These questions and answers have been developed in response to common questions students have when applying for OPT. Review the Optional Practical Training page for additional details about applying for and maintaining status on OPT.
I’m graduating this semester. When should I apply for OPT?
The earliest date that ISSS can process your OPT request is 90 days before your graduation date. You can submit the OPT I-20 Request eform to ISSS up to two weeks before that date, and we will hold the application until the date we can process it.
The latest date USCIS can receive your application is 60 days after your graduation date. ISSS advises all students to apply as early as possible given USCIS processing times. You can find an application timeline on the ISSS OPT page with updated dates for the current semester.
Do I need a job offer to apply for OPT?
No. You do not need an employment offer to apply for OPT. USCIS processing time for OPT applications can take several months, so most students apply before they have a job offer. Once your OPT is approved, you cannot have more than 90 days of unemployment from the start date listed on your EAD card.
I am outside the Binghamton area. Can I still apply for OPT?
Yes. The entire OPT process can be completed from anywhere within the U.S. If you are currently outside the United States, you must return to the U.S. before your graduation date in order to apply for OPT.
How do I pick an OPT start date?
You can pick any start date between the day after your graduation date and 60 days after your graduation date. The start date you pick does not impact how quickly your application will be processed. ISSS does not recommend picking a weekend or holiday for your start date. If you have an employment offer, you may want to use that as your requested start date. USCIS processing time varies, so you may not get the start date you request. If USCIS approves your OPT application after your requested start date, the date of approval will be listed as the start date on your EAD. You can review current USCIS processing times on the USCIS website.
How do I pay the OPT Administrative Services Fee?
You can pay the fee online. You will receive an email confirmation with your Order Number.
What information do I need from my academic advisor to apply for OPT?
Your academic advisor only needs to complete their portion of the OPT Academic Advisor’s Recommendation Form. You and your advisor can complete the form electronically.
I cannot type the entire I-765. What should I do?
Type as much of the application as you can, and then handwrite the rest in black ink. USCIS allows a combination of typing and writing as long as the writing is clear and in black ink.
Can I get my I-765 and other OPT documents reviewed before I submit the application
Yes, you can email a copy of your draft I-765 to email@example.com and an ISSS advisor will review it. Review our sample I-765 for students who already have a SSN and students who do not have a SSN to assist you when completing your form.
Whether applying online or by paper, you should keep in mind that the I-765 application is your personal application for employment authorization. You are responsible for following all USCIS instructions and making sure that the application is correct and complete.
Can I pay the USCIS application fee with a debit card?
If the debit card is issued by a U.S. bank, has a Visa/Mastercard/major credit card logo, and can be used without typing your PIN number then yes, you should be able to use the debit card. You should reach out to your bank to ensure it can be run as a credit card. If you are filing a paper application, the ISSS highly recommends paying by check/money order.
My passport is expiring in less than six months. When would be a good time to start
applying for OPT?
Your passport should be valid for six months in the future at all times. If your passport is expiring, you should contact your country’s embassy or consulate in the U.S. to get your passport renewed before you apply for OPT. If your Embassy is not issuing passport renewals due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you should print that information from their website (in English). You should include that information in your USCIS application, along with any other documents you have to prove that you have tried to renew your passport.
I recently renewed my passport and it no longer matches my I-94. Is that a problem?
This is not a problem. You should submit your current I-94 and a copy of your new passport. You do not need to include a copy of your expired passport.
My F-1 visa expired. Can I still apply for OPT?
Yes. The F-1 visa does not need to be valid to apply for OPT. You will need to include a copy of the expired F-1 visa in your OPT application.
I am missing some of my previous I-20s. What should I do?
If you are missing I-20s that were issued by Binghamton University, you can submit the online Request for I-20/DS-2019 Copies. ISSS will review your record and send you electronic copies of all previous I-20s on file.
If you are missing I-20s issued by another institution, you should contact the international office at that school to request copies of your I-20s. If they do not have copies of your I-20s, you should write a letter of explanation to include in your OPT application to USCIS. The letter should state:
- Name of the institution attended
- SEVIS school code of that institution (found on the I-20 or the previous school can provide this information)
- Dates of attendance
- Degree level and type of degree you were pursuing
- Dates for any CPT or OPT authorization at that institution
- Statement that you attempted to locate the missing I-20s but were not able to get copies.
