allows F-1 students on OPT or STEM OPT to do the following without relying on the ISSS Office to update the information:
-View details about your post-completion or STEM OPT
-Report changes to your address, telephone and employer information
-View and update data on all your employers in one place
-Any data updates you make in the portal will be sent directly to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System
Use of the portal is voluntary, so if you prefer to update your information in your online ISSS account so that the ISSS Office updates your information in SEVIS, you may continue doing so. However, even if you update details about your contact information or employer information, you still must upload a copy of your EAD card and offer letter to your online ISSS account. If you have any questions about the portal or need assistance, call the SEVP Response Center at 703-603-3400.
For more information, please see the SEVP Portal Help section on Study in the States website.
Unemployment on OPT
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
The 24-Month STEM Extension is employment authorization for certain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree holders who are about to finish their regular 12 months of OPT and wish to request additional 24 months of OPT. Instructions/forms for applying for the STEM Extension are available on the ISSS website.
After Your OPT Ends
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.
- Access your I-94
- I-94 Retrieval Tips
- Calculate visa wait times
- Check your visa application status
- USCIS Case Status Tracking
- USCIS Change Your Address When Case is Pending
- Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Travel and Port of Entry Checklist and Information
- Filing Fees for USCIS (for OPT, STEM extension, Change of Status, etc.)
- USCIS Case Processing Times (for OPT, STEM extension, Change of Status, etc.)
- Date Calculator for Immigration Processing
- Did you have problems going through U.S. Customs at the airport?'
- USCIS Application Tracking
- SEVP Portal Help Hub
Principal Designated School Official (PDSO)
Responsible Officer (RO)
Director, International Programs
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
1 University Plaza
Platteville, WI 53818
What is a Principal Designated School Official (PDSO)?
What is a Responsible Officer (RO)?
- ISSS Online Account Log In
- Update your Address/Phone Number
- Update your Emergency Contact Information
- International Student Handbook
- Upcoming ISSS Events
- F-1 Forms
- Change of Degree Level
- Reduced Course Load (RCL) Authorization
- Program Extension
- Maintaining Legal Status
- Health Insurance
- Banking/Paying Your Bill
- Driving in the U.S.
- Getting a State ID
- Tax Information
- Tuition Remission
- Departure from the U.S.