Applying for your OPT could be a long and confusing process, but it doesn’t have to be after you finished reading this guide because you are going to learn how to apply for your OPT EAD in 5 simple steps, ensuring that your OPT application is completed and sent to USCIS as quickly as possible with all the required documents.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Steps to apply for OPT EAD
The Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a work authorization given to foreign students before or after the completion of their studies. If it’s given before the completion of their studies, it’s called the pre-completion OPT and if it’s given after the completion of your studies, it’s called the post-completion OPT.
This guide will focus more on the post completion OPT, which is the OPT that foreign students apply for, shortly before graduation.
So if you’re going to be applying for your OPT in the coming months, make sure to read this guide through to the end because it’s going to share with you some really helpful tips to guide you along the way.
5 Steps to apply for OPT EAD
These are the 5 simple steps to follow in order to apply for OPT EAD successfully:
- Step #1: Gathering your supporting documents for the OPT EAD application.
These documents include: two passport colored photographs, a copy of your biographical page of your international passport, a copy of your most recent F1 visa, a copy of your most recent electronic I-94, and any previously issued employment authorization documents (EADs) that you’ve received.
Most importantly, there are specific requirements for your passport photographs. It needs to be taken within the last six months at the time of submitting your application. It also needs to be printed out on a two inch by two inch photo paper.
As for international passport, it’s best to have a passport with an expiration date of atleast six months at the time of submitting your application. This would significantly eliminate any chances of your application getting rejected because of an expired passport.
To get your electronic I-94, go to the US Customs and Border Protections website i.e www.cbp.gov
On the website you will scroll down and click on get your I-94 admission number and that’s going to bring you to the I-94 website. On this website, you’re going to click on Get most recent I-94, accept consent, and on this webpage, you’re going to enter your first name, date of birth, your passport number, and your passport country of Issuance when you click on next, that’s going to bring you to an electronic I-94, which you’re going to print out and add to your application packet.
Finally, if you’ve been issued an employment authorization document in the past, you want to make sure to make a copy of the front and back of your EAD card.
- Step #2: Selecting/Choosing an Employment Start Date.
This tends to cause a lot of confusion to many applicants, especially when you do not already have a job offer at the time of applying for your OPT. Whether you have a job offer or not, your employment start date must fall within 60 days off your date of graduation.
If you do not already have a job offer at the time of applying for your OPT, select your start date within 30 days to 45 days after your date of graduation.
- Step #3: Completing the Form I-765 and G-1145 applications.
This form could be downloaded from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website at www.uscis.gov. On this page, scroll down and download your Form I-765. You’re also going to download your Form G-1145.
These applications should either be typed out or filled out by hand in black ink.
How to fill form I-765
When completing your form, I-765, it’s critically important to pay attention to the expiration date of the form. This expiration date could be found on the top right hand corner of page number one. You always want to ensure that at the time of submitting your application, your expiration date of the form is not current.
On page number one, the instructions recommend that the form be Typed out on your computer or print it out and fill it out in black ink. Finally, once you’re done filling out your form I-765, print it out and sign the form on page number five of section seven. Ensure that your signature is completely enclosed within the box.
How to fill form G-1145
To fill out the form G-1145, you’re going to enter your name, an email address, and a phone number to allow the USCIS to notify you upon receiving your application.
- Step #4: Obtaining approval from your university’s international student office or designated school official (DSO)
Some of the requirements in this step might vary from school to school, but generally the procedure remains the same and that involves having your designated school official (DSO) review all the documents that you’re going to be submitting towards your I-765 application.
In Step number four, your designated school official will review all your supporting documents from Step number One. You’re completed and signed Form I-765 from Step number three and might also require you to provide an official transcript from your register showing that you are on track and also in good standing to graduate.
You might also be required to provide a graduation letter from your Department confirming that you are also on track to graduate. You might also be required to complete an OPT Request form with your International office.
On this form, you’re going to enter your employment start dates as discussed in Step number Two.
Upon the successful review of your application, your DSO will provide you with an updated form I-20 endorsed on page number Two for your OPT, this OPT endorsement will have the employment start date of your choice.
You should review your OPT I-20 carefully for any discrepancies before signing on page number One.