Should I staple my OPT application materials?
No. Do not staple your application materials because USCIS runs them through a scanner. Use a paper clip or binder clip for your application.
Can I take my passport photos at home?
USCIS is very specific about the requirements for passport photos. ISSS encourages students to get photos taken at a location that routinely takes passport photos. You must ensure that your photos meet all of the U.S. State Department photo requirements.
Can I file my OPT application with USCIS online?
You have the option to file your OPT application online or by mail. ISSS has prepared a step-by-step Guide to Filing Online for post-completion OPT applications. We also have instructions on how to file your application 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 will most likely receive a denial from USCIS because the application is incomplete.
Can I travel while my OPT application is pending?
ISSS does not recommend that you travel outside the U.S. while your OPT application is pending with USCIS.
If USCIS is still processing my application after my 60 day grace period, am I allowed
to remain in the U.S.?
Yes. You are able to remain in the U.S. in valid F-1 status due to your pending application with USCIS.
What if my EAD card arrives after my requested start date?
If you have not received your EAD card by your requested start date, you are allowed to remain in the U.S. in valid F-1 status because you have a pending application with USCIS. You cannot work until you receive the EAD and are within the dates on the card. If you get notification that your application has been approved but are waiting for the EAD card to arrive in the mail, you must wait until you receive the EAD before beginning work. Your days of unemployment start from the start date listed on your EAD card.
What if my mailing address changes before I receive my EAD card?
There is an option on the I-765 form to have your EAD card mailed to a friend or family’s member address. If you know you will not be at your current mailing address 3-7 months after your application is mailed to USCIS, we strongly encourage you to have your EAD card mailed to a trusted friend or family’s member’s address. If you have an unforeseen issue while your application is pending and need to change your mailing address, email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. Note, you cannot use the ISSS mailing address for your OPT application.
Can I cancel my OPT application after I send it to USCIS?
If your application has not been approved by USCIS, you may request that the OPT application be withdrawn. Email the ISSS at email@example.com as soon as possible if you need to withdraw your OPT application. Once your OPT application has been approved by USCIS, it cannot be withdrawn. You will not receive a refund on fees if you withdraw your application.
If my employer asks if I need future sponsorship, how should I respond?
If there is a question on a job application that asks if you will need sponsorship now or in the future to work in this job, you should answer “yes”. If there is the option to provide more information on the job application, you can explain your OPT eligibility and clarify that for the first 12 months of employment, you are eligible to work and would not require sponsorship. Students who complete a degree in an eligible STEM field may be eligible for an additional 24 months of OPT.
Are there any restrictions or rules on finding employment that is strictly related
to your field of study?
All work done on OPT must be directly related to your major. If you have questions about whether or not a job is related to your major, we recommend reaching out to your academic department. Learn more about what types of employment are allowed on OPT.
How do I “freeze” my OPT?
You cannot “freeze” your OPT. The only way to stop accruing days of unemployment is to report your employment. Unemployment days will stop accruing based on the date you begin your employment, not based on the reporting date. You must report any changes in employment within 10 days of the change.
How do I report employment? Does ISSS need to see my job offer letter?
There are two ways to report your employment information (only choose one):
- 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.
- 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.
You do not need to provide a job offer letter when reporting employment.
Can I travel outside the U.S. while I am on OPT?
Yes. You may travel outside the U.S. on OPT. Review the OPT and Travel page for more details and a list of documents needed to return to the U.S.
If I travel outside the U.S., do my unemployment days pause?
No. If you are outside the U.S. and unemployed, you will still accrue days of unemployment. If you exceed 90 days of unemployment while outside the U.S., you will not be able to return to the U.S.
How long is my travel signature valid for while on OPT?
During OPT, your travel signature is valid for six months from the last signature date. If you are outside the U.S. and need a new travel signature, you can Request an I-20 Reprint online. ISSS will email you an electronic I-20 for you to print and sign.