OPT Frequently Asked Questions
If I am outside the U.S. can I apply for OPT?
The USCIS Form-1765 instructions states that you must file the Form I-765 while in the United States.
What should I remember when choosing my OPT start date?
- You can apply for OPT as early as 90 days before your program completion date.
- Your requested OPT start date must be within 60 days of your degree program end date.
- You cannot change your OPT start date once you submit your OPT application - choose wisely!
- It can take 3-4 months to for USCIS to process your OPT application and for you to receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD). USCIS may adjust your approved OPT period if they adjudicate your OPT application after your requested OPT start date.
- You cannot begin your employment until you receive your EAD and reach the start date listed on the EAD.
- You have a TOTAL of 90 days of unemployment while on Post-Completion OPT. Your unemployment time starts from the OPT start date on your EAD.
Where can I find instructions for completing the Form I-765?
- Review the Form I-765 USCIS Instructions
- Review the Form I-765 Brandeis Supplemental Instructions
How can I the avoid common mistakes that students make when applying for OPT?
Follow these instructions carefully:
- Do not submit your OPT application prior to obtaining your new Form I-20 with the OPT recommendation
- If filing by mail:
- Fill out the correct edition of Form I-765 - carefully review the edition date instructions on the USCIS website
- Sign your Form I-765 on page 5
- Make your check/money order payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"
- Include the correct application fee amount (Currently $410)
- Make a copy of your entire OPT application packet and keep it for your records
- USCIS receives your OPT application no earlier than 90 days before your program completion date
- USCIS receives your OPT application no later than 60 days after your program completion date
- USCIS receives your OPT application no later than 30 days after we issue your OPT Form I-20
- Do not submit duplicate OPT Applications using two different filling options
I submitted my OPT application! What do I do now?
- After your program end date, you may not work on or off-campus until your OPT has been approved and you have received your EAD card.
- You may receive a Receipt Notice, an Approval Notice, a Request for Evidence (RFE), or a Rejection Notice from USCIS. You should check your mail and your USCIS portal regularly so you do not miss any communication from USCIS.
- The Receipt Notice is evidence that the USCIS has received your application. You are permitted to remain in the U.S. while your OPT application is pending.
- If you receive a Request for Evidence notice (RFE), please contact you ISSO Advisor for assistance.
- The EAD card will be mailed to you at the address that you included on your Form I-765. Please keep your name on your mailbox to ensure proper delivery.
What are unemployment days and when does my unemployment time start?
Students on Post-Completion OPT are eligible to accumulate up to 90 days of unemployment. The 90 days start counting from the approved EAD start date. Please see the unemployment counter from the Study in the States website to help calculate your unemployment days.
When can I apply for STEM OPT if I am a STEM major?
You may apply for STEM OPT as early as 90 days before your current OPT end date, and within 60 days of the STEM OPT Form I-20 issue date. Apply for the STEM OPT Form I-20 in your ISSO portal.
Can I travel while I’m waiting for my OPT to be approved or during my OPT/STEM OPT?
I have an EAD card and have accepted a job, but I plan to be outside of the U.S. Can I still work on OPT?
The current government guidance does not prohibit students on OPT from working outside of the U.S. However, your ability to work from outside of the U.S. will also be based on the discretion of both your employer as well as local employment regulations and requirements. You will need to communicate directly with your employer to determine whether or not working on OPT abroad is an option.
I will leave the U.S. and have no intention to make use of my remaining OPT time. What should I do?
Notify the ISSO of your planned departure in the ISSO portal by submitting an "OPT Discontinuation Request."
Do I need to renew my F-1 visa during OPT?
If you travel outside of the U.S. during your Post-Completion OPT or STEM OPT period, and your F-1 visa has expired, you will need to renew your visa before returning to the U.S.
Please remember that you continue to be in F-1 status while on OPT/STEM OPT. Refer to the Renewing Your U.S. Visa for detailed information about the documents you need to apply for a new visa.
We recommend that you bring the following documents:
- Valid Passport (Valid for at least 6 months into the future)
- Most recent Form I-20 with OPT approval dates, updated employer information, and a valid travel signature (Not more than 6 months old)
- Proof of Employment-Employer offer letter.
- Financial Documents: Pastures from your OPT employment or bank statements to prove that you can financially support yourself for the duration of your OPT period.
Check the website of your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate for additional required documentation.
NOTE: F-1 visa applicants must demonstrate nonimmigrant intent even while on OPT. Be prepared to answer questions about your plans to return home following the completion of your OPT.
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