Optional Practical Training (OPT) Application Guidelines
Federal visa regulations stipulate that international students are not allowed to work off-campus without prior authorization. Students on an F-1 student visa can request authorization to engage in Optional Practical Training (OPT) during their studies or upon completing their degree. OPT employment must be directly related to the student's field of study. Please visit the USCIS website for the most up-to-date information on applying for OPT.
To be eligible, the student must have completed one academic year of full-time study and maintained good visa status during that time. Pre-completion OPT can be approved for part-time employment (20 hours or less per week) during the academic term or full-time employment during official school breaks. Post-completion OPT can be approved for full-time employment upon completion of all degree requirements. A student may apply for OPT up to 90 days before the employment start date or program end date listed on the I-20 document.
Students may be granted up to 12 months of OPT for each degree level sought or obtained; however, a 17-month extension for post-completion OPT is available to students in the science, technology, engineering or mathematics fields. OPT employment must end no later than 14 months after graduation unless the student has been granted a STEM extension. Please see OPT STEM Extension Application Guidelines for more information.
Traveling during the application period is not advised.
- Download and complete a Form I-765 Application For Employment Authorization, available on the USCIS website. The correct eligibility code (Item #16) is (c)(3)(A) for pre-completion OPT, or (c)(3)(B) for post-completion OPT.
- Meet with your academic advisor to complete the OPT Recommendation Form.
- Obtain two full-face passport-sized photos. Photo standards are available on the Department of State website.
- Obtain photocopies of your passport ID pages: photo page, page with passport validity dates, renewal pages and visa stamp page.
- Obtain a photocopy of any prior Forms I-20.
- Obtain a printout of your I-94 number from the USCIS website.
- Obtain a photocopy of any prior EAD cards.
- Write a personal check or obtain a money order for the I-765 filing fee ($380), payable to "US Department of Homeland Security".
- Submit all application documents to the International Student Advisor for review. If approved, the Advisor will create a new I-20 for you that includes an OPT endorsement. The Advisor will keep the OPT Recommendation Form for his/her records. Please note that this process can take a few days.
- Sign your new I-20 and make a copy for your records.
- Mail the following documents to USCIS to the correct USCIS lockbox within 30 days of the date your new I-20 was issued:
- Form I-765
- Passport photos
- Copies of passport pages
- Copies of I-20 documents
- Copy of I-94 number printout
- Copies of any previously-issued EAD cards
- Check or money order
- Original of new I-20 with OPT endorsement
For applications sent via US Postal Service (USPS), use the following address:
PO Box 21281
Phoenix AZ 85036
For applications sent via courier/express mail, use the following address:
1820 E Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix AZ 85034
- Within four weeks, you will receive a Receipt Notice from the USCIS. Keep this document with your important papers. This Receipt Notice verifies the receipt of your OPT application and gives you an estimated processing time. If you would like to check the status of your OPT application, you may do so by visiting this USCIS webpage.
- If an OPT application is approved by USCIS, the student receives an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which lists the specific dates of employment. A student cannot begin employment until the EAD is actually received and the start date on the card has been reached.
- Your employer will require you to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN). For more information, see Obtaining A Social Security Number.