Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Spring 2021 Update

USCIS has introduced a pilot online application process for OPT. There are still many unknowns about this system. ISSS is closely reviewing information on this new system and monitoring how USCIS is processing applications. In the meantime, ISSS continues to encourage students to file paper OPT applications by mail. Students who file by mail also have the option to create a USCIS online account and link their paper application using the receipt number. This allows you to receive additional details about the processing of your application without the uncertainty of the new online process. 

Students who choose to file their USCIS application online must still complete the ISSS process first and be issued an updated I-20 from ISSS showing the recommendation for OPT. Students who submit the online application to USCIS without the new OPT I-20 may receive a denial from USCIS because the application is incomplete.

F-1 students may be eligible for 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization, which allows international students to gain professional experience in the U.S. that is directly related to their field of study. Employment under OPT can be paid or unpaid. Please review the information below to learn more about OPT and the application process. OPT requires authorization from USCIS, and the average processing time for OPT applications is 3-6 months. ISSS encourages all students to apply for OPT as early as possible due to USCIS processing times.

Pre-completion and Post-completion OPT

OPT Eligibility

How to Apply

Reporting Requirements on Post-completion OPT

Health Insurance

Travel on Post-completion OPT


Pre-completion and Post-completion OPT

Pre-completion OPT (your OPT start date is before you graduate or before you are coursework complete):

Pre-completion OPT is for off-campus employment during your academic program that is directly related to your major. You can apply as early as 90 days before your requested employment start date. If you do not know the exact date you will start working, you may choose the earliest date you hope to start working as your prospective start date and calculate your application timeline accordingly. Students may apply for part-time Pre-completion OPT (up to 20 hours/week) during the academic semester. Time used for part-time Pre-completion OPT will be counted at a half-time rate and deducted from your total 12 months of OPT eligibility. Students may apply for full-time Pre-completion OPT (more than 20 hours/week) only during breaks or if they have completed all coursework.

Students who are interested in an internship opportunity off campus during their degree program may also be eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Students who are coursework complete may be eligible for either Pre-completion or Post-completion OPT; please review additional information for coursework complete students. Speak with an ISSS advisor if you have any questions about selecting the best authorization option.

Post-completion OPT (your OPT start date is after you graduate or once you are coursework complete):

Post-completion OPT allows F-1 students to remain in the U.S. after your 60 day grace period and work in a position that is directly related to your academic major. You can apply for OPT from 90 days before your degree conferral end date and up until 60 days after your degree conferral. Graduate students may also apply for Post-completion OPT once you are coursework complete. Students who are applying for Post-completion OPT must pay a $100 Optional Practical Training Administrative Services Fee. This fee supports the additional application review, monitoring, and services related to students on Post-completion OPT. 

The information on this page is for students applying for Pre-completion or Post-completion OPT. Students who are already approved for Post-completion OPT and wish to apply for the 24 month extension should review the information our STEM OPT page.

OPT eligibility

In order to apply for OPT, you must

  • Be in valid F-1 status
  • Have completed at least one full academic year as a full-time student
  • Be making normal progress toward degree completion
  • For Post-completion OPT, you may apply to USCIS up to 90 days before your expected completion date or up to 60 days after that date.
  • For Pre-completion OPT, you may apply to USCIS up to 90 days before the date you want to begin work

F-1 students are eligible for 12 months of OPT for each higher degree level. If you have previously been approved for OPT at your current degree level or a higher degree, you are not eligible for additional OPT. Students who have completed 12 months of Full-time CPT are not eligible for Post-completion OPT. Part-time CPT has no impact on OPT eligibility. If you were previously approved for Pre-completion OPT in your current degree program, that time will be subtracted from your total available time for Post-completion OPT. Please speak with an ISSS advisor during walk-in hours if you have any questions about your eligibility

How to apply for OPT

Submit your OPT I-20 Request to ISSS

Note: as of spring 2021, USCIS has introduced a pilot online application process for OPT. Students who choose to file their USCIS application online must still complete the ISSS process first and be issued an updated I-20 from ISSS showing the recommendation for OPT. Students who submit the online application to USCIS without the new OPT I-20 may receive a denial from USCIS because the application is incomplete.

  • Meet with your academic advisor to complete the OPT Academic Advisor's Recommendation Form. You will complete the top portion of the form, and your advisor must complete the rest of the form and sign it.
  • Decide what you want your requested OPT start date to be. You can choose any date that is between one day after your program completion date and 60 days after your program completion date. 

Post-Completion OPT Application Timeline  

Spring 2021 Graduates

Spring 2021 OPT application timeline

Summer 2021 Graduates

summer 2021 OPT timeline

  • The latest date you can apply for OPT is the end of your 60 day grace period. USCIS must receive your OPT application by the last date of your grace period or your OPT application will be denied.
  • The USCIS processing time for an OPT application is 3-6 months.
  • If your OPT application is processed after your requested OPT start date, the start date on your EAD card will be changed to the date that your application is processed.
  • If you will be applying for OPT as an ABD student, your dates may vary, Email intl.work@binghamton.edu or speak with an ISSS advisor during walk-in advising hours to confirm your timeline.
  • For students applying for Post-completion OPT only: pay the $100 Optional Practical Training Administrative Services Fee. You can pay the fee online and will need to provide the Touchnet Order Number on the OPT Request e-form. 
  • Submit the OPT I-20 Request to the ISSS Office. ISSS processing time for OPT I-20 Requests is 7-10 business days. You must upload a completed Academic Advisor's Recommendation Form and a completed Form I-765 as part of your request.
    • Review our sample Form I-765 for students who already have a SSN and students who do not have a SSN
    • Include all 7 pages of the I-765
    • On page 3, question 27, enter the appropriate employment code: for Pre-completion OPT (work done before graduation), use (c)(3)(A). For Post-completion OPT (work done after graduation), use (c)(3)(B).
    • Use part 6 (page 7) to provide all previous SEVIS ID numbers and list any previously authorized CPT or OPT and the academic level at which it was authorized.

