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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Frequently Asked Questions | OPT Application | OPT Extension | OPT Reporting | H1-B Cap-Gap

OPT Application

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment authorization that is related to an F-1 student’s academic program. F-1 students are eligible for 365 days of OPT. The application process takes approximately three months.

Eligibility Requirements

  •  The student must have been enrolled full-time for at least two consecutive semesters and be in valid F-1 status at the time of application.
  •  Graduate Students must have at least a 3.0 GPA; Undergraduates must have a 2.0 GPA.

How to determine your OPT Start Date

You can start your OPT the day after you graduate or up to 60 days after graduation. It is extremely important that you determine your OPT start date at the beginning of your final semester. Any questions or concerns about OPT start date can be addressed by an International Student Adviser.

Application Deadline

The earliest you can apply for OPT is 90 days before your graduation date. Please apply approximately 90 days before you plan to start your OPT since the application has to be sent to USCIS. It will take the USCIS Service Center 2-3 months to process your application. You cannot start employment until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.

Application procedure (3 steps):

Step 1: Request an OPT I-20 (Click here to download instructions)pdf

Please email the following documents to to request an OPT I-20:

  • Printed unofficial transcript of your grades from CougarNet.

Once all the documents are turned in to the International Affairs office, an international advisor will issue you an OPT I-20. Processing time for a new I-20 is 2-4 business days. Click here to learn how to collect your OPT I-20.

Step 2: Assembling Your OPT Application (Click here to download instructions)pdf



  • Photocopy of OPT I-20, page 1 with student's signature
  • Photocopy of OPT I-20, page 2
  • Photocopy of unexpired passport biographical information page and expiration page
  • Photocopy of F-1 visa page (the most recent one)
  • Photocopy of I-94 card (front and back) or most recent I-94 print out

Check & Photos:

  •  Check for $410 made payable to: Department of Homeland Security. (A sample check is attached here and please DO NOT sign the back of the check)
  •  2 recent passport-style photos on white background. The photo must be 2x2 inches; the images must be no more than 1 3/8 inches from the top of the head to the chin. Your name and I-94 number must be printed in pencil on the back of the photos. For an example, see photo. Place photos in a small envelope marked “Pictures”.

After gathering all the documents, make a copy of your application. Then place your application in an envelope with your check and pictures.

Step 3: Shipping your OPT application to USCIS

It is your responsibility to make sure USCIS receives all required application materials in a timely manner. You must mail your completed application packet with TRACKING to USCIS within 15 days after your OPT I-20 has been issued (the dates on the I-765, check and photos must also be less than 30 days old).

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:


P.O.Box 21281

Phoenix, AZ 85036

For Express mail and courier deliveries (FedEx, UPS):


Attn: AOS

1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S

Suite 100

Phoenix, AZ 85034

While on OPT

You are still considered to be in F-1 student status while on OPT, so any questions or concerns can be addressed by an International Student Adviser during this period.

You must report to the Office of International Programs within 10 working days of any change to your address, employment or immigration status via the online OPT Reporting Form.

Every 6 months I will report to the Designated School Official (DSO) verifying that my details have not changed:

My OPT start date is_____/_____/_____

My first 6 month reporting date is _____/_____/_____

My second 6 month reporting date (12 months) is_____/_____/_____

Traveling While on OPT

You may travel while on OPT. However, please keep in mind that you are still in F-1 status and that you will need the following in order to re-enter the United States:

  •  A valid travel signature on your most current I-20 (within 5 months of re-entry)
  •  Your unexpired Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or I-797 receipt notice
  •  A letter from your employer indicating that you currently hold a job in your field of study and will be returning to the U.S. to resume employment
  •  A valid passport
  •  A valid F-1 visa

After completing your OPT

You are entitled to a 60-day grace period after the last day of OPT as indicated on your EAD. You may not work during your 60-day grace period. This 60-day grace period is to return home or to start a new program. You will need to notify Office of International Programs if you plan to begin another course of study after your OPT.

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