2Form I-765 Optional Practical Training Overview California Service CenterAcademic Engagement
3I-765 Student Employment Categories Ensure the correct eligibility category is used (item 16 on Form I-765)(c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT(c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT(c)(3)(C) – Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) OPT extension(c)(3)(ii) – Employment with an International Organization(c)(3)(iii) – Severe Economic Hardship(c)(6) - M-1 Post-Completion Practical Training3
4One Full Academic YearTo be eligible for OPT, a student must have been taking a full- course of study for one full academic year in the United States.Typically this is 9 months.The student may file up to 90 days before completing the academic year so long as the requested OPT start date occurs after one full academic year.The one full academic year does not need to have been completed while in F-1 status; the student need only be in F-1 status when filing for OPT.4
5Directly Related to the Students Major Area of Study OPT employment (pre-completion, post-completion, and the STEM OPT extension) must be directly related to the student’s major field of study.
6(c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT OPT can be either part-time or full-time.NOTE: Pre-completion OPT cannot be full time while school is in session (20 hours per week limit applies).Students are eligible for a maximum of 12 months of OPT (pre- completion and post-completion combined) at each educational level.OPT can be in a combination of pre-completion and post- completion.Part-time pre-completion OPT is calculated at a 2:1 ratio.2:1 ratio - 2 months of part-time pre-completion OPT only uses up 1 month of the students 12 months of OPT.6
7Pre-Completion OPT Validity Period The validity period will begin either on the date of adjudication or on the start date recommended by the DSO, whichever is later. The validity period will continue until:The end date recommended by the DSO;The student’s program end date, for pre-completion OPT; or,12 months, whichever is earlier.The pre-completion OPT ending validity date may be the same as, but cannot extend beyond, the student’s program end date, as indicated on the Form I-20.7
8(c)(3)(B) - Post-Completion OPT Post-completion OPT enables an F-1 student to work full-time after completing his or her course of study or, if in a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree program, after completion of all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent).Post-completion OPT employment may not begin until the day after a student’s course of study is completed.Post-completion OPT employment must begin no later than 60 days after a student’s course of study is completed.8
9Post-completion OPT The student must: Properly file Form I-765 up to 90 days prior to the student’s program end-date and no later than 60 days after his/her program end-date.The Form I-765 must be filed with USCIS within 30 days of the date the DSO recommends OPT in SEVIS by updating the student’s SEVIS record.9
10Post-Completion OPT Validity Period The validity period will begin either on the date of adjudication or on the start date recommended by the DSO, whichever is later. The validity period will continue until:The end date recommended by the DSO;14 months after the student’s program end date; or12 months, whichever is earlier.The pre-completion OPT ending validity date may be the same as, but cannot extend beyond, the student’s program end date, as indicated on the Form I-20.10
1130 Day RuleDo not confuse the date the DSO recommends OPT in SEVIS by updating the student’s SEVIS record with the date the I-20 is issued or signed.They are not the same.It is the “OPT Employment Requested” date in the Event History, not the date the I-20 was issued or signed, that begins the 30- day filing clock specified in 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(11)(i)(B)(2).
12will not change the OPT Employment Requested date 30 Day Rule, cont.Reprinting the I-20will not change the OPT Employment Requested date
13(c)(3)(C) – STEMThe application must be received while the student is in a valid period of post-completion OPT.Student must not have accrued over 90 days of unemployment.A 17 month OPT extension is based on a qualifying STEM degree.Provide a copy of the qualifying degree and or transcripts.Prior to the adjudication of the application, applicants should always notify USCIS of employer changes via the service center’s school’s address – please do not file an amended Form I-765.13
14Ensure the E-verify number and employer’s name are correct. The name of the employer must be annotated in Block 17 of the Form I-765 along with the E-verify company identification number (E-verify number.)Ensure the E-verify number and employer’s name are correct.14
15Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) Code The Form I-20 must contain a CIP code listed in the current STEM designated Degree Program List.The student’s degree must be at the Bachelor’s level, or higher.15
16STEM Extension Validity Period The STEM extension validity period will begin the day after the prior post-completion OPT expires and end 17 months later, regardless of the date the extension is approved.Students on cap-gap have been terminating their H-1B change of status and requesting an October 1st STEM OPT extension start date. Per 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(iii)(A) …The employment authorization period for the 17-month OPT extension begins on the day after the expiration of the initial post-completion OPT employment authorization and ends 17 months thereafter, regardless of the date the actual extension is approved.16
17(c)(6) - M-1 Post-Completion Practical Training Practical training may be authorized only after completion of the student's course of study, and only if:The proposed employment is directly related to the student's course of study; andComparable employment is not available in the country of the student's foreign residence (DSO belief).An M-1 vocational student is not eligible for pre- completion OPT.17
18M-1 OPT Validity PeriodFrom the date of adjudication or the start date recommended by the DSO, whichever is later, to:The end date recommended by the DSO:6 months from the date of completion of studies; or1 month for each 4 months of completed full-time studies, whichever is earlier.OPT cannot be granted if it will not be completed within 3 years of the applicants initial program start date.Students may only be in M-1 status for a maximum of 3 years, including any OPT time.