Prepare the required documents for your OPT application

Note: ISSS recommends you prepare the documents in the following order and do not staple any documents.

  • Two Passport Photos – taken within the last 30 days. Write your name and I-94 number on the back of the photos lightly in pencil or ballpoint pen.
  • Application Fee of $410
    • Check/Money Order made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security
    • Credit card: you must complete Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transaction to pay your application fee with a credit card. Please note: some students have had applications rejected because their credit card company declined the charge. ISSS recommends using a money order if possible.
  • G-1145 e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance. Use this form to request a text and/or email when USCIS accepts your I-765 form.
  • I-765 Form – You must include all 7 pages with your application. This document must be typed.
  • Document Photocopies – Do not send any originals of these supporting documents
    • Most recent I-94 record
    • F-1 Visa
    • Passport ID page – passport must be valid at least 6 months into the future
    • OPT I-20 – USCIS has to receive your application within 30 days of the OPT I-20 issue date found on the bottom of page 1.
    • All I-20s that you have been issued, including I-20s from other schools (excluding the instructions page). If you are missing any of your previous Binghamton University I-20s, you can request I-20 copies online. Please be as specific as possible in your request. 
    • Previously issued EAD card (if applicable)

Receive your new I-20 and finalize your OPT application

  • You will receive an email from ISSS when your OPT I-20 is ready. Review this email carefully for any changes that you need to make on Form I-765.
  • When you receive the new I-20, review it to ensure all information is accurate. Add a copy of this new I-20 to your OPT application.
  • Review the OPT checklist and handout included with your OPT I-20. Ensure that you have all of the required documents. You may also meet with an ISSS advisor during walk-in hours to review your OPT application before you mail it.
  • Make a copy of your entire application for your records before sending your application to USCIS.

Mail your application to USCIS and wait to receive your EAD card

Use Priority Mail/Express Mail to send your OPT application to USCIS.

US Postal Service (Priority Mail)

PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680


Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

Important: USCIS must receive your OPT application within 30 days of the date your OPT I-20 was issued. If they receive it more than 30 days after that date, your application will be denied.

Within 2-10 weeks of mailing your application, you should receive a paper receipt notice in the mail. Check that your name, date of birth, and address are correct on this notice. If they are incorrect, contact USCIS at the phone number listed on your receipt notice. You can also check the status of your application online.

Reporting requirements while on Post-completion OPT

While on OPT, you must be employed at least 20 hours per week in work that is directly related to your major. This work can be paid or unpaid. You may have a maximum of 90 days of unemployment during your 12 months of Post-completion OPT.

You are required to report any changes in your address, immigration status, or employment within 10 days. This includes starting a new job, changing employers, or ending employment. Do not submit any employment information until you have received your EAD card.

There are two ways to report your employment information (only choose one):

  1. SEVP Portal – Once you receive your EAD card, you will receive an email from SEVP (do-not-reply.SEVP@ice.dhs.gov.) with instructions on how to create an account. 
  2. Use the ISSS Report OPT Employment E-Form to report your employment and the U.S. Address Update E-form to report changes in address.

If you do not report your employment information, the U.S. government will terminate your F-1 SEVIS record 90 days after the OPT start date that is printed on your EAD card. If you have more than 90 days of total unemployment at any point during Post-completion OPT, the U.S. government will terminate your SEVIS record. Please note that time spent outside the United States, if not employed by a U.S. employer, counts towards the 90-day period of unemployment. A terminated SEVIS record cancels the OPT authorization and requires you to leave the U.S.

If you have created your SEVP Portal account and forgot your password, you can reset it on the SEVP Portal login page. See the SEVP Portal Help pages for more information on accessing your portal account. If you are locked out of your account or did not activate your account within 14 days of your EAD start date, you can submit the SEVP Portal Access Request e-form.

Health insurance

Please note that you may be eligible to continue on the Binghamton University International Student Health Insurance Plan while you are on OPT. Please review our OPT Health Insurance page for more details.

Travel on Post-completion OPT

You should not travel outside the U.S. after your I-20 end date if your Post-completion OPT application is still pending. For more details on travel after your OPT application is approved, review our OPT Travel page.

Cap Gap Extension

F-1 students who are the beneficiary of a timely-filed H-1B petition may be eligible for an extension of work authorization called the “cap gap” extension. You may learn more about the cap gap extension on the USCIS website. If your employer has filed an H-1B petition on your behalf, you should review the ISSS Cap Gap Extension page for additional details and to request an updated I-20. 

Additional OPT Questions

If you have additional questions about Optional Practical Training, review the ISSS OPT Frequently Asked Questions or contact ISSS