HOW TO APPLY FOR OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING
Step 1: Obtaining the International Student adviser recommendation
Since you must first obtain a new SEVIS I-20 with the International Student adviser/DSO's OPT endorsement, which may require 5 working days, you should make every effort to apply as early as possible within the 90 or 120 day window. You might need to come twice to the International Student adviser/DSO—once to submit the application and another to pick up the approved recommendation on a SEVIS I-20. To apply, first
- Complete the fillable I-765 Form in PDF format on-line and print it. Sign the hard copy, making sure not to write outside the allotted area. Use a laser printer only. For an "F-1 student seeking Optional Practical Training in an Occupation Directly related to Studies", you fill in the category (c)(3)(i)
- Download and fill out the OPT Recommendation Request Form to bring to the International Student adviser/DSO. Please come prepared to the International Student adviser/DSO office with your desired employment start and end dates.
- Bring to the International Student adviser/DSO
a) Your current I-20 and all previously issued I-20's.
b) Your passport and I-94 card.
Please note that although an offer of employment is not required, if you do not find employment, you will forfeit that period of practical training authorized and cannot recover it for later use.
The International Student adviser/DSO will:
- Provide you with any required USCIS forms that you have not already downloaded.
- Review your application for eligibility.
- If you are eligible, process and print a new SEVIS I-20 to indicate that OPT in your major field of study is recommended (with the dates of employment) and return it to you.
- Notify you by email when your completed forms are ready for pick-up.
Step 2: Mailing your EAD applications to USCIS
- Sign your New I-20.
- We suggest that you send your application to the USCIS by certified mail, return receipt requested or by a courier service such as Fedex to provide you with proof that your application was timely in the event that the application is lost. Photocopy the entire application before you send it so that you have a copy for your records.
Include the following documents in your application:
- Completed Form I-765 (your address on the I-765 on the form is extremely important- see STEP 3)
- Required $180 fee (no cash) payable to the Department of Homeland Security by
- a bank check
- money order (Please note: a money order is more difficult to track than a check)
- personal check—only if your name and address are preprinted on the front
- Photocopies of all I-20's issued to you since you first entered in F-1 status. Include all pages. Do not send the originals
- Photocopies of the identification page of the passport
- Photocopies of both sides of the I-94 card
- Photocopies of both sides of any previously issued EAD cards
- Two recent photos of yourself. The USCIS requires that the photos meet the specifications for the full frontal/passport type of photos and not be more than 30 days old when the application is filed. For more information on photo standards, visit the Department of State Web site. These can be obtained from the Registrar’s office or Eckerd’s. We recommend that you write your name on the back of each picture in pencil.
- Mail your application to the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over the place of residence that you have written in item 3 of the form I-765.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Vermont Service Center
75 Lower Welden Street
St. Albans, VT. 05479-0001
If your address is or will be outside the New York metropolitan area at the time you expect to receive the EAD, refer to page 7 of the instructions in the I-765 for the address of the appropriate USCIS Regional Service Center.
Step 3: Receiving Your EAD Card in the Mail
Address: The address you put on the I-765 has to be one at which you can reliably receive mail up to four months from the time you mail the application. An “undeliverable” address is the major source of problems with OPT applications.
USCIS will send all mail related to the EAD to the address indicated on the I-765 form, even if you later update your address with the International Student adviser/DSO and in SEVIS.
U.S. government mail will not be forwarded to another address, even if you change it with the postal service.
The address must be within the jurisdiction of the USCIS Regional Service Center to which the application is being submitted or the application will not be processed.
If you are using an address of a friend, your name should be indicated somewhere on the mail box. If the mail carrier does not recognize your name, the envelope with the EAD card will be returned to USCIS. Use "C/O" (care of) the name of your friend in the address to help avoid confusion.
Processing time: The USCIS can take from 6 to 12 weeks (or more) to process an EAD application. Regulations provide that if an employment application has not been adjudicated within 90 days from the date of receipt, an applicant may go to the District Office for "interim employment authorization", valid up to 240 days. If you have not received a response from the USCIS within 90 days of your application, please contact the International Student adviser for information about interim employment authorization.
Vermont Service Center (VSC): To find out more about the VSC and its processing procedures, visit the USCIS Web page.
- Practical training under this option is deducted from your total 12 month allotment of optional practical training for this educational level. If you use practical training under this option you will not be eligible for the full 12 months of practical training following the completion of all degree requirements. Each day used under full-time optional practical training is deducted from the 12 month allotment. Part-time practical training is deducted from the available practical training at half the full-time rate.
- Please note that once the International Student adviser has processed and printed your SEVIS I-20 with the OPT recommendation that there is no provision for withdrawing or canceling the recommendation. The USCIS is immediately notified of your request electronically in your SEVIS record. Note, however, that you are not allowed to work until you receive the EAD from USCIS.
- You are required to be a full-time student at all times while pursuing a course of study in F-1 status except during annual vacation periods.
You are encouraged to contact the International Student adviser if you have questions about the procedure or if you receive any correspondence about your application.
- Immigration Basics, Definitions and Terms
- Difference Between F-1 and J-1 Status
- F-1 Curricular Practical Training Request Form (PDF)
- Maintaining Department of Homeland Security Status
- Duration of Status for F-1 Students
- Temporary Departure from the U.S.
- Exceptions to a Full Course of Study
- Accepting U.S. Government Assistance or Public Benefits
- Departure Upon Completion of Studies