Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a 12-month work authorization that allows F-1 students to gain additional work experience after graduation in their field of study. You can work anywhere in the US on OPT, so long as the employment is directly related to your field of study.
You can learn more about OPT by attending an OPT Information Workshop. See upcoming dates here.
We recommend that you apply as early as possible because it can take 3-4 months for an OPT application to be approved by USCIS. You do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. You can apply as early as 90 days before you complete your program and up to 60 days after you complete your program.
All OPT applications must be made through the Center for Global Education.
To apply for OPT:
Learn about OPT by attending an OPT Information Workshop. This is the first required step in your OPT application. See upcoming dates here.
The following items are needed to apply for OPT:
- Form I-765 (please review instructions on how to complete this form listed further down this page)
- Photocopy of your passport and visa
- Copy of your I-94 (in your passport, or retrieve it from the CBP website)
- Photocopies of any previous I-20s (particularly those with any CPT-authorizations)
- I-20 endorsed for OPT (obtained through ISS after attending an OPT workshop)
- Photocopies of any previous Employment Authorization Documents (EAD)
- Two passport photos (see “OPT Photo Specifications” below)
- Application fee: $410 check or money order made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” (check for latest fee amounts)
- Completed G-1145 form (optional – it signs you up for email/text notification of your application’s arrival at USCIS)
Please bring these items to the OPT Information Workshop if you are planning to apply at the workshop.
OPT Photo Specifications
- Photos submitted for OPT cannot be taken more than 30 days before you submit your application. Instructions for photos are on page 8 of the form 1-765 instructions
- Photos must be in color with full face, frontal view on a white background
- Photos must be unmounted, printed on thin paper, glossy and not retouched
- Photos should be passport style; 2×2 inches, with the distance from the top of your head to just below your chin about 1 3/8 inches
- Using a soft pencil or felt pen, lightly print your name on the back of each photo
We recommend that you complete the form in the fillable pdf online instead of handwriting. You must use the latest version of Adobe Acrobat to be able to fill the form completely. The form and general instructions can be found on the USCIS website.
- Item 1: check “Permission to accept employment”
- Item 3: We recommend that you use the Center for Global Education address, unless you are very confident about your address after graduation. The address is:
1910 University Dr. CGE MS1145
Boise, ID 83725
- Item 9(a) – if you have a Social Security Number (SSN): Select “Yes”, then enter your SSN in Item 9(b). Select “No” on Item 10, then move to Item 14.
- Item 9(a) – if you do not have a Social Security Number (SSN): Select “No”. If you would like to apply for an SSN now, then select “Yes” for Item 10. Be sure to check “Yes” for Item 11, and complete Items 12-13. Your Social Security Card should arrive approximately 2-3 weeks after your OPT is approved. If you do not want to apply for an SSN now, select “No” for Item 10, and move to Item 14.
- Item 14: Use the number on your I-94 form. You can retrieve it from the CBP website.
- Item 15:Have you ever before applied for employment authorization from USCIS?: No (unless you have previously applied for OPT, Economic Hardship, TPS, or another purpose). CPT authorization is not an authorization through USCIS.
- Item 17: This is the place you most recently went through US Immigration (usually an airport or border crossing). Write the name of the city and the state.
- Item 18: F-1 student
- Item 19: Student
- Item 20: Use the applicable code (c) (3) (B)
- Item 21-23: No answers needed
No part of your signature on the I-765 should be touching or outside the signature box, as this may cause your application to be rejected.
Mail your application to USCIS using a mail service with tracking to the address below. Your application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of your OPT-endorsed I-20 being made by the ISS office.
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) First-Class and Priority Mail Express deliveries:
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
For overnight/courier deliveries (non-USPS, such as FedEx or UPS):
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S
Phoenix, AZ 85034
To report your OPT participation:
You must continue to report information to Boise State University during your OPT, so that we can keep your SEVIS record accurate. All changes of employment/unemployment, addresses or names must be reported within 10 days of the change. You do this through the the SEVP Portal, which will be active after March 23, 2018. You will receive SEVIS OPT Portal account creation information to your Boise State University after your OPT is approved by US immigration. If you have decided not to participate in OPT, you must contact us to let us know.
***If you are interested in the STEM Extension, please check the OPT STEM Extension page.***
SEVP has created a portal to help you report required information when you are on OPT. You will receive information on how to set up your portal account once your OPT is approved. The account creation information will be sent directly to you by SEVP to your Boise State University email account. Please review the Study in the States website for all the information you need about the SEVP Portal, including how to set up your account, what information to report and when to report it. If you have decided not to participate in OPT then please also inform us directly.
Frequently Asked Questions
USCIS will mail a receipt notice a few weeks after you submit your OPT application. The notice includes a receipt number. You can track whether your application has been received, approved, or if USCIS has requested more information by using the receipt number on the USCIS website application tracker.
If you are in the thesis or dissertation portion of your program (no classes remaining) then you may be eligible to apply for OPT before you complete your program. Please discuss your situation with us so that we can advise you regarding the pros and cons of applying for OPT before you finish your degree.
You are eligible for OPT after each degree level you complete. For example, you may do one year of OPT after your undergraduate degree. You can do another year of OPT after your graduate degree.
Boise State University has a great Career Center. Their staff can help with your job search, resume development, cover letters, interview skills and much more.
We do not recommend travel while your OPT is pending. Please contact us if you need to travel so that we can advise you on the documents you may need to re-enter the US.
Yes, you can travel. To re-enter the US you will need your EAD, valid F-1 visa, I-20 signed for travel within the last 6 months and proof of employment. If you do not have a job yet then we recommend that you provide evidence of your job search (upcoming interviews, for example).
You can study part-time in non-degree status only. If you want to start a new degree program then your OPT authorization will end once your I-20 is made for your new degree program.