If you are currently on OPT:
Procedures for applying for OPT Extension in a STEM field
APPLYING for Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Please view this tutorial on applying for OPT BEFORE you make an appointment
OPT employment is authorized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for temporary directly related to a student's major area of study. It may be used before of after completion of studies. The OPT is limited to 12 months per degree level. A job offer is not required to apply for OPT.
OPT is designed for students to gain actual employment experience in their chosen profession for a maximum of one year. Practical Training must be recommended by International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) and approved by USCIS. When the application is approved by USCIS, an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) is issued to you for the period of OPT employment.
Specific Eligibility Requirement
- Enrollment as full-time student for nine (9) consecutive, and continuous months
- Be in valid F-1 status including valid passport and SEVIS I-20
- Be in good academic standing
There are different types of OPT:
Pre-completion Practical Training
Full-time Summer vacation Period Practical Training or Part-time during Academic year (work up to 20 hrs and must maintain full-time status) undergraduate and graduate.
Full-time enrollment for the preceding nine (9) months is required and the student must plan to register for the next term.
Post-completion Practical Training
Applied for in final term prior to completion of studies, must be full-time, which is not necessarily the graduation or walking day.
A graduate student that has completed all course requirements for a degree except their thesis or alternate plan paper they can apply for post completion OPT.
The application for OPT must be submitted first to the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) before sending to the USCIS. Please give yourself 90 days before completion of studies to start your application process. USCIS processing of the card may vary (30 - 90 days).
You must get the complete OPT application to USCIS within 60 days of your date of completion (graduation).
Application and Authorization Procedures
The OPT application packet is also available at the ISSS office during regular office hours. Please make an appointment with an advisor to discuss your OPT application, procedures and practical training plans. Kindly bring the following documents for the appointment:
- I-765 Form, on line 16 put (C) (3) --- and a letter code of the type of OPT: either (A) for pre-completion (summer or during term part-time; (B) for post-completion (even for Master's degree with only thesis/APP remaining); (C) for STEM extension - see instructions and I-765 form (fillable)
- Letter from Department Chair / Advisor / Register stating graduation date
- Completed OPT Supplement form
- Two photographs following USCIS specifications
- Unofficial MSU transcript
- Original and photocopy of Passport showing applicant's picture, passport expiration Date and Visa page
- Original and copy of both sides of the I-94 card even if the back side is blank
- Original and photocopy old MSU I-20s and from previous schools
- A copy of previous EAD card (if issued previously)
If you meet all the eligibility requirements, the ISSS staff will issue you a SEVIS I-20 recommending for OPT and enrolling your information in the SEVIS data-base. Then you will send the following documents (do not staple) to USCIS:
- Photocopy of SEVIS I-20 with your signature (do not send your original)
- Check for the amount $380.00 payable to USCIS, put your I-94 number of your check I-765 Form
- Two photos with your name and admission (I-94) number printed in pencil behind the photos
- Photocopy of both sides of the I-94 card even if the back side is blank
- Photocopy old MSU I-20s and from previous schools
- Photocopy of any previously received EAD(s)
- Photocopy of passport pages of showing applicant's picture, passport expiration Date and Visa page with your name and alien/admission number.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a similar checklist that is more general for your reference.
Mail to (if you used a MN address on your I-765. If you used an address in another state, check, with an advisor before mailing):
P.O. Box 21281
Phoenix, AZ 85036
Please Take Note
You can only begin your employment upon receiving your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card from USCIS. It can take 60 to 90 days to receive the EAD card from the USCIS Service Center.
Note: If you are applying for Post completion OPT and have fewer than 60 days in applying for, you may want to write this: beginning not before dd/mm/yy and ending no.
F-1 students can apply for 12 months OPT for every level of a degree program. For bachelor's degree you can apply for 12 months OPT, for master's program , you can apply for 12 months OPT.
As long you make progress to another level, you are entitle to apply for 12 months OPT.
Making a decision to apply for Optional Practical Training
F-1 students are limited to one year of OPT during the student's entire stay in the U.S. as an F-1 student. For example, if the student plans to continue studying for a Master's the student may wish to use only part of their OPT, after completing their undergraduate degree and save a part of their time for after their second degree.
Once authorization for practical training is granted, it cannot be rescinded or canceled, regardless of subsequent occurrences. This means that after OPT is authorized by the USCIS, expect that delays in completing degree requirements, inability to find an appropriate job or loss of a job will result in loss of otherwise eligible time to work. Please plan ahead!
Change of Employer
Employers may be changed after authorized employment has begun, provided the new job is directly related to the major field of study or appropriate for someone with that level of education. The USCIS NOW NEEDS to be notified of the new employment, as well as any periods of unemployment or anytime you move.
Note: To verify your application status, use your receipt number, which you should have received in the mail, or you can find it on the back of your cancelled check to USCIS, and call 402-323-7830 (24 hours line) or you can check at:
For general USCIS questions, please call 1-800-375-5283.
Travel Outside the United States
The applicant cannot travel outside the U.S. during the time the application for OPT is pending with USCIS.
Once the applicant has been issued the EAD, reentry provisions require:
- That the SEVIS I-20 be endorsed and updated on the SEVIS screen by the ISSS
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card
- A valid F-1 Entry Visa
- Have a letter from your employer
Students who do not meet these requirements may not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. Please consult with an International advisor if planning to temporarily depart the U.S. during the authorized practical training period.
OPT checklist for after graduation reference
For more information contact:
Kearney International Center
250 Centennial Student Union
Minnesota State Universtiy, Mankato
Mankato, MN 56001
or use our contact form.