Post-Completion OPT: When and How to Apply

When to Apply for Post-Completion OPT

Generally, students will apply for OPT at the beginning of their final semester since it is most common to use OPT during the 12 months following graduation.

  • Earliest date USCIS can receive the OPT application: 90 days prior to the program end date listed on your current Form I-20
  • Latest date USCIS can receive the OPT application: 60 days after the program end date listed on your current Form I-20


  • Applicants for OPT do not need a job, or job offer, to apply for the Standard 12 Month Post-Completion OPT.
  • USCIS provides a time frame of up to 90 days to process OPT applications, as such, applicants are generally recommended to apply for OPT as early as possible.
  • STEM graduates who already hold OPT authorization should visit our 24-Month STEM OPT Extension Page.

How to Apply for Post-Completion OPT

The OPT Application Process

Please note: Your DSO may have their own specific guidelines and steps for applying for OPT. Below are the general requirements for all F-1 students.

  1. Notify your International Student Advisor to let them know that you would like to apply for OPT and learn the specifics of the OPT application process at your college. (They may have already sent you information on steps to apply for OPT.)
  2. Prepare your OPT application packet; and create a scanned copy of your packet for your records.
  3. Send your completed OPT application to USCIS (USCIS must receive your application packet within 30 days of the “Date Issued” of your I-20, containing your OPT recommendation.)

Your OPT Start Date

You will need to tell your International Student Advisor your desired OPT authorization start date.

Earliest Possible OPT Start Date: The day after the Program End Date listed on your current I-20.
Latest Possible OPT Start Date: 60 days following the Program End Date listed on your current I-20.

Preparing your OPT Application Packet

To apply for OPT, you will need to prepare the following materials. Below the list are some “Helpful Tips for the OPT Application Packet” which answer many common student questions.

1.  A cover letter See a sample cover letter
2. Original Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization See “Helpful Tips” below.
3.  Two identical passport-style photos Lightly print name and I-94 number in pencil or felt-tip pen, on the back. (See “Helpful Tips” below.)
4.  Newly-issued Form I-20 with OPT recommendation (found on page 2 of the new I-20)  Be sure to sign the Form I-20, at the bottom of page 1. Your complete application packet must arrive at USCIS within 30 days of the “Date Issued” listed on the first page of this I-20.
5.  I-765 Filing Fee, check or money order made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security See “Helpful Tips” below on forms of payment permitted.
6.  Copy of your passport ID page(s) Make sure to include pages containing your personal information, the expiration date, and your passport photo.
7.  Copy of F-1 visa(s) (if applicable) Be sure to include copies of expired or previously-issued F-1 visas
8.  Printed copy of your current Form I-94
9.  Copies of all previous Forms I-20, including those from previous schools, if any
10.  Copies of any previous EAD card(s) issued (front and back)
11.  Completed Form G-1145 – Optional Provides you with electronic notification when your application is received. Paperclip this form to the top of your application packet.

Note: It is highly recommended that students create a scanned copy of their application packet prior to submitting it to USCIS.

Sending Your OPT Application to USCIS

Be sure to send your completed OPT application to USCIS within 30 days of the “Date Issued” listed on your I-20 containing your OPT recommendation.  Also note that USCIS must receive your application no later than 60 days from the “Program End Date” listed on page 1 of your current I-20.

Please see the USCIS website’s Direct Filing Addresses page ( Make sure to locate the correct address for “F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)” applicants.

Note: The address you send your application to will depend on your method of shipping. 

Complete instructions for filing form I-765 can be found on the USCIS website (

Helpful Tips for the OPT Application Packet

Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization – Notes on Completing Form I-765

(Please also see “Helpful Links” below.)

  • This is a Department of Homeland Security fillable PDF.
  • The I-765 should be completed online, printed, signed and dated, in blue ink.
  • The following tips may help with completing the I-765:
Part 1, Item #1: Reason for Applying If it is your first time applying for OPT, check box “1.a.”
Part 2, Item #1: Your Full Legal Name Your name should match the names listed in your passport.
Part 2, Item #5: Your U.S. Mailing Address If you may move to a new residence while this application is being processed, use a stable address that will be valid for 3-5 months. Mail from USCIS is not forwarded by the United States Postal Service. You may also change your address online after submitting your application to USCIS.
Part 2, Items #8-9: Alien Registration Number and USCIS Online Account Number It is likely that you do not have either of these. Leave blank.
Part 2, Item #13.b.: Social Security Number Use your U.S. Social Security Number.
Part 2, Items #14-17 These do not apply if you already have a U.S. Social Security Number.
Part 2, Item #21.a.Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record Number This question refers to the 11-digit number on your most recent Form I-94.
Part 2, Item #23: Place of Your Last Arrival Into the United States List the city and state of the Port of Entry you last visited when entering the U.S..
Part 2, Item #24Immigration Status at Your Last Arrival For most applicants, it is “F-1 Student”.
Part 2, Item #25: Your Current Immigration Status or Category This should be “F-1 Student”.
Part 2, Item #27: Eligibility Category For applicants of post-completion OPT it is: (c)(3)(B)
Part 2, Items #28-31 These do not apply to applicants of post-completion OPT and should be left blank.
Part 3, Item #7a.: Applicant’s Signature Make sure to sign within the box. USCIS will scan this box and print your signature on the EAD card once the application is approved.

Newly-issued Form I-20

Your International Student Advisor should provide you with 2 new original Forms I-20, one for you to keep and one to send in with your OPT application.

Passport Photos

  • Criteria for these photos can be found in the USCIS I-765 instructions document.
    (See the Required Documents section: number C on page 20)
  • Photos must be taken within 30 days of the submission of the application.
  • Where to Take Passport Pictures Near Campus

Filing Fee

  • USCIS indicates that the following forms of payment are acceptable: “Bank drafts, cashier’s checks, certified checks, personal checks, and money orders must be drawn on U.S. financial institutions and payable in U.S. funds.”
  • Your local U.S. bank can provide you with personal checks as well as cashier’s checks.
  • The U.S. Postal Service (a local U.S. Post Office) can provide you with a Money Order
  • How to Write Your Check
  • Take care to include the correct information on your check. Use the date that you signed the check. Double check this information before you send your application.  The date format of your check should be: MONTH/DAY/YEAR

Where to Scan Your Application on Campus

Although this is not required, a scan of your application packet will be very helpful if your application is lost, or if you ever need to apply for a replacement EAD Card.

  • Campus computer lab
  • Scanner app on your cellphone
  • The Connection at Honnold-Mudd Library

Helpful Links

OPT Information Page (for all students planning to apply for OPT) | OPT Application Information | Maintaining Your F-1 Status During OPT
STEM OPT Extension Information Page (for students currently engaged in OPT, only – includes application and other important information)
Form Instructions for I-765
Study in the States: USCIS Explains the Form I-765
USCIS Form Filing Tips
Information on the H-1B “Cap-Gap
Employer Update Form (for CMC alumni)