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Optional Practical Training (OPT)

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. 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 3-5 months. ISSS encourages all students to apply for OPT as early as possible due to USCIS processing times.

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.

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 advising 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

  • Meet with your academic advisor to complete the OPT Academic Advisor's Recommendation Form.
  • 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. See the OPT start date document for a range of dates for the current term.
  • Submit the OPT I-20 Request to the ISSS Office. ISSS processing time for OPT I-20 Request 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 an SSN and students who do not have an 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.
  • Beginning Wednesday, August 21, all students 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. This fee can be paid online using a credit card or debit card. Additional details will be available on the ISSS website as of the effective date. Students will need to pay the fee before submitting an OPT request to ISSS.

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 ball point 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
    • 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 previously issued I-20s that you have been issued, including I-20s from other schools (excluding the instructions page)
    • Previously issued EAD card (if applicable)

Pick up your new I-20 and finalize your OPT application

  • You will receive an email from ISSS when your OPT I-20 is ready to pick up. Review this email carefully for any changes that you need to make on Form I-765.
  • When you pick up 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 into USCIS and wait to receive your EAD card

Use Priority Mail/Express Mail to Send Your OPT Application to USCIS. The address to which your OPT application is mailed to is determined by the address you provide on item 5a (page 2, Your U.S. Mailing Address) of the I-765 Form.

If the address used on the I-765 form is in New York, mail your application to one of the following addresses:

US Postal Service (Priority Mail):
USCIS
P.O. Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

FEDEX, UPS, or DHL
USCIS
Attn: NFB AOS
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business
Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

If the address used on your Form I-765 is outside New York, visit the USCIS website to find the USCIS lockbox mailing address for your state.

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 2-4 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 Add OPT Employer Information 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.

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.

Last Updated: 8/1/19