12 Months OPT: How to Apply
When to Apply
Apply early! Do not wait for a job offer. You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. Allow THREE MONTHS FOR PROCESSING by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), plus additional time for obtaining your academic adviser’s signature on the OPT Request Form. You cannot work until you receive OPT approval.
You may submit your application to USCIS as early as 90 days before your program end date and up to 60 days after your program end date. (Your program end date is the last day of your final semester, including final exams week, according to the academic calendar.) Please note that your OPT application must arrive at the USCIS Service Center within 30 days of the OPT I-20 issue date, or the request will be denied.
The study abroad office strongly encourages you to apply for OPT three months prior to your program end date. Though USCIS will accept your application up to 60 days after your program end date, you cannot begin work until the application is approved. A delayed application may result in delayed work authorization and/or loss of full OPT eligibility (12 months) due to the three-month processing time by USCIS.
How to Apply
Please read the following instructions carefully. And if further questions arise please see the study abroad office. We do not approve the application or have the authority to influence the process. If there is a request for information or to correct a problem, we will notify you of the request but it is your responsibility to respond. Please note that if you choose to travel, it could be difficult to respond to requests from USCIS about your application.
- Complete your OPT application. (See below for details.)
- Submit OPT application to Dr. Petoskey in the Study Abroad Office. (See below for details.)
- Pick up OPT application from Dr. Petoskey and mail to USCIS. (See below for details.)
Step 1: Complete Your OPT Application
Gather the Following Documents
- Completed Optional Practical Training Request Form (Come by the study abroad office to pick it up)
- Completed I-765 Form
- Photocopy of all previously issued I-20s (pages 1 and 3)
- Photocopy of passport identification page
- Photocopy of F-1 visa page
- Two passport-style photos (see Photo Specifications below)
- Photocopy of the front and back of your I-94 card–or, if you do not have an I-94 card, a copy of your F-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained at CBP.gov/I94
- Photocopy of previously issued EAD (if applicable, EAD is if you previously held a OPT employment card)
- $410 check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” (Do not postdate your check. The date format for your check should be as follows: month/day/year)
- Completed G-1145 Form (optional; it signs you up for email/text message notification of your application’s arrival at USCIS)
Choosing an OPT Start Date
- The “start date” is the date your work permission begins. You cannot work earlier than the start date, but you can start working later.
- Your requested start date must be within 60 days after your program completion date. For example, if you graduate or complete your exchange program June 8, your start date can be no later than August 7.
- Changing the requested OPT dates after the application has been mailed to USCIS can be very difficult. Choose your dates carefully.
- USCIS photo instructions (see the “Required Documentation” section on page 6)
- The photos must have been taken within the last 30 days (do not use the same photos used for your F-1 visa application; USCIS might notice and will return the application).
- The two photos should have a white background.
- They should be unmounted, printed on thin paper, glossy, and not re-touched.
- The photos should show a passport-style, full-face image, with both ears visible.
- The photos should be 2 by 2 inches, with the distance from the top of the head to just below the chin about 1 3/8 inches.
- Lightly print your name and your I-94 number in pencil on the back of each photo.
Tips for completing your I-765
- Item 3: Your Receipt Notice and Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) will be mailed to the address you provide. In most cases, we recommend you use the study abroad office address.
Indira A.C. Petoskey, Ph.D.
Wood Support Services Center, Room 100D
83 Windham Street
Willimantic, CT 06226 -2295
If you will move soon, note that government mail will not be forwarded, even if you file a change of address request with the U.S. Postal Service. The Study Abroad office will need a photocopy of your EAD card. If you use our office address, we will automatically make the photocopy after receiving the EAD and will email you to pick up your card. If it is mailed to your address, you must provide us with a copy.
- Item 10: Use the number from your I-94 card (the printed version/online). It is an 11-digit number.
- Item 11: Check “yes” only if you have previously received an EAD card from USCIS. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) does not require a “yes” answer because CPT is not authorized by USCIS.
