Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows F-1 international students to engage in temporary employment in order to gain practical experience in their field of study. While OPT is recommended by International Student Services (ISS), it is an application that is sent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for processing and approval.

There are multiple types of OPT:

  • Pre-Completion OPT – granted before your degree completion, counts against your post-completion OPT allotment. ISS does not recommend using pre-completion OPT.
  • Post-Completion OPT – granted after your degree completion, eligible for 12 months of post-completion OPT for each degree level earned.
  • STEM extension OPT& – granted to students who have earned a STEM qualified degree, eligible for an additional 24 months of STEM extension OPT but only twice per lifetime.

Eligibility

In order to be eligible for post-completion OPT, you must:

  • Have maintained your F-1 status.
  • Have been enrolled for at least one academic year (fall and spring semester).
  • Have applied for graduation at Bradley by the time of application.
  • Have not been approved for 12+ months of full-time CPT.
  • Have not been approved for OPT at the same degree level.
  • File your application with USCIS no more than 90 days before your program completion and no more than 60 days after your program completion.
  • File your application with USCIS no more than 30 days after the DSO recommendation on your new I-20.

Reminders

  • You are responsible for your own OPT application and making sure you submit a complete and correct application. International Student Services can only provide guidance to help you apply.
  • If you don’t believe you will complete your degree requirements (i.e. passing a class or comprehensive exam, finishing research) by the end of the term then you should not apply for post-completion OPT.
  • You need an &ldqou;OPT recommended&rdqou; I-20 in order to apply for OPT. Failure to have an OPT recommendation will result in USICS denying your application.
  • Double-check your application before submitting. Make sure to keep a personal copy of your entire application before final submission to USCIS.
  • If you mail your OPT application to USCIS, make sure that you use a tracking number. When the packet has been received, make sure you have proof of the delivery saved (i.e. taking a screenshot of the delivery).
  • Expect that it will take USCIS at least 90 days to adjudicate your application.
  • Once USCIS receives your OPT application, you cannot change your requested OPT start date. Please see the application timeline for your OPT Start Date Range.
  • It is not recommended to cancel an OPT application once it has been receipted by USCIS.
  • You cannot start employment until you have been approved for OPT by USCIS and the start date of your approved OPT has passed. You will receive proof of your approval through your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • While on OPT, you must maintain your F-1 visa status; this includes reporting any changes to International Student Services within 10 days.
  • For immigration purposes, full-time employment equates to at least 20 hours per week; anything below 20 hours is part-time.
  • You are responsible for keeping track of your unemployment; you are not allowed to accrue more than 90 days of unemployment while on post-completion OPT.

Application Timeline

The earliest you can apply for OPT is 90 days before your program end date. It will take the USCIS Service Center approximately 3-5 months to process your application, so we recommend that you apply early.

The absolute latest you can apply for OPT is 60 days after your program end date and it is your responsibility to ensure that all application materials are received by USCIS prior to the end of your grace period. Please note that students who wait to apply until this time may be rejected or will lose time on their OPT authorization. It is recommended that students apply for OPT before their program end date/graduation.

You can pick your start date for your OPT the day after you graduate or up to 60 days after graduation.

Fall 2021

Earliest Date to Apply for OPT Program End Date OPT Start Date Range
September 19, 2021 December 18, 2021 December 19, 2021 – February 16, 2022

January Interim 2022

Earliest Date to Apply for OPT Program End Date OPT Start Date Range
October 19, 2021 January 17, 2022 January 18, 2022 – March 18, 2022

Spring 2022

Earliest Date to Apply for OPT Program End Date OPT Start Date Range
February 13, 2022 May 14, 2022 May 15, 2022 – July 13, 2022

May Interim I 2022

Earliest Date to Apply for OPT Program End Date OPT Start Date Range
March 5, 2022 June 3, 2022 June 4, 2022 – August 2, 2022

May Interim II or Summer I 2022

Earliest Date to Apply for OPT Program End Date OPT Start Date Range
April 9, 2022 July 8, 2022 July 9, 2022 – September 6, 2022

Summer II 2022

Earliest Date to Apply for OPT Program End Date OPT Start Date Range
May 17, 2022 August 15, 2022 August 16, 2022 – October 14, 2022

Fall 2022

Earliest Date to Apply for OPT Program End Date OPT Start Date Range
September 18, 2022 December 17, 2022 December 18, 2022 – February 12, 2023

Procedure

As of April 2021, USCIS allows for online filing of the Form I-765 for international students looking to apply for OPT. Due to this, there are two ways for students to apply for OPT: the USCIS online filing system and mailing the paper application. Choose one process you wish to use and follow the corresponding procedure checklist.

