F-1 Employment: Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit of the F-1 visa that allows international students to gain work experience or training through jobs/internships that are directly related to their academic major(s) for up to 12-months per degree level. 

OPT Eligibility Criteria:

  • Enrolled full-time in a degree program for at least one academic year (two consecutive semesters) in a valid, lawful status
  • Must have officially declared a major(s)
  • Work must be directly related to major(s) area of study
  • Must be in F-1 status at the time of application
  • Must be in the U.S. when you submit your OPT application to USCIS

You are not eligible for OPT if: 

  • You have been authorized for 12 months of full-time CPT at your current degree level.
  • You have been previously authorized for 12 months of OPT at your current degree level or been authorized for any OPT at a higher degree level.

Requirements:

  • Post-completion OPT takes place after you have graduated or, if you are a Master’s/PhD student, once you have completed all your degree-required coursework except for your thesis/dissertation (thesis/dissertation-pending OPT).
  • Post-completion OPT must be full-time (over 20 hrs./week). There is no part-time post-completion OPT. You may work more than one position, but each job must be directly related to your major(s). Both paid and unpaid positions are permissible during your post-completion OPT period. 
  • To start your OPT employment after your program end date on your I-20, you must first receive the physical copy of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in the mail and begin your job(s) on or after the start date listed on the card. You are only authorized for employment through the end date listed on your EAD card unless you qualify for the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension or another employment-permitting visa status that allows you to work beyond your post-completion OPT period.       
  • During the authorized initial 12 months of post-completion OPT period, you are allowed up to 90 days of unemployment. If you accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during your authorized OPT period, you will no longer be maintaining valid F-1 status.
  • Alumni who qualify, apply for, and are granted STEM OPT work authorization are alloted 60 days of unemployment. Any unused unemployment days from their 12 months of post-completion OPT carries over to their 24-Month STEM OPT period. Therefore, if they did not use any unemployment days during post-completion OPT, they would start their 24-Month STEM OPT period with 150 days of unemployment. 

Reporting your employment to OISA is a requirement of maintaining your F-1 status while you are on OPT. Please carefully read about the OPT reporting and requirements and contact OISA if you have any questions. 

To submit your OPT application you will need:

  • Copy of your new I-20 with OPT recommendation from OISA
  • Completed USCIS Form I-765 (See USCIS instructions and OISA I-765 Completion Guide.)
  • Copy of your valid passport
  • Copy of your F-1 visa (unless you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda); it is fine if your visa has expired
  • Copy of your most recent I-94
  • Copies of all your previous I-20s, especially those which show previous CPT or OPT
  • Copy of your previous OPT EAD card(s) from USCIS (if applicable)
  • 2 passport-style photos
  • Form G-1145 e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (optional)
  • USCIS OPT Application Fee: $410 (Money order payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" if you are applying by mail; use a credit card if you are applying online on the USCIS website.) Double check USCIS filing fees as they may be subject to change. 
  • OISA Post-Completion OPT SEVIS Maintenance Fee: $150 (Money order payable to "Office of International Student Affairs"; please put "237 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459" as the address.)
  • Cost of mailing your application to USCIS via FedEx, UPS, USPS Priority (if you mail in your application instead of applying online)

For information about money orders and paying the Form I-765 processing fee, visit our Money Orders page. The filing fee is not refundable, regardless of any action USCIS takes on your application. DO NOT MAIL CASH. You must submit all fees in the exact amounts.

How to Apply for OPT

STEP 1: Attend an OPT Workshop and Contact OISA with Any Questions

Each semester, OISA offers at least one OPT workshop. If you are planning to apply for OPT, it is important that you attend the workshop. If you miss it, please watch this recording of a previous OPT workshop (PASSCODE TO VIEW RECORDING: 1#5Sz+rj). If, after attending or viewing the recording of the OPT workshop and reviewing the guidance on this page, you still have questions about applying for this benefit of your F-1 visa status, please contact OISA. 