- Items 12,13,14,15: Use the information from your I-94 card. In some cases you may have made recent short trips to Canada or Mexico, which are not reflected by your current I-94 card. This is standard and it will be fine to use the information from your I-94 card anyway. If you have changed to F-1 status within the U.S., include a copy of your Approval Notice.
- Item 16: Use the applicable code:
- Pre-completion OPT: (c)(3)(A)
- Post-completion OPT: (c)(3)(B)
- Item 17: Leave blank unless you are a STEM major applying for the 17-month OPT extension.
- Certification: Sign the form in blue ink.
Step 2: Submit Your Completed OPT Application to the Study Abroad office
Submit your completed OPT application (except the check) to Dr. Petoskey. She will double check the application and make sure nothing is missing before you send it to the USCIS.
Step 3: Mail Your Application to USCIS
- Review the checklist and your application to make sure it is complete.
- Sign your OPT-endorsed I-20 at the bottom of page 1 before photocopying it and mailing it to USCIS.
- Mail your application within 30 days of the new OPT-endorsed I-20 being issued. Late applications will be denied by USCIS.
- Do not mail your original passport, I-94, or I-20.
- It is recommended you send your application by certified mail, return receipt requested.
- If your I-765 mailing address is in Connecticut mail the entire application to:
USCIS Dallas Lockbox
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries:
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266
For Express mail and courier deliveries:
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business
Lewisville, TX 75067
After You Mail Your OPT Application to USCIS
USCIS will send you a receipt notice (I-797 Notice of Action) confirming receipt of your OPT application, assigning a “receipt date,” and assigning a case number. Carefully review the notice to make sure your name is spelled correctly. If it is not, contact Dr. Petoskey immediately.
You may use the case number on your receipt notice to check the status of your application online. It is normal for your case status to say “initial review” for most of the 2-3 month processing period.
You may not begin employment until USCIS approves the OPT application and you have received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Authorized OPT dates will be on your EAD.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if I move after I mail my OPT application?
The U.S. Postal Service will not foward mail from USCIS if the address on the envelope does not match the name on the mailbox. Consider using the study abroad office address on the I-765 application. We will send you an email when the card arrives.
How long does it take to get approved for OPT?
Approximately three months from the date USCIS receives your application, though it can be faster depending on the time of year.
If I change my mind and decide not to work, can I cancel my OPT authorization?
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, you must notify Dr. Petoskey of your change in plans, she will then be able to cancel your application.
If you have already mailed your application to USCIS, a request can be submitted to USCIS to halt processing. Your application fee will not be returned and we cannot guarantee that your request will be honored. Contact Dr. Petoskey for assistance. If you have received your EAD card and wish to cancel authorization, contact Dr. Petoskey. Cancellation in this situation is highly unlikely. OPT application are not meant to be cancelled.
I didn’t submit my OPT application early enough, and I realize I might not get the OPT start date I requested. How do I know what date USCIS will authorize?
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 defer the start date to their day of processing, up to 60 days after your program end date. However, there is no way to predict which date it will be.
How long does it take to get the Receipt Notice/Notice of Action (NOA)?
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.
When I receive my EAD card, should I give a copy to the Study Abroad office?
Yes, if you requested your EAD be mailed to you directly, submit a photocopy to the Study Abroad office. If your EAD is mailed to us first, we will make a photocopy before you pick up the EAD.
I have heard that I can apply for a “temporary” EAD card. Is this true?
In the past, students were able to apply for a temporary EAD card if their application was pending for more than 90 days. Processes have changed, and temporary EADs are no longer issued. If your application is pending for more than 90 days, contact Dr. Petoskey for more information.
What happens if my EAD card never arrives or has incorrect information on it?
Contact the study abroad office immediately!
What if I lose my EAD card?
If you lose your card, you must apply and pay for a replacement. Complete a new I-765 Form and resubmit it to USCIS with all supporting documents, including the fee. Contact Dr. Petoskey for 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.