Optional Practical Training (OPT) is defined as temporary employment to gain practical experience in your major field(s) of study. OPT is most frequently undertaken immediately following graduation (which is knows as Post-Completion OPT), but in some circumstances may also be conducted prior to the completion of a degree program (which is called Pre-Completion OPT).

To learn more about OPT and to get started on your application please schedule a meeting with the International Student & Scholar Advisor.


F-1 students are eligible for 12 months of OPT per educational level. STEM majors may also be eligible for a 24 month STEM OPT extension.

You are eligible to apply for Post-Completion OPT if you meet the following criteria:

  • You have been in F-1 status for at least two complete semesters
  • You are completing a degree program (post-completion)
  • Total period of previously authorized OPT within the current educational level is less than 12 months
  • You have not been authorized for 12 months or more of FULL-TIME Curricular Practical Training.

Regarding Pre-Completion OPT:

  • For part-time work, you may apply for, and participate in OPT at any time after you have completed two semesters in F-1 status.
  • For full-time work during the academic year, you may only participate in OPT after you have completed ALL coursework required for your degree program and are in your thesis/dissertation research phase, but have not yet graduated.

Note: You do not need to have a job already lined up at the time you apply for OPT.

Post-Completion OPT Timeline

  • At least 4 months prior to graduation: Schedule an initial meeting with the International Student & Scholar Advisor to learn about the OPT application process
  • 90 days prior to the program end date listed on your I-20: First date USCIS may receive your application
  • 60 days after your program end date: Last date USCIS may receive your application
  • 30-150 days: Current reported time it is taking USCIS to adjudicate OPT applications
  • 12 months after OPT start date OR 14 months after your program end date (whichever is sooner): OPT work authorization ends (unless you are a STEM major and file for a STEM extension)

Important Notes

You may not apply for Curricular Practical Training once you have applied for OPT.

Termination of OPT. OPT is automatically terminated when a student accumulates 90 days of unemployment, transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level.

Authorization May Not be Rescinded or Cancelled. This means that, after OPT is authorized by the USCIS, unexpected delays in completing degree requirements, inability to find an appropriate job, or loss of a job may result in loss of otherwise eligible time to work. Once permission to work has been given, it is gone regardless of subsequent occurrences.

Change of Employer After OPT Has Been Authorized. You may change employers after you have begun authorized employment provided the new job is (1) directly related to your major field of study and (2) appropriate for someone having your level of education. You must report all changes and breaks in employment to the International Programs Office.

OPT Application Process

1. Meet with the International Student & Scholar Advisor at least 4 months prior to your anticipated OPT start date to request a "post-completion OPT Form I-20". 
2. Your advisor will contact you when your post-completion OPT Form I-20 has been issued, signed and is ready to pick-up. 
3. Upload a copy of the post-completion OPT Form I-20 to your online Form I-765 application PRIOR to submitting your online application. USCSI must receive the Form I-765 filing within 30 days from the issuance of the post-completion OPT Form I-20. USCIS takes 90 days or longer to process OPT application. 

Application Materials

  • Digital copy of U.S. passport style photo (must be less than 6 months old)
  • Digital copy of your I-94
  • Digital copy of all previously issued EADs (front and back) if applicable
  • Digital copy of previously issued I-20s with CPT or OPT authorization if applicable
  • Digital copy of post-completion OPT requested I-20 (must be signed and dated)
  • Digital copy of valid passport ID page (optional)
  • Digital copy of most recent F-1 visa (optional)
  • Digital copy of University of Puget Sound unofficial transcript (optional)
  • Valid credit card or U.S. bank account information with sufficient funds to pay the $410 processing fee (this fee is non-refundable)

Important Notes About U.S. Mailing Address & Email

  • Confirm that you have entered your U.S. mailing address correctly on your Form I-765, or you risk not receiving your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). USCIS will send you an I-797C, Notice of Action (NOA) and EAD to your U.S. mailing address listed on your Form I-765. 
  • Ensure that your full name appears on the mailbox of where you currently live.
  • If you are planning to move within the next 6 months: Note that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will not forward government mail, regardless if you establish a forwarding address or change of address request with the USPS. Either ask permission from a friend to use their address (in care of, c/o) or set up a P.O. Box at a nearby post office (typically available for roughly $10/month).
  • Sign up for USPS Informed Delivery if available.

What Happens After Filing?

  • A receipt number will be issued immediately after online filing.
  • Expect to receive a Form I-797C, Notice of Action (NOA) through the mail within 8 weeks of the receipt of filing. Email a copy of the NOA to: nfergueson@pugetsound.edu
  • Follow the progress of your application by visiting Case Status Online and entering the receipt number for your case. You are also encouraged to create an online USCIS account to track your cases and receive automatic status updates by email or text message. 
  • Check current processing times for I-765 forms being adjudicated at USCIS service centers and field offices on the USCIS website. If your application is pending longer than the processing time listed, contact USCIS online or by calling the USCIS National Customer Service Hotline, 1-800-375-5283. If you see no progress on your case status 2 weeks after contacting USCIS, you should contact Nova. 
  • Once  you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), confirm that the information printed is correct. Then, email a copy of the front and back of the card to: nfergueson@pugetsound.edu 

Social Security Number

Students who request a Social Security Number (SSN) card to be issued when filing Form I-765 should receive their SSN card in the mail from the Social Security Administration (SSA) within 7 days after receiving their EAD. If you do not receive your SSN card, visit an SSA Office and bring your EAD card with you to the appointment. To locate the nearest SSA Office, visit: https://www.ssa.gov/locator/

International Travel During OPT

  • Students should not depart the U.S. once they reach their Program End Date and while their post-completion OPT application is pending with USCIS. Doing so can be considered an abandonment of their post-completion OPT application and they may not be readmitted to the U.S.
  • Once your post-completion OPT application is approved, you may travel outside the U.S. and seek readmission into the U.S. with the following document:
    • Passport (valid for at least 6 months into the future) 
    • F-1 visa
    • Form I-20
    • EAD
    • An employment offer letter or letter of employment from your employer, internship, or volunteering site
    • Evidence of financial resources (optional, but strongly recommended): A bank statement, letter from your sponsor, or scholarship award letter. The amount should cover one year of expenses that you are responsible for as indicated on the first page of your I-20.