STEP 2: Complete OPT Request in the ISS Portal and Receive New I-20 from OISA

Before you begin your OPT Request in the International Student and Scholar (ISS) Portal, please gather the following documents and payments:

  • Completed USCIS Form I-765 (Required - Even if you are applying online, complete the form and upload it to your OISA OPT Request so a staff member can review it for any errors and provide feedback.)
  • Completed USCIS money order (Required if you are applying via mail; if you are applying on the USCIS website, please upload a statement to your OISA OPT Request explaining you will apply online.)
  • Completed OISA money order (Required)
  • Copy of most recent I-94 record (Required)

Log in to your ISS Portal account by clicking on LOGIN at the top right corner of the page. Use your Wesleyan credentials to log in.

Once logged in, click on the gray house icon located at the left side of the black navigation bar. Select Site Home from the drop-down menu. You will be redirected to the ISS Portal main page.

Select F-1 Student Requests from the menu on the left side of the page, and then click on Optional Practical Training (OPT) Request from the menu choices on the next page. You will then be asked to select the term for which you are making the request.

Make sure to carefully read the "Announcements" and "Instructions" sections on the page to which you are redirected.

To provide OISA with the information needed to complete your request, you must complete the following sections and requests:

Attached Documents: You will be asked to attach a scan of your completed USCIS Form I-765. To access the form, please visit the USCIS I-765, Application for Employment Authorization website. Attach a photo of your completed USCIS money order for your $410 application fee and a photo of your completed OISA money order for your $150 OPT processing fee. Please also upload your most recent I-94 Record. To obtain your most recent I-94 Record, please visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website.

Signature Documents: This section will ask you to review and digitally sign documents with important information that indicate your understanding. Please be aware that these are legal documents. Please contact OISA if you have any questions before clicking the buttons to digitally sign these documents.

Learning Content: Please review important information about OPT in this section. It will cover important details about mailing your OPT application package, the OISA OPT fee, and USCIS OPT application materials. When you are finished reading through each topic, click the "Mark as Read" button at the bottom of each learning content article. You may also print each article for future reference.

Assessments: In this section, you will take a quiz to demonstrate your understanding of OPT. You are allowed to take this assessment 3 times and your final score will be the highest score you receive. Your final score must be at least 80% in order to complete this assessment.

Questionnaires: Please complete the questionnaires to provide important information to OISA about your current OPT application, status, and any past OPT that you may have had. If you did not attend the OPT workshop, please list the date you viewed the workshop recording when asked on your OPT Request.

You can click the "Save" button at the bottom of the form to save your answers as you go along, but make sure you click the "Submit" button so the information can be added to your request.

When you have completed each section of the OPT Request, click the "Submit" button at the top of the page.

If you start a request in the ISS Portal but are unable to complete it, you may return to it at a later time. Do not start a new request. To return to an existing request, please go to your ISS Portal User Home Page.

Once you have submitted a complete OPT Request in the ISS Portal, an OISA staff member will review it, confirm your eligibility, and create a new I-20 with an OPT recommendation for you. Please allow 7 business days for processing.

DO NOT SUBMIT YOUR OPT APPLICATION TO USCIS UNTIL AFTER YOU RECEIVE YOUR NEW I-20 WITH OPT RECOMMENDATION FROM OISA. If you fail to follow these instructions, your OPT application could be denied and you could miss out on this post-completion benefit of your F-1 status.   

STEP 3: Submit Your OISA Post-Completion OPT SEVIS Maintenance Fee Payment

Please submit your money order for the $150 OISA Post-completion OPT SEVIS Maintenance Fee via the OISA secured drop box outside of North College Room 023 (lower level) or via mail to Wesleyan University Office of International Student Affairs, North College, Room 023, 237 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459.

Please note: OISA will not process your OPT Request until your Post-completion OPT SEVIS Maintenance Fee payment has been received; the fee covers the cost for OISA to process your request and continue to maintain your SEVIS record and provide you with immigration advising throughout your post-completion OPT period. 

