OPT is training that is directly related to an F-1 academic student’s major area of study. It is intended to provide students with practical experience in their field of study during or upon completion of a degree program.

Who is eligible for OPT?
An F-1 academic student who has attended an SEVP-certified college or university on a full-time basis for at least one academic year may be authorized up to 12 months of OPT per program level. However, F-1 students who have completed one year or more of full-time curricular practical training are not eligible for OPT for that degree.

What is pre-completion OPT?
Pre-completion OPT is OPT authorized to be worked before the student’s program end date. Students with approved pre-completion OPT may work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) while school is in session. Students who are eligible to register for the following semester may work full or part time during vacation periods.

What is post-completion OPT?
Post-completion OPT is OPT that begins after the student’s program end date. It is for full time employment only.

How Much Time Am I Allowed on Practical Training?

  • You are eligible for a maximum of 12 months of full-time Optional Practical Training during or following each advancing degree level. Part-time pre-completion OPT accrues at a rate of 50%, e.g., 6 months of part-time OPT count as 3 months of the total of 12 months you are allowed.
  • If you are a student in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) you are eligible to apply for a extension of 24 additional months, thus making their OPT total a maximum of 36 months.
  • If you are the beneficiaries of a timely-filed H-1B petition; you are eligible for an OPT extension or a work authorization extension (if on post-completion OPT at the time of filing) or an extension of your F-1 status (if in legal F-1 status at the time of filing). This extension is applicable until the effective date of your H-1B (October 1 of the year in which the petition was filed).
  • If you have used full time Curricular Practical Training for one year or more, you are no longer eligible for OPT.

***Use of part-time CPT does not affect eligibility for OPT.

OPT Application Instructions

STEP 1: Attend an Optional Practical Training Workshop. Workshops are offered once per month, virtually and in-person. It is recommended you attend a workshop at least once, during the semester you plan to apply for OPT.

STEP 2: Submit a completed Academic Official’s Certification for OPT form (with section I completed by you). After you have submitted this form, an international student advisor will review and issue you an OPT endorsed I-20.

STEP 3: Be sure to sign the new form I-20 before uploading it to the online portal or mailing the application.

STEP 4: Gather the necessary materials.

  1. Digital 2″x2″ color passport photo that meets USCIS specifications
  2. A scan of your passport photograph page
  3. A scan of the front and back of any previous EAD cards (if applicable)
  4. A scan of any previous I-20s with CPT or OPT information (if available)
  5. A digital copy of your I-20 with an OPT recommendation
    • You must apply for OPT with this I-20 within 30 days of when it was issued. As a reminder, you must receive a new I-20 before filing for your OPT online.
    • The I-20 must be signed by an OIS  advisor and by you.
  6. Your most recent form I-94
  7. A credit card with which you can pay the filing fee.

These materials will be attached in the “Evidence” section of the online application.

STEP 5: Apply online. Complete the application for OPT (I-765 application for employment authorization) https://www.uscis.gov/i-765

  1. Create an online account with USCIS.gov by clicking on Sign In and selecting Create an Account
  2. Select My Account → File a Form Online → I-765 “Application for Employment Authorization”
  3. Select your eligibility code
    • For the first year of OPT, select (c)(3)(B) – Student Post Completion OPT
  4. Answer: What is your reason for applying?
    • For the first year of OPT, select “Initial permission to accept employment”
  5. If you have ever previously applied for OPT, you will answer “Yes” to “Have you ever filled out Form I-765?

STEP 6: Provide evidence.

This is where you will upload the materials you have collected for the application.

  • Under “Employment Authorization Document,” if you have previously been issued an EAD, you should upload this here. Otherwise, you can upload the photo page of your passport.
  • The Form I-20 document should be the one issued from our office with the OPT authorization indicated on page 2.
  • If you are applying for Post Completion OPT (c)(3)(B): If you have had CPT or OPT previously, make sure to upload any I-20s or previous EAD cards showing these authorizations in the section for “Previously Authorized CPT or OPT.”

Note: In approximately two to three weeks, USCIS will send you a Form I-797 Notice of Action indicating that they have received your application and your case will be decided within 90 days. You may hear before that time. It will have a tracking number for your application and will look something like EAC-11-222-3333. You may check the status of your application on line at www.USCIS.gov . Look for the case status on line link (enter the EAC# in the manner above). If approved, USCIS will send your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card to the OIS or to the address provided on the I-765. If USCIS has a question regarding your application before approval, it will send you a “Request for Evidence.” We recommend contacting the OIS so that we may advise you on how to respond.

It is highly recommended that you submit your application online. However, if you choose to mail your application, please gather the following documents and mail you application to the address below. 

 Submit originals of:

1. Signed and completed Form I-765.

2. OPT endorsed I-20
3.  A check or money order for $470 made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” If your name and current address are not on the form of payment, write them on the upper left side of the check. Remember to also write “I-765 fee” on the memo line of check. Furthermore, for identification purposes, please write your SEVIS ID number and your phone # on the check.
4. Two identical 2×2 passport photographs taken within 30 days of filing this application. In case your photos get separated from your application, the Vermont Service Center requests you write your name & SEVIS ID number on the back of both photographs.

Submit Photocopies of:
1.  I-20 with authorized work employment such as CPT or Pre-completion OPT. I-20s from any previous institutions you attended in the U.S.
2.  Passport copies (1) all pages that contain biographical information; (2) the page that has your picture; (3) the page showing passport expiration date (these 3 items may or may not be on the same page)
3.  A copy of your most recent visa.
4.  Printout of your electronic I-94 record (and any previous I-94s given to you since your last arrival in the U.S., this would only apply to people who have changed their status since their last arrival)
5.  Copies of any/all previous EAD cards (front and back) that have been issued to you.