- Step #5: Mailing your OPT EAD application to USCIS
You should note that USCIS must receive your application packet within 30 days from the date your OPT Form I-20 was issued. In Step number five, you’re going to assemble the following documents,
- All your supporting documents from Step number One,
- Completed and signed Form I-765 from Step number three
- A copy of your sign opt Form I-20 from Step number four,
- A payment for the I-765 filing fee in the form of a check or money order,
- A completed Form G-1145 that’s going to be clipped to the first page of your application package.
Find more about the current filing fee for USCIS application from the USCIS website.
Finally, you will mail your application to a USCIS lockbox facility based on your state of residence. Make sure to retain a tracking number from your mailing service provider.
You would need to keep a confirmation of the delivery provided by your mailing service provider for your records. In the event that your OPT application is misplaced by USCIS, this delivery confirmation of your OPT application to USCIS would come in handy.
Once your OPT application is received by USCIS, a receipt notice – called the I-797C – would be mailed to your address listed on the OPT application. This receipt notice would contain a Receipt number (also called a tracking number) that can be used to track the status of your case.
Under some unfortunate circumstances, USCIS might take a very long time (much longer than the typical processing time for OPT EADs) to adjudicate your OPT EAD application.
Questions you may ask and some useful answers to its.
Question: When applying for OPT with a dependent? Do I have to include the same documentation for the F2 dependent?
Useful Answer: Not with USCIS as the OPT is filed by the F1 primary applicant. F2 dependents don’t get any work privileges. When requesting OPT from your school, you would need to contact your DSO to update the I-20 for your dependents as well. This way their completion date would end when your OPT ends.
Question: What’s the best way to get a green card from a F-1 Student visa?
Do a study in a marketable skills, start working in OPT, get h1b work visa sponsored, then get GC sponsored.
Meet a US citizen spouse during your study. Get married and apply for GC.
Question: Do you think is necessary to add the I-20 from the dependent to the OPT documentation that is going to be sent to USCIS?
Useful Answer: Your dependent can’t work on OPT. You should submit the OPT is the primary applicant on an F1 visa.
Question: I graduate this December and I have a full-time offer. I would like to start as late as possible. Can I still apply 90 days before graduation and select my start date around February, within the 60 days framework?
Useful Answer: Yes, if you want to start late, you can choose the 60th date after graduation as your start date. But I will highly recommend you apply once your 90 day window opens, since you’re in a great spot having a full-time offer already.
Question: Could you please tell me the difference between program end date written on I-20 and graduation date? Is program end date would be considered as my graduation date?
Useful Answer: Yes in most cases the program end date on the I-20 will be the same as the graduation date. The one exception is for PhD students where their program end date on the Form I-20 would be the day they defend their PhD dissertation, which may not be the same as the date of the University’s graduation date.
Question: Could a graduate studies student apply for OPT? or is it strictly for undergrad students?
Useful Answer: Any F-1 student (undergraduate or graduate) can apply for OPT after completing 1 year of studies in their program.
Question: What will happen if my OPT card doesn’t arrive my OPT start date? How should I plan for that scenario?
Useful Answer: In the case that you have received a job offer and you were expecting to begin work on your OPT start date, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is informing your employer that you would not be able to start on the date you expected.
Apart from that, you need not worry about accruing unemployment days. You only start accruing OPT unemployment days after:
(1) You have physically received the OPT EAD card, AND
(2) The OPT start date listed on the EAD card has been reached.
Question: Can I file form I-765 (Post-Completion OPT) online instead of mailing it to the USCIS service center? Also, I have electronic I-94 record which shows my last entry and travel history but there is no admission stamp on my passport. Do I need electronic I-94 only or photocopy of my passport’s page having entry stamp on it is also necessary?
Useful Answer: You can file the OPT online, but only after you have obtained your Form I-20 approved for OPT from your DSO. The electronic I-94 printed from the CBP website is what you need to present.
Question: What happens when my passport is expired before then?
Useful Answer: You would need a valid passport when applying for OPT. You could get a new passport from your home country’s embassy or consulate in the US.
Question: If I enroll in a second degree and haven’t used up my OPT, can I carry it over and use it after completing my second degree?
Useful Answer: OPT has a Use it or Lose it policy. So unfortunately, it can’t be carried over. However, after completing your 2nd degree, you would have another OPT opportunity as well.
I hope you found this information very helpful.
Source: Sojourning Scholar
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