19M-1 OPT Filing TipsM-1 students must apply for post-completion OPT before completion of their studies.Cannot apply more than 90 days prior to the completion of studies.Extensions of status must be filed at least 15 days but not more than 60 days before the program end date.If an extension of status is needed, to work OPT, the student needs to concurrently file the Form I-765 and I-539 according to the Form I-539 filing instructions.In general, submit the following:Form I-765 and I-539 signed by the applicant;Form I-20 signed by the student, the DSO, with the DSO’s OPT recommendation;Endorsed by the DSO within 30 days of the student filing with USCIS;
20Filing TipsStudent’s should obtain DSO recommendation prior to filing.In general, submit the following:Evidence of student statusThe student’s status in SEVIS must show as “Active”Evidence that the practical training will be in an occupation directly related to the student’s major course of study, as indicated on the I-20;Form I-765 signed by the student;Mail to the correct location, as indicated on the form instructions;Incorrectly addressed applications risk delay, rejection, and return.
21Filing Tips, cont’dA copy of the degree conferred or a transcript showing completion of course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent);Passport photos; andSignature card (optional).When OPT applications are approved, the signature that is used when creating the student’s EAD is “lifted” from the Form I-765 signature block. Students can submit a signature card with their Form I-765 applications to prevent smearing their names or writing outside the small signature area, which can result in an RFE requesting a signature card containing a “clean” signature for use in creating the student’s EAD.NOTE: USCIS has considered revising the Form I-765; however, form revisions have been delayed due to the deployment of USCIS ELIS.
22Form I-20Signed by the student with the student’s “N” number and containing the OPT recommendation;Form I-20 must be endorsed by a DSO within 30 days of the student filing with USCIS;For post-completion OPT the Form I-765 must be filed with USCIS within 30 days of the date the DSO recommends OPT in SEVIS by updating the student’s SEVIS record.Copies of all prior I-20s especially if they have different N numbers or if the student received prior CPT or OPT;Copies of prior OPT EADs, if applicableIf all previously issued Form I-20s are not submitted with the application, provide a letter explaining the situation.
23Form G-28It is important that the attorney or accredited representative fill out the Form G-28 as completely as possible, including the name of the applicant, petitioner, or respondent. If a company or an organization is the applicant, petitioner, or respondent, please also include the name of the individual signing on behalf of the company.
24Transcripts or Copy of Degree A copy of the degree conferred or transcript showing completion of course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent);
25AddressesIn cases where the student is not at the address indicated on the application while the I-765 is pending, RFEs issued for evidence material to the application are returned as UNDELIVERABLE.Where the student is not at the address indicated on the application at the time the EAD card is delivered, it results in either the card being returned as UNDELIVERABLE, or worse, in the card not getting to the applicant at all.Note: When the student anticipates moving out or being temporarily in a different address while on vacation, etc., it is advisable to indicate the complete mailing address of the school, in care of (C/O) the DSO, on the I-765 application. This information will be entered at the time of adjudication.
26Photos Common reasons for photo rejects: Appearance of shadows Appearance of dots or other markingsBackground too dark or too lightGlasses too dark or reflectiveImage color is unacceptable (reddish, yellowish, etc.)OverexposedRFEs for photos:RFE will be issued if the student’s photo is not acceptable for use by the USCIS’s Employment Authorization Card manufacturing equipment. This can occur after approval of the application.
27SignatureEnsure the applicant’s signature is acceptable for use by the USCIS’s Employment Authorization Card manufacturing equipment. (No part of the signature can extend beyond the inside of the box or come in contact with any typed text.)
28Form I-94A copy of Form I-94 or a print out of the student’s electronic Form I-94.I-765 electronic PDF allows 11 characters for the I-94 number. If additional space is needed the student can manually enter the information on the I-765 application.For change of status applications, USCIS will send out Form I-797 approval notice with an I-94 at the bottom of the page. USCIS does not have the ability to update electronic I-94s.
29Biometrics for E-filing After receiving the application and ensuring completeness, USCIS will inform the student in writing when to go to the local USCIS Application Support Center (ASC) for the biometrics services appointment. Failure to attend the biometrics services appointment may result in denial of the application.
30Identity DocumentsIf no prior EAD has been issued, the applicant must submit a copy of a government-issued identity document, such as a passport showing the applicant’s picture, name, and date of birth
31Errors For errors in EAD production, please proceed as follows. Applicant errors are corrected by filing a newI-765, with fee.USCIS errors are corrected without charge.When an OPT application is approved the student/DSO should check the EAD card for errors as soon as it is received. If an error is detected the DSO should contact the service center that adjudicated the application using the schools address for that center. The center will review the error and determine if the error is a USCIS error or due to incorrect information on the application.31
32ELIS Document UploadUSCIS has established a dedicated technical assistance service to address issues that are specific to the USCIS ELIS system at the National Customer Service Center (NCSC):
33Expedite Request Expedite criteria can be found on the USCIS website. You can contact the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at You can visit your local office by scheduling an InfoPass appointment
34Points of ContactNational Customer Service Center: or (TDD) SEVIS Help Desk: or Vermont Service Center: Nebraska Service Center: Texas Service Center: California Service Center: (EAD issues only) Service Center Operations: Office of Public Engagement: ELIS Feedback: SAVE: E-Verify: