12 Months of OPT

OPT Application Instructions & Frequently Asked Questions


For further information on SEVP Policy on OPT, please review the official policy guidelines: http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/opt_policy_guidance_042010.pdf

When should I apply?

KSI will support your OPT Application and filing after successful retrieval of a presentation date from your thesis advisor.

Apply early! It takes about three to five months to receive your EAD from the USCIS. Expedites are not available. However, only the Administrative Office can approved your OPT request. Students who are applicable for OPT must have met the academic requirements. For further information on what those academic requirements are, contact the Office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The earliest USCIS can receive the application is 90 days before the date of your program completion.
The latest USCIS can receive the application is the 60th day following your completion date, assuming you do not leave the U.S. It can take up to two weeks to prepare the OPT application before sending to USCIS (especially for busy students!)

What documents should I submit?

Students should submit the following documents:

  • OPT Request Form and Filing Fee of $55 [made payable to KSI]
  • Form I-765 (available online)
  • $380 check or money order payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" (Do not postdate your check. The date format for your check should be as follows: month/day/year)
  • Two passport style photos (for your EAD card) - Photos must be taken recently!
  • Photocopy of all previous I-20s issued to you (1st and 3rd page only)
  • Photocopy of passport identification page
  • Photocopy of I-94

What is my “completion date”?
The “completion date” for OPT purposes is defined as follows:

- The day on which all degree requirements are fulfilled, such as filing the thesis requirement.
- Your program end date on your I-20 is the same date as your completion date. This is also your graduation date on your diploma. The three graduation dates are May 20, Aug 20, Dec 20.
- Changing your completion date can cause serious complications for your OPT application. If for some reason you need to change your completion date after the OPT I-20 is created, speak to an Administrative Officer immediately.

What dates should I choose?
Your OPT start date must be within 90 days prior to your completion date and 60 days after your completion date. Your OPT end date will be 12 months later. 

How long does it take to get approved for OPT?

Approximately three months from the date USCIS receives your application, though it can be faster depending on the time of year.

When can I start working?
You must wait until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and your start date has arrived to begin working. Once you complete your degree, you cannot work on-campus or off-campus until you receive the EAD and your start date has arrived.

What counts as employment?
OPT is intended to enhance your academic program by providing a means to gain experience in your field of study. Work NOT related to your program of study is a violation of F-1 status. Students must work at least 20 hours a week in either a paid or unpaid position to qualify as employment.

What happens if I cannot find a job?
During OPT, students may not accrue a total of more than 90 days of unemployment.

Can I have more than one employer?
A student may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to the student’s degree program and, for pre-completion OPT, can not exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours. 

What is my status while I am on OPT?
Students on OPT or with a pending OPT application are still in F-1 status and must maintain their F-1 status by following the employment and address reporting requirements. Students may remain in the U.S. while their OPT Application is pending.

Can I travel while I am on OPT?
Generally, yes, travel on OPT is possible, but students will need to time their re-entry and carry the correct documents upon re-entry to the U.S. You must have your EAD card, valid F-1 visa , employment letter, and an authorized I-20 in order to travel out of country. Having your EAD only is not valid for re-entry.

What if my visa has expired?
Students who plan to travel outside the U.S. will need a valid F-1 visa to re-enter the U.S. The OPT Application Guide discusses important points and instructions on applying for a visa while on OPT.

What it I lose my EAD card?
If you lose your card, you must apply and pay for a replacement. Complete a new I-765 Form and resubmit it to USCIS with all supporting documents, including the fee. Contact the Administrative Office for an updated I-20. We recommend you keep your EAD at home (not in your wallet) because of the expense and time in applying for a replacement.

What else do I have to do while I am on OPT?
You must report your employment and current residential address via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Any changes should be reported within 10 days.

Link OPT Form: OPT Request Form and FAQs.pdf