STEP 4: Submit your I-765 and Other OPT Application Materials to USCIS    

Receive your I-20 with OPT Recommendation: After OISA processes your request, you will receive a confirmation email and an updated I-20 with OPT recommendation. The recommendation date is listed next to the Designated School Official (DSO) signature on page 1. Please check page 2 of your I-20 to confirm your requested OPT start and end dates are listed correctly.    

Assemble your OPT application package: Read the Procedure for Filing your OPT Application document carefully to put together your OPT application package. Be sure to make a copy of your ENTIRE OPT application package, including Form I-765 and all your other documents you are required to submit. If you are mailing your application to USCIS, keep a copy of your money order and tracking number on your mailing receipt for future reference.  

Submit your OPT application materials to USCIS: If you are mailing in your OPT application, send your materials by certified mail with return receipt requested, or express mail, to the appropriate USCIS filing location based on your mailing method. If you are filing online, see below for relevant guidance. 

Please note: USCIS will accept your application up to 90 days before and up to 60 days after your program end date, and within 30 days of the OPT recommendation date listed next to the DSO signature on page 1 of your new I-20. Your application will be rejected or denied if received outside of this filing window.

Filing Your OPT Application Online

As of April 12, 2021, F-1 students have the option to file their OPT (pre-completion/post-completion) and 24-Month STEM OPT Extension applications online via the USCIS website. You can read USCIS' announcement about this new filing option here

Here are some general guidelines about filing your OPT application online:

  • Just as you would do if you were mailing in your application to USCIS, you must receive a new I-20 with an OPT recommendation from an OISA staff member before you can apply online.
  • USCIS has not yet provided guided steps for completing form I-765 online and submitting the required supporting documents when applying for OPT/STEM OPT via their website. It is very important that you carefully read each screen, enter your correct information for each field, and upload copies of the required documents for your OPT application.
  • If you fail to submit a complete OPT application online, you could receive a Request for Evidence (RFE), rejection, or denial from USCIS. If this happens, contact OISA via email at oisa@wesleyan.edu and request advising support.
  • Do not mail anything to USCIS if you are filing online.

Please note that processing times for OPT applications, whether submitted online or via mail, remain the same according to USCIS. 

Tracking Your OPT Application

The USCIS processing time of OPT applications can vary. USCIS is not required to adjudicate OPT applications within a specific timeframe, nor is there a way for OISA to inquire about pending cases. We understand that the waiting period can be very difficult. Since November 2020, the USCIS lockbox in Texas has had significant delays in processing and sending receipt notices. On January 8, 2021 USCIS changed the address to the Chicago lockbox for all types of OPT applications, as part of their plan to address the backlog.

Check USCIS Case Processing Times to find out how long I-765 applications are taking.

We recommend the following actions for tracking the status of your OPT application:

  • Track your USCIS Case Status Online by entering your receipt number as listed on your I-797 "Notice of Action" that will be mailed to the address you list on your I-765. Your receipt notice should be delivered within one month of USCIS receiving your OPT application.  
  • Sign up for a USCIS account to receive updates and submit inquiries for individualized responses to your case.
  • Track your EAD card delivery by signing up for a USPS informed delivery account.
  • If your case has been pending outside USCIS's listed case processing time for I-765 applications, enter your information in the USCIS E-Request online "Case Outside Normal Processing Time" option.
  • Speak with your prospective employer early in the process about the possible need for flexibility in regard to your start date.

Reporting Your OPT

Once you receive your EAD card from USCIS and start your OPT job(s), you are required to report your employment to OISA within 10 days. Please carefully read our OPT: Reporting and Requirements page for guidance on how to report your employment and maintain your F-1 status.    

Additional OPT-related Guidance & Resources

Please read the following pages on our website for guidance on travel during post-completion OPT/STEM OPT, the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension, and the cap gap extension for alumni applying to change to H-1B visa status:  

Travel on Post-Completion OPT and STEM OPT Extension

STEM OPT Extension

OPT Cap Gap Extension