OPT Application Process: 2-step process

  1. Submit your application in Axess (see the timing information for each process below). The I-Center will take approximately 5 - 10 days to process your application.
  2. Mail completed application to the USCIS (within 30 days of the date on the new OPT-endorsed I-20). NOTE: If you decide not to submit documents to the USCIS (after the I-Center has issued the I-20), you must contact the I-Center IMMEDIATELY so the OPT application in SEVIS may be cancelled. For more detailed instructions on completing your application, please see the USCIS checklist.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not e-file your OPT application with USCIS! Students who e-file have experienced problems and delays with their applications. Apply for OPT by mailing a paper application.

Approximately 2-4 weeks after you mail your application to USCIS, you should receive a Notice of Action (form I-797) stating that your documents have been received, and that the processing time is approximately 90 days from the date of this receipt notice.

How early can I apply for OPT with USCIS?

  • Pre-Completion OPT: USCIS will accept applications as early as 90 days prior to the proposed start date of employment providing you have completed one full Academic Year at an accredited institution. A first-year student may apply up to 90 days before she/he completes a full academic year, so if the first academic year ends in mid June, a student may apply in mid March with USCIS.
  • Post-Completion OPT: USCIS will accept applications as early as 90 days before your conferral date (program end date on your I-20) and must receive your application no later than 60 days after the conferral date (during your grace period). Since processing times vary, the I-Center recommends that you submit your application in a timely manner.
  • OPT STEM Extension: To ensure your employment authorization is not interrupted, you should submit your application to USCIS between 90-120 days before your current EAD expires. Please note that your extension application must be received by UCSIS BEFORE the expiration date of your EAD card. Regulations allow a student who has applied for a STEM based extension to continue working for up to 180 days beyond the expiration of the prior post-completion OPT EAD while the STEM extension application is pending.

How late can I apply for post-OPT with the USCIS?

The USCIS must receive your post-OPT application no later than 60 days after the conferral date. Since processing times can be lengthy, the I-Center recommends that you submit your application as soon as possible.

WARNING: USCIS must receive the form I-765 and complete application within 30 days of the issuance date of the original OPT recommendation made by the I-Center (see page 1 section 10 of the I-20). Failure to submit this in time will result in the denial of your OPT application.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Employment is permitted only after you receive the EAD card, and only during the period specified on the card.

Go here for information on what to expect after you submit your application to USCIS->

Return to Pre-Completion OPT page ->

Return to Post-Completion OPT page ->

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