For US Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
PO Box 660867
Dallas, TX 75266

Due to current delays at the Dallas, TX lockbox, we recommend students mail their applications to the Chicago, IL lockbox (updated 2/26/21).

U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

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

For Express Mail and Courier Deliveries:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business, Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067


You may request an E-Notification that your application has been accepted by attaching USCIS Form G-1145, “E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance” to the I-765 form. The E-Notification of application acceptance is NOT the official USCIS receipt notice. The application must be filed within 30 days of the date your international student advisor enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.



While on Post-Completion OPT, you are still an F-1 Student Visa Holder and you are still a Rutgers University student for visa purposes. This means that you are responsible for communicating the following information to the OIS during your time of OPT:

  • You must update and submit your local and international addresses to OIS.

  • You must update and submit your employer information to OIS.

  • If you have changed your visa status, you must fax, email or mail OIS the copies of your Approval Notice from USCIS indicating your new visa status or your I-94 card and visa stamp indicating the new visa status. This must be done within 10 days of receiving the documents from USCIS or re-entering the US. OIS will then COMPLETE your SEVIS record.

  • Finally, when you have completed your OPT or if you leave the US and do not intend to return to use the remainder of your OPT, please email the OIS within 10 days of leaving the US or finishing OPT.

OPT Application Deadlines

Pre-completion OPT applications can be filed up to 120 days before the proposed OPT start date if the student has completed a full academic year in F-1 status. If not, the student may only file the I-765 for pre-completion OPT up to 90 days before the end of the full academic year. The application must be filed within 30 days of the date your international student advisor enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.

Post-completion OPT applications can be filed up to 90 days before the degree completion date and up to 60 days after the degree completion date, provided that it is filed within 30 days of the date your international student advisor enters the OPT recommendation into SEVIS.  Graduate students (Masters/PhDs) may apply after completion of all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent). Students cannot begin working on OPT until they both reach their OPT start date and have received the EAD card. 

Applications for the 24 month STEM extension must be filed before the current EAD expires.
STEM based OPT extension applications must reach the USCIS before the post-completion OPT end date. There is no 60-day grace period to extend. The application for extension can be filed up to 90 days prior to the end date of the OPT.

H-1B Cap-Gap extensions must be requested before the program end date or the end date of the OPT (whichever is the case) if the student is the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B petition.

OPT Reminders

Your OPT employment must be directly related to your field of study and cannot begin until you have the EAD card in hand (and the start date has arrived).

USCIS will send a receipt notice once it has received your application. Use the receipt number and URL of the USCIS case status website to track the status of your OPT application.
You will need to continue to update your DSO with address changes and changes in employment while on post-completion OPT.

Effect of periods of unemployment while on Post-Completion OPT: During any initial 12-month period of post-completion OPT, no student (including STEM students) may be unemployed for an aggregate of more than 90 days. If a STEM student receives a 17 month extension, the limit on unemployment is raised to an aggregate of 120 days, applied to the entire 29-month period on which the student is on post-completion OPT.

Three Travel Warnings: (1) traveling abroad between the time you submit your OPT application (or STEM OPT application) and the time you receive the USCIS receipt notice, is permissible, but not recommended. (2) while on post-completion OPT or an extension, regulations allow you to re-enter the U.S. to resume employment, (3) if you will need to apply for an F-1 visa to return to the U.S. while on OPT, please note that this may be a high risk visa application and the chances of denial could be greater than normal.


Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

What is it?

Allows F-1 students to engage in off-campus internship/employment, which is integral to program completion. Must earn academic credit for each semester of work, unless the employment fulfills a degree requirement.

Allows any eligible F-1 students to engage in employment within major area of study, in most cases upon program completion*.

Who can apply?

Students in F-1 status who have completed one academic year and who have declared a major. Grad students whose program requires immediate participation in training are exempt from the one-year requirement above.

Students who have completed one academic year.

Requires a job offer. (Employer-specific authorization.)

Does not require a job offer.

When can I work?

-Part-time (less than 20 hours per week) while enrolled full time

-Part or full time while on school breaks or during summer session


-Part-time (less than 20 hours/week) while enrolled


-Part-time or full-time while on school break or during vacation

-Full-time with thesis or dissertation pending

-Full-time after program completion (graduation)

Duration of Training

(per degree level)

CPT has no limits, although if you used more than 12 months of full time CPT, you will lose your OPT.

Maximum of 12 months full-time (unless eligible for STEM OPT extension). Pre-completion OPT will count against the 12-month limit for post-completion OPT.

Granted by

Office of International Students & Global Programs (OIS)

CPT I-20 issued.


Employment Authorization Document issued.

How to Apply

Go to CPT workshop and meet w/ OIS to start process.

Go to OPT workshop and meet with OIS to start process.

Application Fee



Processing Times

One week or less.

Can take up to 3+ months.

Role of Academic Department

Verify enrollment requirements. (i.e. internship course, course credits, research is integral component of thesis/dissertation). Complete CPT academic official certification form.

Recommend CPT.


Pre-completion OPT: Verify full time enrollment on academic official form.

Post completion OPT: Verify expected program completion date  on academic official form.

Role of OIS

Verify eligibility.

Determine whether CPT is appropriate.

Authorize CPT in SEVIS.


Verify eligibility.

Recommend OPT in SEVIS.