Employment: Post-Completion Optional Practical Training

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 for up to 12-months per degree level. 

F-1 Visa Holder Work Authorization Eligibility Criteria:

  • Must be in F-1 status at the time of application
  • Enrolled in a full-time degree for at least one academic year (two consecutive semesters) in a valid, lawful status
  • Must have officially declared a major/majors
  • Work must be directly related to major area of study
  • Must be in the U.S. at the time you mail 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 a master’s/PhD student, after you have completed all academic work but thesis (thesis-pending OPT).
  • Post-completion OPT must be full-time (over 20 hrs/week). There is no part-time post-completion OPT.
  • 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.
  • Those on STEM OPT may accrue up to 150 days of unemployment, but this includes any unemployment days already accrued during the initial post-completion OPT period. 

Make sure to become very familiar with post-completion OPT reporting and requirements to maintain your F-1 status while on OPT.

To submit your OPT application you will need:

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

How to Apply for OPT

Submit your request to OISA through the ISS Portal

Before making this request, please gather the following documents/information:

Log in to your International Student and Scholar (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, 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 that you are making the request for.

Make sure to carefully review the Announcements and Instructions sections on the page that you are redirected to.

In order to provide OISA with the information needed to complete your request, you will need to 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 for OISA. Please also upload your most recent I-94 Record. To obtain your most recent I-94 Record, please visit U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s 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 about Optional Practical Training. 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.

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 to submit the information to your request.

When you have completed each section of the Optional Practical Training (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 this request at a later time. Do not start a new one. To return to an existing request, please go to your ISS Portal User Home Page.

After Submitting Your Request via the ISS Protal

Submit your OISA fee payment: Please submit your money order for the $150 OISA fee payment via the OISA secured drop box outside of 023 North College or via mail to OISA, Room 024, North College, 237 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459. Please note that OISA will not process your OPT Request until your fee payment has been received.

Receive your I-20 with OPT Recommendation: After OISA processes your request, you will receive an updated I-20 with OPT recommendation.

Put together 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. Keep a copy of your money order and tracking number on your mailing receipt for future reference.

Send your application materials to USCIS: Send all OPT application materials by certified mail with return receipt requested, or express mail, to the USCIS Chicago Lockbox.

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 date your OPT I-20 was processed. Your application will be rejected or denied if received outside of this filing window.

After you Mail your OPT Application Package

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:

  • Track your case status by using your receipt number on USCIS Case Status Online.
  • Sign up for a USCIS account to receive updates and submit inquiries for individualized responses to your case through your myUSCIS account.
  • 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.

More Information about OPT

Please review the following pages to become familiar with important information about reporting and requirements for post-completion OPT. Information about applying, reporting, and requirements for the STEM OPT Extension and OPT Cap Gap Extension are also included.

OPT: Reporting and Requirements

Travel on Post-Completion OPT and OPT STEM Extension

STEM OPT Extension

OPT Cap Gap Extension