Online Application Filing

There are two steps to apply for post-completion OPT using the online application process:

  1. Apply for an OPT recommended I-20 with International Student Services —
    • Apply for graduation on your Webster account
    • Speak with your Academic Advisor or Graduate Coordinator regarding your degree completion. Once you have confirmed with your advisor that you are on track to graduate, you can continue with the request.
    • Complete and submit the Post-Completion OPT I-20 Request
  2. Apply for OPT authorization with USCIS —
    • Create an account with USCIS at https://myaccount.uscis.gov
      • Email address you use to create the account must be unique and cannot be shared with another person
      • You can learn more about your USCIS online account at www.uscis.gov/file-online
    • Choose the “File a form online” button
    • Choose the “Application for Employment Authorization (I-765)” option
    • Make sure you read the form overview before you begin the application. Some tips from USCIS are:
      • You are allowed to save a draft of the form, but be aware that the draft will be deleted after 30 days.
      • The online form has the same legal parity as the paper form.
      • The form is logic based, so start at the beginning and answer as many questions as you can.
      • If you idle for more than 15 minutes, you will need to log out and sign back in.
    • Complete the form by answering the questions when prompted.
      • The different sections are: Getting Started, About You, Evidence, Additional Information, and Review and Submit.
      • The form automatically saves when you move to a different section.
    • Gather the documents you will need to upload
      • Passport-style photo
      • I-94
      • Passport
      • OPT recommended I-20 from within 30 days
      • If you have an approved CPT or OPT, then I-20s that prove previous CPT or OPT authorization – this would be uploaded under "Additional Information"
    • Upload the necessary evidence. Some tips from USCIS are:
      • Make sure you have a clear image of each document and the text is readable
      • Maximum size for a document is 6MB per file
      • Acceptable forms are: PDF, JPG, JPEG, PNG, TIF or TIFF
      • Only use English letters, numbers, spaces, periods, hyphens, underscores or parentheses when naming your document files
        • Special characters are not allowed in the file name
    • Review your application
      • Once you have completed the form, you will be allowed to review the information. If the application has a red alert, you will not be able to submit the form, and will need to make a correction.
      • Make sure you click the “view draft snapshot” for a PDF copy of your I-765. You should download and save this for your personal records.
    • Submit your application
      • Read the Applicant’s declaration and sign
      • After you agree to the applicant statement, you will be directed to pay.gov, which is a secure government portal maintained by the Treasury.
      • Select your payment method, which can be either a debit or credit card or an ACH withdrawal
      • Once you hit continue after you pay the fee, your application will be submitted. You cannot make any changes or updates to your form once the payment has been submitted.

Paper Application Filing

There are two steps to apply for post-completion OPT using the paper application process:

  1. Apply for an OPT recommended I-20 with OISSS –
    • Apply for graduation on your Webster account
    • Speak with your Academic Advisor or Graduate Coordinator regarding your degree completion. Once you have confirmed with your advisor that you are on track to graduate, you can continue with the request.
    • Complete and submit the Post-Completion OPT I-20 Request
  2. Apply for OPT authorization with USCIS –
    • Include the following materials in your OPT application packet (ordered from on top to on the bottom)
    • Binder clip (do not staple) the materials together and submit the packet to the appropriate lockbox destination
      • If sending by regular mail (USPS), send to:
        USCIS
        P.O. Box 805373
        Chicago, IL 60680
      • If sending by express courier service (FedEx/DHL/UPS), send to:
        USCIS
        Attn: I-765 C03
        131 South Dearborn – 3rd Floor
        Chicago, IL 60603-5517